Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Swamp Romp

Swamp Romp. Performed by Johnette Downing and Scott Billington. CD. Approx. 42 min. Produced by Johnette Downing and Scott Billington. 2019. $10.00.
Grades K and up

            Johnette and Scott pull out all the stops with this homage to Louisiana roots music, with a different musical style for most of the 15 songs and 1 adapted traditional song. These musical styles include swamp pop, Dixieland jazz, zydeco, mambo, doo-wop, fife and drum band, jazz with bamboula beat, Caribbean folk, R&B, ragtime, a cappella with hand clapping and foot stomping, rock and roll a la Jerry Lee Lewis, Latin, and gospel. These songs are accompanied by exceptional vocals and instrumental stylings on guitar, bass, ukulele, fiddle, timple (a traditional instrument of Tenerife), piano, organ, clarinet, cane fife, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, sousaphone, harmonica, accordion, washboard, drums and percussion. An enthusiastic children’s chorus joins in on three songs. “Swamp Romp” is an animal party in the Black Lagoon. “Who Got the Baby in the King Cake” will have to host the next party. Listeners are invited to a line dance in the “Mudbug Boogie.” In “It Wasn’t Me (The Possum Song),” the family blames all the mess son the possum. The young girl who worries about everything is called “Poor Worry Anna.” The bilingual traditional “J’ai Vu Le Loup, Le Renard et le Belette (I saw the wolf, the fox and the weasel) encourages listeners to move to the music. Learn how to spell the state name “Mississippi.” One can hear the “Bamboula Rhythm” all over New Orleans, but especially in Congo Square. “Gather Something Sweet” includes gathering bananas, strawberries, and watermelons. Wear “Your Best Pair of Shoes” when you dress up to go out. “How to Dress a Po’ Boy” celebrates that sandwich and how it is put together. “Crawfish Etouffee” is a celebration of another famous Louisiana culinary treat. “Get Ready, Get Set, Let’s Groove” and dance the “Twist,” the “Pony,” the “Swim,” and the “Sprinkler.” When the farmers take their produce to market, they ride in “Our Oxcarts,” a song in Spanish and English. The energetic “Stand Up, Jump Up” will have listeners hopping all over the room. The album closes with the gentle “Star in My Sky.” This outstanding album is a great introduction to youngsters of the sounds and rhythms of Louisiana.

Nothing Is Impossible

Nothing is Impossible. Performed by The Story Pirates. CD. Produced by Brendan O’Grady. 2018. Download: $8.99.
K-Gr 5—

            All of the mini-musicals on this award-winning album are based on story ideas which young fans have submitted. Some of the pieces include dialogue along with the songs. The Story Pirates is made up of several professional vocalists and musicians, all of whom perform with excellence. The instrumentalists perform on guitar, bass, piano, violin, keyboards, synths, and drums. Musical styles range from funk, to electro-pop to hip hop. “Fart Out Loud Day” is the sort of gross song kids love, with fart sound effects. A band of singing monsters perform at a Halloween party in “Frank the Monster Who Wasn’t Scary.” An annoying neighbor asks “The Guy” for potato chips day after day. A child believes “Riding a Seagull Was Good,” like riding a horse. A young “Star” seeks to be part of a constellation. Glitter, a talented pony, believes “Nothing is Impossible,” and so becomes the best guitar player in the world. One can see the whole world “In the Car.” In “All 8 Unicorns,” these girly unicorns, using high school girl speak, talk mane and hoof colors, and admire each other’s mane extensions. Coming across a unicorn buddy all tangled up, they help untangle her, and then post the event on Instagram. “How Penguin Office Became a Thing” tells of an office fitted out to suit penguins, with krill in the ice machine, etc. “Pizza Revenge” details the plans to draw people away from eating hot dogs and back to eating pizza. “Fred the Carrot” who lives on Saturn, devises ways to get a human to Saturn so that he can be eaten. The narrator wonders “What the World Was Called Before Us,” and suggests such unlikely names as “Cow,” “Dolphin,” and “Spaghetti.” This creative and inventive project will keep young listeners mesmerized.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Traditional Songs

Pop Goes the Weasel. Traditional. Illustrated by Sophie Casson. Performed by Sin and Swoon. Unp. The Secret Mountain, 2018. $7.95. 978-2-924774-25-0.

She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain. Traditional. Illustrated by Sophie Casson. Performed by Sin and Swoon. Unp. The Secret Mountain, 2018. $7.95. 978-2-924774-23-6.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Traditional. Illustrated by Sophie Casson. Performed by Sin and Swoon. Unp. The Secret Mountain, 2018. $7.95. 978-2-924774-24-3.


            Each of these picture books is illustrated with brightly colored stylized illustrations. Each page contains a verse or a phrase from the song. The print is large, so that beginning readers would be able to read the words while listening to the music. At the back of each book, all of the lyrics are printed, and there is a brief note about the history of the song, alternate verses, and other interesting facts. The publisher has provided a free video of each song at the website:

            Each of the songs is in a musical style suited to the song; i.e., “Pop Goes the Weasel,” is an upbeat, fast accordion folk piece; “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” is a toe-tapping bluegrass song accompanied by banjo, upright bass, and tight harmonies; and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is a soft folk song accompanied by a quiet acoustic guitar, and light, clear female vocals. These books and songs are great resources for passing along traditional songs to the next generation.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Monster's Ball

Monster’s Ball. Performed by Michael & the Rockness Monsters. CD. Approx. 35 min. Produced by Dean Jones. 2018. Download: $9.49.
K-Gr 4—

