Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 24, 2017

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band
Silver Lake Stairs – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 21, 2017

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama
Right Now – HAIM
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Randy and Dave Aim High & Mild on a Trampoline

The current age of television has been dubbed "Peak TV" due to so many available choices. To a remarkable degree, the same could be said about the current age of children's music. With CDBABY, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and other independent options, recording artists do not have to marry themselves to a label for exposure (although it doesn't hurt). Recess Monkey and The Pop-Ups are among the musicians who have signed deals with Amazon Prime Music. On the other end of the spectrum are Randy Sharp and Dave Kinnoin, back with their second collection of tunes, LIFE ON A TRAMPOLINE.

The CD starts with a lot of nonsense. "Enjoy It While You Can" begins a dozen tracks where the storytelling sometimes threatens to go off the rails. "Last Time I Was Here" is the pre-teen version of a Curious George cartoon, with a recounting of various misadventures. "Squadoosh" deconstructs an imaginary monster. Keeping with the spooky theme, "A Weird Thing Happened" is either a nightmare or an O. Henry story. Randy and Dave leave it to the listener to decide.

Randy and Dave enter the children's music arena with extensive credits under their oversized belt buckles. Randy Sharp has seven #1 country singles and has written and worked with Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Edgar Winter, and Linda Ronstadt to name just a few. Dave Kinnoin has eight award-winning kid's recordings and has written songs for Disney (Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Kermit the Frog). I thought I detected some Piglet in the 100 Acre Woods in "Happy To Help," despite the 'kick yourself in the rear' finale.

Try not to sing along with the chorus of the title track, LIFE ON A TRAMPOLINE. You won't, I couldn't, and neither could my kids. Randy and Dave subvert your expectations without assaulting your senses. The CD is at turns jazzy or country but never goes for all-out head-banging rock. For a true walk on the mild side, your family might remove their sneakers for a bouncy session with Randy and Dave.

LIFE ON A TRAMPOLINE is available July 28 from Randy and Dave's website and CDBABY.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Magic Believers (Featuring Mista Cookie Jar) – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Walking Away – HAIM

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lucky Diaz and Company Love L.A.

When done correctly, children's music is truly for all ages. Songs like Dan Zanes' "House Party Time" and Justin Roberts' "How Lucky We Are" can be included on playlists targeting grown-up types without drawing a snicker. With the release of MADE IN LA from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, I am safely adding the opening track, "The Magic Believers," featuring Mista Cookie Jar, to that elite list. At first blush, "The Magic Believers" sounds like somebody accidentally flipped from Kids Place Live to the Pulse (pop hits) on SiriusXM. But no, it's your introduction to MADE IN LA, a concept album of songs about life on the West Coast.

Lucky Diaz and his super-energetic, frenetic, kinetic, multi-ethnic Family Jam Band tackle the architecture, culture, business, and traffic in the City of Angels. "When It Rained" has a grandfather/grandson bedtime story intro from Mike Phirman (and his son Milo) which helps establish that the mere thought of precipitation is as fantastic and imaginary as a fairy tale (of course it poured last summer). If you're fond of the surf guitar sound and don't mind if the song's about a rabid duck, perhaps you'll enjoy "Pato Loco." Andrew and Polly also contribute to the fun on "Paletero Man" (spanish for ice cream), "Traffic," and "Fiesta De La Brea."

Other sites commemorated in the travelogue portion are the "Silver Lake Stairs" with Todd McHatton and "Echo Park," with ethereal, dreamy vocals by Frances England. MADE IN LA manages to remain distinctly a Lucky Diaz CD while incorporating and assimilating the talents of all its guest performers. Indeed, that dichotomy also describes the city of Los Angeles.

Supervising everything is ├╝ber-producer Dean Jones, the two-time Grammy award-winning multi-instrumentalist whose expertise has made him the "go-to" guy behind the board. But MADE IN LA cannot be quantified as a labor of love for any one individual. It takes a village to build a concept album. Lucky Diaz (and partner Alisha Gaddis) assembled a veritable Murderers' Row (or for the sake of the kids, Cuddlers' Row) of top kindie talent to complete their vision. Much like the city it celebrates, MADE IN LA is a flawed treasure. There's a lot to love about it, and you don't have to be a grown-up to enjoy it.

MADE IN LA is available July 21 from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the lyric video for the #1 song on Kids Place Live, "Palentero Man":

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 17, 2017

How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Something To Tell You – HAIM
All I Can Think About Is You – Coldplay

Friday, July 14, 2017

Jazzy Ash Gets Kids In the Swing Of Things

When you boil it down to the essential elements, children's music is all about discovery. The first songs that every child hears, they think are just being created for them, until they hear the music being performed by others. A standard like "Happy Birthday" is interpreted as a family heirloom until they realize that everybody knows it.

The next stage of children's music is rediscovery. That happens when kids are introduced to the same songs as performed by different, diverse performers. I've always contended that parents do their kids no favors by being snarky and only playing "adult" or "pop" music for their tots. Most of it is age-inappropriate. But also, what are the odds that other children even know what they're singing? And once they get to school age, that kind of parenting is going to be stigmatized by more conventional thinking. 

Okay, I could go on another 20 paragraphs by I've digressed far enough. Part of the concept of reinterpretation occurs when musicians go back to their roots and dredge the past for classics and forgotten tunes. Jazzy Ash (and the Leaping Lizards) have done just that with her latest collection, SWING SET. Fourteen songs are gathered, from the well-known "Down By the Riverside" and "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" to little-known "Little Sally Walker" and "Eh La Bas."

SWING SET accomplishes for the New Orleans sound what Dan Zanes did nearly two decades ago when he inadvertently inaugurated the kindie movement. Putamayo has released similar collections, but one must be familiar with their organization (or their SiriusXM KidsPlace Live show). Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards resurrect the purely American brassy NOLA beat, which draws clear lines to blues, jazz, rap, and country.

A fully-rounded children's education presents many forms of music and lets them decide what they like. As a result, I have a six-year-old who requests The Offspring and a 16-year-old who cycled through Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam. SWING SET gives children and families an opportunity to learn about the rich history of NOLA music and culture and opens the door to a different perspective from another time and place. 

SWING SET is available July 21 from Jazzy Ash's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is a video of Ash and friends recording an impromptu version of "Li'l Liza Jane" in a vintage recording booth: