Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Can You Feel It?

Can You Feel It? Performed by Jessa Campbell & the Saplings. CD. Approx. 30 min. Produced by Dave Smith. 2019. Digital: $9.49.
Pre-S-Gr 3

Portland-based Jessa Campbell & the Saplings perform 10 lively, original songs about nature in pop, bluegrass, folk, and waltz musical styles. The Saplings--Dave Smith, Amy Hakansson, Darcy Wallace, Jay Jay Harris, and Paul Brainard--join in with great performances on guitar, banjo, bass, keyboards, and drums. Jessa’s vocals are clear and strong, easily handling the different musical styles. “Can You Feel It?” details the life cycle of a salmon from hatching to returning to the home pond to breed. In “Mole in the Ground” the narrator wishes she were a mole, lizard, turtle, and other creatures for various reasons. “Waltz of Trillium and Ant” tells how ants spread seeds from trillium plants. The “T-Rex in the Forest” lived there a long time ago. “How I Love You Sun” shares facts about our star, such as it takes 8 minutes for Sun’s light to reach Earth. “Shadow Doo-Dah,” to the tune of “Camptown Ladies,” describes the changing lengths of shadows during the day. “The Great Happening” wants listeners to connect with nature by playing outside in the trees, etc. Spirals in shells and other patterns are called c “Fractals” in nature. “Water Worth” explains the water cycle—evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and percolation. “Goodnight Pacific Northwest” says goodnight to the diurnal animals and hello to the nocturnal animals. This terrific album will teach young listeners more about nature and science.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Amongst the Tall Trees

Amongst the Tall Trees. Performed by Pointed Man Band. CD. Approx. 35 min. Doo-Dah Records. 2019. Digital: $9.49.
Gr 9 up

The Pointed Man Band is comprised of Dan Elliott, Vince Byrne, Eric Levine and Kay Elliott. Here they perform 12 energetic, original songs in various styles of jazz, rock, and funk. Nice harmonies and lots of syncopation are features of many of the tunes. The backup musicians perform exceptionally well on guitar, violin, viola, cello, harp, bass, organ, synthesizers, piano, sax, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. According to Elliott, he crafted the album's tracks to reflect the evolving landscape of seeking happiness and wonder while immersed in a complicated world. However, this reviewer found many of the lyrics obscure and difficult to understand; almost like a stream of disconnected thoughts in some places. Listeners are encouraged to “Go” climb a hill and feel the breeze. “Pint Size” is about being unified. The title “Corvidae” is never defined in the song, so younger listeners may not know this song celebrates the crow family of birds. The passing of time is rued in “Slowest Hands.” “A Minor” is a jazz instrumental. “April Fools” is an instrumental with solfege. The more obscure of the songs follow:  The “Yellow Dog” of If, wonders only if; it goes on and on and on and on…  I know you’ve travelled all over the world, but you ain’t seen nothing like it (“Dark Divide”). “Vs. People” begins “There’s a quiet little town under the cool, cool ground where the phosphorus is rising due to our wiggling and writhing around.” In “Eagle Creek,” they’re coming out, we’re coming over, everyone sounds just like underwater. “Adventures of Wunderland” are free, so long as you head from the said to the present we speak. Come one, come all, to the greatest show on “Unearthed,” we’re one, we’re all and we’re in it since our birth. A very unique album, for those who like quirky songs and lyrics.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Under the Big Umbrella

Under the Big Umbrella. Performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. CD. Approx. 41 min. Label: Bangin’ Out a Melody Music. 2019. CD: $12.19; Digital: $9.49.
K-Gr 5

Grammy nominee Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could perform 12 songs, including four covers, that encourage individuality, kindness, and compassion, in Caribbean, rock, country and pop musical styles. Guitar, mandolin, bass, keyboards, accordion, drums, and an enthusiastic children’s chorus backup these lively and catchy tunes. After greetings in several languages, people are asked to meet “Under the Big Umbrella” where there are all kinds of friendly folks. “The Smile Shop” is open with rows and aisles of smiles. Each kind act is a “Drop in the Bucket,” such as complimenting and including people. If everyone looked the same, wore the same clothes, and liked the same foods, that would be boring, but “Different Is Beautiful (Like a Rainbow).” In “Stick Up Stand,” friends stand up for each other, such as standing up against bullies.  With a completely different tune, “Different Is Beautiful (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” also celebrates individuality. Don’t copy others and “You Do You” by just being yourself. “Thank You for Being You” and for making the world a better place to dream, for showing the world how to be yourself, and for teaching the world how to take a stand. The band covers Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want” (with adapted lyrics about overcoming obstacles), Woody Guthrie’s “Don’t You Push Me Down” (featuring Sonia De Los Santos singing the lyrics in Spanish), Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out, and the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” (featuring David Gibb). A rip-roaring, energetic album that will have listeners dancing and singing along.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Motivational Songs

Motivational Songs. Performed by Raffi. CD. Approx. 88 min. Label: Rounder Records. 2019. CD: $14; Digital: $11.50.
Gr 4 up

