Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 19, 2018

Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie
What About Us – P!nk
No Peace – Sam Smith
Is This Love – Josh and the Jamtones
Let's Get This Over With – They Might Be Giants
Meadow – Stone Temple Pilots

Friday, March 16, 2018

Colvin's Longform STARLIGHTER Video Debuts

Singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin has released a 24-minute animated short feature based on her interpretation of THE STARLIGHTER (based on LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS, by Maurice Sendak and lyricist Alec Wilder).

The music videos were created by the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio WeFail. Each scene contains more than one hundred layered illustrations, and every element in the video was drawn using a digital tablet before being animated by hand. Colvin’s character in the videos consists of 30 individual hand-drawn pieces, each digitally painted before motion design was applied to create the complete figure.

You can view the video on Amazon Prime (free 30-day trials are available) or see the title track here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

O-N-E Wonderful Rock Out With Josh & Jamtones

Josh (Shriber) and the Jamtones make you cry "uncle" by turning up the funk to 11 on their new children's music CD, WE ARE O-N-E!

The Boston-area musician/music educator breaks open a whole new box of crayons to paint some positivity and unity with ska tracks like "1 Of a Kind" and "Fun!" Guest stars come out for a cover of "Why Can't We Be Friends" (featuring Mista Cookie Jar) and "Move UR Feet" (with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo).

Josh and the Js judicial use of cover songs allows them to reinvent such relics as "Build the World a Home" (already a top hit on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live), Bob Marley's "Is This Love," and Paul Simon's "Me and Julio (Down By the Schoolyard)." Considering it's been a generation (or two) since those songs were first hits, Josh gets props for track selection and putting a (mostly)
new spin on the songs.

The Jamtones go back to their hebrew roots for the final two tracks, "Oseh Shalom" and "Mamaweyah," the latter repurposed from their 2014 CD, JAMMIN' WITH JEW VOL. 2. Like a Pied Piper Matisyahu, Josh will bring your kids kicking and screaming to the rhythm as well as the rock and redeemer. If you like your religion old school, there's a high-stepping gospel "Amen" mid-CD as well.

We Are O-N-E plays as a family party CD (Josh and I share a niece, so this is actual and factual). If you're ready to spare the reggae and kick out the jams, Josh and Jamtones have been waiting for you to groove.

WE ARE O-N-E is available from Josh and the Jamtones' website, Amazon, Soundcloud, and iTunes.

Here is "Build the World a Home" from the new CD:

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 9, 2018

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Who, What, When, Where, Why – The Bazillions
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Free Couch – Caspar Babypants
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Smile For Me – David Tobocman
Breeze Off the Pond –  Justin Timberlake
Window – Gustafer Yellowgold
Mystery – Dean Jones

Ruth & Emilia's Spaceship Plays Best in the Backyard

The concept of the "family band" goes way back in time before the era of the Partridge Family. I'm not even referencing the Jackson Five, the Osmonds, the Cowsills, or any number of modern performers including the Nields. There are also famous patriarchs and matriarchs who usher their offspring into the musical realm – witness the Chapin Sisters, Rufus Wainwright, and many others (more famous) who would only distract or change the subject at hand...children's music.

Ruth Weber and Emilia Lopez-Yañez have known each other quite a long time (since before birth, actually). Emilia was featured on her mother Ruth's CD, ME AND THE KIDS, when she was three years old. They have reteamed, much later, for the new concept CD, THE SPACESHIP THAT FELL IN MY BACKYARD. It's the busy story of URR, an alien from the planet Goodpa, who crash-lands on Earth and captivates a girl named Emilia (the part sung by Emilia).

The jauntily-paced story is energetic, to say the least, with earnest guitar and keyboard riffs that scream "positive reinforcement" for young listeners. Emilia's strong singing voice keeps the story moving, despite some detours in the cutesy with "Everything Is Better With Some Bubbles" (a bathing song) and preachy "Repair the World" (yes, you heard that correctly...the world). SPACESHIP... works best when it sticks to the parameters of the main characters and the life of a girl (and her visiting alien friend). For instance, "Just Inside This Classroom" and "Dancing In Our PJs":

When morning comes we’ll start our day
But other kids real far away
Will brush their teeth to go to bed
But just before good night is said
They’ll be dancing in our PJs

Ruth and Emilia have created a small world filled with quirky characters they want to share. Their family band may not have the level of notoriety of many that I've listed, but they certainly have made an earnest effort. For parents whose young tykes have active imaginations and an interest in extra-terrestrial life, THE SPACESHIP THAT FELL IN MY BACKYARD delivers a thoughtful playtime diversion.

THE SPACESHIP THAT FELL IN MY BACKYARD is available March 23 from Ruth and Emilia's website and Amazon. One dollar from every purchase goes to Ronald McDonald House.

Here is the video of the title track:

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 8, 2018

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Peace Be To All – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
That's My Style – The Bazillions
Hey Jude  – Caspar Babypants
Rock Island Line (Featuring Billy Bragg) – Dan Zanes & Friends
Say Something – Justin Timberlake
People Watching – Dean Jones

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song) (Featuring Sonia De Los Santos, Elena Moon Park, & José Joaquin Garcia) – Dan Zanes & Friends
I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Holiday Jam – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
Into The Wild – Phillip Phillips
Higher Higher – Justin Timberlake

Siama and Auntie Dallas Travel Back to Africa

Siama Matuzungidi's story is an immigrant's tale – fleeing Zaire as a young man with his guitar strapped to his back. Due to political unrest, he and his band relocated in Uganda and became a favorite of dictator Idi Amin, who would routinely wave his hand for them to continue to play. The musicians wore sunglasses to avoid eye contact because Amin's soldiers would beat their band leader for trying to avoid performing for him. Amin once even made a surprise visit to the band's home, wanting to hang out. When he left, the neighbors demanded the band move, fearing what Amin could do if he became a regular visitor.

