Wednesday, September 02, 2009

***Laura Doherty***

Dig this new CD from Laura Doherty, the Early Childhood Music Program Director at Chicago's famed Old Town School of Folk Music. Kids in the City is full of breezy urban folk tunes featuring the Natalie Merchant-like vibe of Doherty's vocals. She had musical help from Scott Besaw on drums, Amalie Smith on upright bass, Rob Newhouse on lead guitar, Susan Marques on banjo, Barb Burlingame on trumpet, Skip Landt on harmonica, and Rick Rankin on percussion and melodica, who also produced, recorded, and mixed Kids in the City.

Doherty's album is a musical tribute of sorts to The Windy City: elevators and escalators, the zoo, public transportation, the farmer’s market, traffic, and hot dog stands all get a shout out on Kids in the City. "I Spy" references Lake Michigan and taxis, "Hot Dog" celebrates sport peppers and celery salt, the a cappella "Wheels in the City" catalogs things that roll around big city sidewalks, and "El Train" is a self-explanatory tune about Chicago's famous clickety clackin' mode of transportation.

Kids in the City is full of the sights and sounds of preschoolers' lives: "I Spy" explores the colors all around us, "Farmer's Market," with its simple vocals and banjo arrangement, has fun with names of fruits and vegetables, while "Rockin' at the Zoo" catalogs the animals you might see and hear there. And check out the wonderful melodies of "Hello Hippopotamus," "I Spy," and "Kitty Cat" (which is vaguely reminiscent of The Chordettes' "Lollipop").

Doherty's album contains a couple of future kids' classics, too. "Uncle Ukulele's Band" has instruments represent members of the family, and sounds as if it could have been featured on The Muppet Show, while the very Ella Jenkins-like “Wheels in the City” is a call-and-response, a cappella tune, with overlapping melodies and vocal lines.

And Kids in the City includes two covers I’ve never heard on a children’s album before: a quiet and tender rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” and a chooglin’ version of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago."

Laura Doherty's Kids in the City is a great example of modern urban folk. Now I gotta go get a Chicago dog and a chocolate malt.