Michael Napolitano, the brains behind the Rockness Monsters, has also created albums with and designed instruments for the Blue Man Group. On this album, he and the band perform 12 original, energetic dance tunes in Motown, pop, country, and rock musical styles. All of the musicians give great vocal and instrumental performances on guitar, upright bass, bass, keyboards, sax, flute, clarinet, trombone, harmonica, accordion, drums, and percussion. Some very enthusiastic children join in on several of the songs. Did you bring your “SMILE” to school or to work? Everybody gets down on the “Party Train.” One can hear a “Woodpecker” pecking wood (with sound FX). “People Places Dancing” mentions people and dances from different countries. “A Fish Named Dog” is based on a true story in the Napolitano family—his daughter wanted a dog, but when Mom refused, she got a fish instead, which she promptly named Dog. Music makes one smile like the “Mona Lisa.” A child imagines that he is transforming into a tree and is “Growing Bigger.” The “Robot Song” encourages listeners to follow along and dance like robots. “Truck Day” celebrates different trucks, including Mac trucks, ice cream trucks, fire trucks, etc. “When I’m Jumpin’” I feel all right. It’s a “Beautiful Day” when the sun comes out to play. “Les Lumières De Paris” is a beautiful French folk tune, accompanied by accordion, reminiscing about the Napolitano family’s trip to Paris, sung in French and English. This fun, toe-tapping album will have the whole family dancing along.

Here is a link to "A Fish Named Dog:"

Inside I Shine

Inside I Shine. Performed by Danny Weinkauf. CD. Approx. 31 min. Label: Red Pants Music. 2018. CD: $10.00; Download: $9.49. 
Pre-S-Gr 1—

Grammy award-winning Danny Weinkauf is known for writing songs for television shows such as Sesame Street and being the longtime bassist for They Might Be Giants. He and his Red Pants Band perform 16 songs in pop, various styles of rock, Dixieland jazz, and Motown musical styles on this 4th album for children. The only instruments credited are ukulele, horns, and drums. These are upbeat and lively songs, which have helped teachers in the classroom to complement early learning language and science concepts. We are “Going to the Library” because it’s our favorite place and there are many fun stories in the books. There are a “Dozen Good Reasons” that I’m in love with you. “B is for Body” explains what different body parts do. “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” is the theme song from Sesame Street. “Over and Under” teaches those directional words, such as over a log and under the table. Although it is raining outside, “Inside I Shine.” A child loves to take his “Teddy Bear” everywhere. “We Love to Verb,” including running, jumping, spilling, etc. Learning to ride a “Tricycle” is fun. “Hey Mr. Bus Driver,” can you give someone a ride to school, the park, or the zoo? “Pumpkins (Are My Favorite Fruit)” because I love pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin seeds. “Grilled Cheese” makes me happy because it is tasty and delicious. A child gets out of bed, brushes his teeth, combs his hair, and says “Good Morning to You.” A child believes “The Moon is Made of Cheese” in spite of news reports about Apollo 11 and the moon landing. “Wiggle Wiggle” invites participatory movement. The final brief piece is a lovely jazz “Library Piano.” This album will have youngsters bouncing and bopping all around.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up. Performed by Tony Pete. CD. Approx. 26 min. Produced by Tony Pete Music. 2018. CD: $9.99; Download: $9.99 or lower.

PS-Gr 2—

Multi-award winning Tony Halchak (aka Tony Pete) performs ten songs on this first album for children.
The upbeat tunes are in bluegrass, folk, folk pop, and pop musical styles. With the exception of the drums on one track, there are no credits for the instrumentalists, but I detected the following instruments at least: guitar, banjo, harmonica, and drums. The vocals and background instrumental performances are excellent and professional. Come sing with me and “Sing La La La.” In “Why How Now,” the song asks why do animals make the sounds that they make. “When I Grow Up,” I can be anything I wanna be. “My Shadow” always has my back. Tony sings alphabet backwards several times in “The Backwards Alphabet Song.” The “Kazoo Crew” performs a short kazoo concert. “Make a Silly Sound” when you are feeling sad. “I Love to Explore” the many things I’ve never seen before. The best time of day is when it is “Time To Put Our Toys Away.” The final song is a sweet lullaby—“Sleep Loved”—in which angels are asked to watch sleeping children from the heavens above. This upbeat album will appeal to the whole family. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

If You Want To Be a PIrate

If You Want to Be a Pirate. Performed by Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers. CD. Approx. 38 min. 2018. $15.00.

K-Gr 5—

            Tom Mason performs 10 original songs in pop, pop rock and folk musical styles. Tom and the Blue Buccaneers make beautiful music on guitar, dobro, mandolin, banjo, violin, bouzouki, bass, trombone, accordion, drums, and percussion. “If You Want to Be a Pirate” tie a scarf around your head, draw a pirate flag, and talk like a pirate. It’s “A Lot of Work to Be a Pirate” because you will have to swab decks, bail water, raise sails, and hoist flags. “Kristofer the Kindly Kraken” has the biggest heart in the sea. “My Invisible Crew” includes a first mate, a quartermaster, a surgeon and others. One can’t see the “Treasure through the Trash,” because there is a plethora of detritus in the sea (also, a vocabulary building song!). When they bought a parrot, they realized that it must have been the “Parrot of a Pirate” by its speech. “Treasure the Sea” entreats listeners to take care of the ocean. “Talk Like a Pirate” encourages listeners to copy a pirate’s speech. When one catches the wind, then one is “Sailing On.” The other song is “In The Drink.” Pirate-loving kids will love this upbeat album with its catchy tunes and toe-tapping rhythms.