Friday, February 13, 2009

***Betsy Stern***

Minimalist kids' music at its best! Betsy Stern, a Berkeley, California native, uses her voice and one instrument per song to create a collection of jazzy, earthy, quiet tunes for the whole family.

On her debut children's album, Foyo, Stern plays acoustic guitar, upright bass, and requinto guitar (a smaller-scale guitar), to make "world music" in the most global sense possible: Foyo features songs from France, Spain, Australia, and Haiti, as well as traditional American Folk tunes, all performed in Stern's unique style.

Foyo includes familiar kiddie songs like "Fooba Wooba John" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep," as well as traditional classics like "Crawdad Song," "Mouse on the Hill," and "Cindy." But you haven't heard "This Old Man" until you hear it performed with only vocals and an upright bass.

Check out Stern's stellar fretwork on the title tune, a patois French song from Haiti. The tune was also included on the soundtrack of the 1962 South African musical Wait a Minim! Other standouts are Will D. Cobb and Ren Shields' 1906 dancehall ditty "Waltz Me Around Again Willie;" "Jamaica Farewell," made famous by Harry Belafonte on his 1956 album Calypso; the French folk tune "Câdet Rousselle;" and a couple of classics from Down Under, "Kookabura" and "Waltzing Matilda."

Betsy Stern's Foyo is a great introduction to obscure gems and unique reworkings of familiar tunes. Quality music for young and old alike.