At 70, kindie sensation Raffi is still going strong. Here he performs 20 songs, which he has written over a span of nearly 20 years, in pop, rock, jazz, folk, blues, Middle Eastern folk, country, and techno pop musical styles. These songs depart from the early childhood songs for which he is so well-known; they are aimed at older children and adults. According to Raffi, these songs advance his “Child Honouring” philosophy—his vision for creating a humane and sustainable world by addressing the universal needs of children. No credits are given for the excellent backup musicians, but listeners can detect guitars, strings, drums, percussion, wolf howls and bird chirps. The songs include themes of peace, diversity, social justice, indigenous cultures, civic engagement, climate change, and sustainability. “Resisto Dancing” will set listeners’ feet to moving. We all matter so “Tweet Me Right.” Remembering the Berlin wall and the Iron Curtain, which President Reagan helped to bring down, listeners are assured that there is “No Wall Too Tall.” In “Salaam Shalom,” Raffi wishes to bring Israeli children and Palestinian children together (if only those pesky Palestinians would quit trying to bomb Israel!) Other song titles include “Wave of Democracy,” “Count with Me,” “Letter to a Nation,” “Sustainability,” “Communion,” “Counting on You,” “Human Child,” “It Takes a Village,” “Green Dream,” “Tomorrow’s Children,” “First Peoples,” “Evergreen Everblue,” “Where We All Belong,” “Ray of Hope,”  and “Turn This World Around.” “Cool It,” is another misguided song about climate change that does not take into consideration that cold weather kills more people than warm weather. Warmer weather and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more plants, and more plants mean more food for animals and people. If Raffi really wants sustainability, he should want a warmer planet. Although I do not agree with all of Raffi’s politics, his songs are lively, the tunes are catchy, and the album will be welcomed by Raffi’s older fans. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Earworm. Performed by Sean McCollough. CD. Approx. 44 min. Label: Little Thing Records. 2019. CD: $12; Digital: $7.
K – Gr 5

Host of the Kidstuff Show on Knoxville radio, award-winning Sean wrote and performs 8 of these songs and covers 5 more. He demonstrates his versatility in roots music, including blues, bluegrass, African-American string band, and chant; with some rock, pop, and jazz as well. The excellent backup musicians perform on guitar, banjo, piano, keyboard, lap dulcimer, fiddle, cello, mandolin, upright bass, electric bass, piccolo, trombone, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, drums, African drums, and percussion. An “Earworm” is a song that is stuck in your head. “All Kinds of Singing” is swell. Molly Ledford of Lunch Money joins Sean in her song about the structure called the “Sunsphere” left over from the 1982 Knoxville Worlds Fair. The alphabet helps people write songs and stories in “ABC (The Writing Song).” In “Don’t Let ‘Em Get Yer Goat,” listeners are advised that it doesn’t matter what others think about you. “Her Name Was Lady” tells about Sean’s childhood pet goats Lady, Pablo, and Jackie (the bully goat). This jazzy minor tune warns listeners about the “Fuzzy Brown Vine (aka Poison Ivy).” Don’t worry about the “Rag Doll” because it is not fragile like a china doll. Sean tells the story of how he used to get “Carsick” on long trips. Billy Jonas gives a command performance on his “bucket kit” percussion about traffic lights in “Green Means Go.” The narrator gives suggestions for fun, from “Let’s Give a Party,” to going fishing or going to the park. The “Kidstuff Theme Song” emphasizes that music makes life better. In “Big Ears,” listeners are encouraged to open their mind, heart, eyes, and ears. A wonderful and quirky album that is fun for the whole family.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Love Is Te Quiero

Love Is Te Quiero. Performed by Alina Celeste. CD. Approx. 35 min. Label: Lion Mice Productions. 2019. CD: $11.99; Download: $9.99.
PreS-Grade 4

Cuban-American Alina Celeste, performs 11 songs, some bright and lively, some sweet and gentle on her third album. The backup musicians give excellent performances on guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, celeste, upright bass, flute, drums, tiny drums, percussion, washboard, whistle, glockenspiel, and accordion; in folk, pop, bluegrass, Caribbean, and Latin musical styles. “Love Is” buying a loved one a gift, kissing a scraped knee, and keeping a child safe when they are afraid of the dark. Sung in Spanish, “Vaca Lechera” is about a magical cow that gives milkshakes instead of milk. “Clap Hands” encourages listeners to clap hands, rock heads, bounce, jump, and knock their knees. Another song with movement, “Baila Conmigo” encourages listeners to dance, move their feet, jump and move their arms. “Chito and Abu” love to play all kinds of games together. “Kitty Catchie,” an adaptation of the American folk song “King Kong Kitchie,” tells of a frog that catches cold and a dog that is scared of the dark. We are all just a little piece of “Stardust.” Celeste includes two traditional Spanish folk songs, “Debajo De Un Botón ,” and “Los Pollitos.” The final two songs are also in Spanish: “Coquinas” (about seashells in the shape of butterflies) and “Te Quiero.” Celeste’s album celebrates bilingual life but is also for those who speak only Spanish or English.

Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline

Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline. Performed by Ants on a Log. CD. Approx. 48 min. Label: Ant Hill. 2019. CD: $13.99; Download: $9.49.
Grades 1 - 7

Ants on a Log (Julie Beth and Anya Rose) present a musical that combines expert narration, expressive voice acting and songs in pop and country musical styles to convey the story. The characters are convincingly portrayed by Julie, Anya, Kathy O’Connell, Lucy Kalantari, John McCutcheon, Manny Gonzalez, Sterling Duns, and narrated by Peter Rose. The background instruments include guitar, bass, flute, drums, percussion. The story is based on a true situation that occurred in Philadelphia. A couple of men are planning to expand an oil refinery in a small town. But Clio realizes that the current refinery is already causing many people in the community to get sick, including her sister, Taylor, whose asthma is getting worse. After doing some research and writing letters, Clio and Taylor rally the community to stand up against the expansion. They also offer some alternatives, such as solar and wind power. In the end, the expansion is stopped. The story is very one-sided, painting people in the oil industry as greedy and ruthless, and as wanting to ruin the environment. Otherwise, the musical will encourage young people to stand up for whatever cause they are fighting for.