While the attention given to children’s music typically focuses on the newer artists, I think it is important to remember some of the pioneers of this genre. And no one represents a “founding father” of the genre better than Barry Louis Polisar.
Polisar started writing and recording for children in 1975, and has since gone on to an accomplished career creating books, poems and music for kids. He has toured elementary schools and libraries for 3 decades, written songs for Sesame Street, won 4 Parents’ Choice Awards, scored reoccurring gigs on The Learning Channel and even performed at The White House. Most recently, Polisar found a career resurgence after his 30-year-old song “All I Want is You” was used in the opening credits of indie film breakout hit “Juno.”
The success of this song led to many of his old fans being reunited with a musician they remembered fondly from their youth. Aaron Cohen, lead singer of indie group The Radioactive Chicken Heads, was so influenced by Polisar as a kid he decided to pitch the idea of a tribute album to other artists. What resulted was the 60 song, 2-disc set, We’re Not Kidding! A Tribute to Barry Louis Polisar.
Artists attached to the project interpret his songs using their own styles. Hip-hop, electronica, folk, jazz, Klezmer, and bluegrass are just a few of the genres touched upon by the international group of participating musicians. Any listener approaching this album, each with his own distinct musical pallet and preference, is sure to find handfuls of gems to add to his iPod.
An instant favorite in our house was Nashville trio Vesper’s version of “All I Want Is You,” the aforementioned song that brought Polisar back into the spotlight. We also enjoyed DeLeon’s take on “My Brother Thinks He’s a Banana” with goofy-good lyrics on top of a sophisticated indie-rock sound that mixes in Sephardic music. NYC-based Ham and Burger‘s delightfully nonsensical “Don’t Put Your Finger Up Your Nose” had the type of funky electronica beat that is always a hit with Maia. There was even a rockabilly-style version of “Never Cook Your Sister in a Frying Pan” from Robbins In A Tree-O that had us appreciating a genre we usually don’t give much thought to. And, of course, what would a tribute album to a kid’s musician be without some family music talent on board to honor the artist? Grammy-nominee and Kidzapalooza /Austin Kiddie Limits creator Tor Hyams contributes to the album as does punk rock kindie act The Boogers and acoustic-rock duo Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke.
This album is truly a delight for older indie-rock lovers and their music-loving offspring. My wife and I get to explore and discover new bands and their different sounds while my daughter enjoys the genre-jumping, comical lyrics and non-stop fun. Best of all, a long overdue tribute is paid to an artist who inspired many of the modern-day musicians we love – both in and out of the family music genre.