Reviewed by Gregory Keer
We drop our line of music reviews into the water with Trout Fishing in America, whose 16th album of wordplay and music whimsy comes out shortly. Keith Grimwood (the less-tall one who plays basses and warbles) and Ezra Idlet (the very tall one who performs on guitars and sings) have a bottomless well of enthusiasm for the genre of family music, as the dozen songs on Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers proves. Tongue twister tunes like the title track, story songs such as “The Late, Great Nate McTate” (one of my favorites from anyone this year) and “My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend,” and true-to-kids’-lives pieces including “Don’t Touch My Stuff” are all imbued with earthy folk-rock strains and sing-along charm. This is a sit down and listen treat to interact with and talk about with the kids.
Frances England is one of those artists I could listen to with or without the kids. On her new release, Blink of an Eye, England’s honeyed vocals wash over songs filled with keen observations that capture the wonder of life at a more in-the-moment pace. Produced by Dean Jones, the new album skews a little older to match England’s own kids’ ages, but maintains the clear, poetic themes of family life she has touched on over her previous work. The title song, with its message about the brief-but-precious nature of childhood, features fellow musical angel Elizabeth Mitchell, “Bicycle Built for Two” has England duetting with the wondrous Molly Ledford in a 10,000 Maniacs-sounding track, and “Little Wings” beats energetically with the support of Caspar Babypants. England has made a gorgeous record, filled with superb songcraft and parental wisdom.
Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell, with Mitchell’s band You Are My Flower, carry us down a sparkling river of American roots music on Turn Turn Turn. As always, these two titans of kindie music make each song feel like it’s being performed in a living room or backyard. Strumming strings and singing together, Zanes and Mitchell interpret old beauties, including “Turn Turn Turn” (by Pete Seeger), “Wim Wam Waddle,” and “Sail Away Ladies.” The collaboration also brings to life such originals as Zanes’s “Now Let’s Dance” and Mitchell and sister-in-law Anna Padgett’s “Honeybee.” The only thing better than hearing this collaboration on record is seeing them live on tour.
A couple of other notable releases of late include Gratitude Attitude, a thanks-themed collection from the Best Foot Forward series. The album features songs from Debbie and Friends, Bill Harley, and Cathy Fink, among others. Music therapist and musician Jeffrey Friedberg has assembled an eclectic crew of performers for 15 Songs Every Kids Should Know About. This is a great group of tunes for preschoolers as it runs the gamut from a Cajun version of “Shoo Fly” to a rockabilly treatment “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
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