I make no secret of my love for a good drum machine. I’m a huge fan of hip-hop and electronic beats. And though I have never pushed them on Maia, there is something about the thump of a bass that seems to get her going. Fortunately, family music has many kid-appropriate artists that fit this genre.
That being said, I also thoroughly enjoy unplugging at times. And what better way to unplug then with some good ‘ole guitar-strumming, roots-flavored music? The family music genre definitely has a great history of artists making roots music, including the venerable Woody Guthrie. Fortunately, for those who have worn out their Guthrie, Pete Seeger or Ella Jenkins records, there seems to be a reemergence of new artists making rootsy, twangy, folksy, fiddle-filled tunes for a family audience. Three recent albums sent to me for review laid proof to this growing trend.These artists are all talented, seasoned players with experience making music for adults and children. Read on for a rundown of just a few of the albums bringing music back to its roots.
American string band Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem have already created three albums for adults, but have just released their first family effort, Ranky Tanky. Featuring 17 covers, the band selected a diverse group of songs from 100 years of American music including artists like Nat King Cole (“Kee-Mo, Ky-Mo”), Tom Petty (“Wildflowers”), Sheb Wooley (“Purple People Eater”) and Cat Stevens (“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”).
My Take: This album was another delight to add to our growing kindie-rock collection. The band’s seasoned experience in the adult market shows in this celebratory and beautiful patchwork of an album. I was so excited to share their vigorous, twangy version of “The Green Grass Grows All Around” with Maia, a classic tune from my own childhood. I would never have thought of a kids’ album with the beautiful, melancholic “Wildflowers” on it, but Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem take it, make it their own and put it in a whole new context. And I can see why “If You Want To Sing Out” is getting Kids Place Live support, a great album intro track and a song that is by no means for kiddie ears only.
Earthworm Ensemble is a spin-off of alt-Americana band I See Hawks in L.A. Their self-titled album, released last February, mostly follows the folk, rock and fiddle sound of their adult tunes with some New Orleans funk, hip-hip and lo-fi rock mixed in. Earthworm Ensemble’s original songs have a subtle “green” focus, exploring a child’s viewpoint of nature and the universe while mixing in messages about topics like healthy eating.
My Take: Earthworm Ensemble is another distinctive effort, with artists who create something completely different for kids. The songs are each unique pictures, bringing life to gems like American-style story song “Traveling Train,” bluegrass science lesson “That’s What the Earthworms For,” and the jugband-style celebration of “Corn.” It’s hard to not love an effort like this, full of original and engaging songs with positive messages, imaginative musicians and some stylistic-shifts sure to please differing tastes.
Alastair Moock is no newbie to the music scene, already releasing 5 albums for adults, winning numerous songwriting awards and becoming one of Boston’s hometown musical heroes. A Cow Says Moock is his first album for kids, despite years of performing for the pint-sized set. Featuring original tunes as well as covers from music idols like Woody Guthrie, ‘A Cow’ is full of high-energy rootsy folk rock, a sound his adult fans will be used to.
My Take: Moock has an inimitable sound, based solely on his gravely voice. While some performers seem to only bring out the sugary sweet voice for their kid rock, Moock rocks his voice with pride and has the lively, worthy songs to back it up. The album starts with a roar, or a moo, right away with “A Cow Says Moo,” a folk tune that I imagine is quite the hit at his many live events. “Two Mommies” is also a highlight, a great way to make children aware of the many types of families in this world. Moock is also inspired by his own twin daughters in the music and movement song “Two Little Babies (Dance Around)” and sibling celebration tune “Twins Are Twice As Fun.” It is excellent to see a Boston-based artist making waves in the family music scene, and pushing out a quality album. Look out Seattle!