Siama's song, "Sisili," became a hit for the legendary African performer Moni Mambo. Ultimately, Siama relocated to Minnesota and long story short has released THE LAND OF YANGALELE with children's music educator "Auntie" Dallas Johnson. The album introduces kids to African culture and rhythms.

The disc works as companion piece to Putamayo's African compilations. But Siama is also a master technician in the field of African music stylings, which allows him to work in different languages, such as Swahili, Lingala, and Kikongo. His harmonies and warm byplay with Auntie Dallas also differentiate their music from traditional "third world" artists. But that should be expected, since Dallas hails originally from North Dakota, not exactly a dark continent.

THE LAND OF YANGALELE demonstrates why Siama has ably showcased his talents in Minnesota since the 1990s. Perhaps 2018 is his opportunity to truly go worldwide and influence a new generation with his music and story.

THE LAND OF YANGALELE is available on March 23 from Papa Siama's website and Amazon.

Here is a video of Papa Siama and Auntie Dallas singing "Vicky Shama Shama":

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Quick Hits: Cathy & Marcy; Fancy Pants & Mista Cookie Jar

The most frustrating designation for any recording artist is to be deemed a "one-hit wonder." Many musicians may spend a lifetime in the studio and on the road, only to be constantly reminded of a singular accomplishment at one point in their career. Hy Zaret experienced that peak in 1955 when he collaborated with Alex North on the song "Unchained Melody."

But Zaret also wrote educational songs with Lou Singer – and now Cathy & Marcy are devoting a new CD to reviving those tunes – ZOOM A LITTLE ZOOM (coming later this month). In the meantime, here's the animated video to the title track from the CD:

It's been a quiet few weeks, so that means it's time for another collaboration for the eponymous Mista Cookie Jar. This time, he has teamed with Amy Hersey (Fancy Pants) on the undeniably bouncy and beat-filled "Disco Dancing Mama," which espouses:

A little carpool karaoke action.
The little ways to make the most of traffic.
This mama she be disco dashin’
all tha way through tha day.

Mark White (Spin Doctors bassist) provides backup on the track, which is now available from MIsta Cookie Jar's Bandcamp page. Drop by for a listen, before he gets busy and starts dropping beats on his next joint project.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Proper High Five for Laura Doherty's Fifth Kids' CD

It seems like only yesterday that we first heard about Laura Doherty, but she's been recording children's music since 2009. That's an indicator of how quickly time passes – back then, Ben was only eight (the age his little brother will be much later this year). By the same token, it felt like Laura's new CD, HIGH FIVE, passed by in the blink of an eye. Turns out the 10 tunes race by in a breathtaking 27 minutes. So yes, in that instance, time certainly flew by.

HIGH FIVE opens with the easy singalong chorus of "Hide and Seek," and steps right into "Muddy Puddles." Speaking of little brothers' ages, 2017 Grammy nominee Justin Roberts stops by to duet on "I Can't Wait to Turn 8," which turned into an immediate household favorite. Youngsters will also enjoy "Lucky Charm" and "Make a Friend," as well as the instructional/hunger-inducing (and spell-check enraging) "Pasta Noodles":

Spaghetti linguini 
fettucinne cappellini
Macaroni and cheese rigatoni 
Say please
Mastacholi for me 
Ravioli in my bowl

Laura Doherty is one of those recording artists whose steady presence serves as a reminder that not everything needs to celebrate the spectacular or monitor the melancholy. Sometimes its just enough to be there and pay homage to the details of an everyday childhood. In that respect, Laura deserves a proper high five for her music and certainly for the aptly-named HIGH FIVE.

HIGH FIVE will be available on March 2 from Laura Doherty's website, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and CDBABY.

Here is a video of Laura Doherty and the Heartbeats performing the title song, "High Five":

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Quick Hits: Weekly Kids Music from Banana² / New Shawn Colvin Video

Amy Hersey (Fancy Pants) likes chocolate. Well, it's almost redundant to ask "Who doesn't?" Joe Sullivan (Uncle Dox) likes lots of things. At this point, it's redundant to ask "So where are you going with this?"

Together, Amy and Joe make Banana², releasing kids music singles every Friday. The over-riding theme of Banana² is power dance pop. Don't come looking for ballads. Their singles include "Sweet Tooth," "Playground," and "Get Crazy." You can also download Amy's kid's CD, IMAGINE THAT, through her website.

Here is the audio for Banana²'s new single, "Potluck":

Find Fancy Pants music on Soundcloud. The Banana² singles are most accessible on Spotify and iTunes.

Shawn Colvin continues to release videos in support of her new children's music CD, THE STARLIGHTER, available exclusively through Amazon Music. Here is the video for "Hush Little Baby":

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bazillions Beguile Juveniles of All Ages

With the threat of a wimper of winter weather wandering across our area, it was time to trek into Manhattan this past Saturday to see The Bazillions' triumphant debut at Symphony Space as part of the Just Kidding Kids series. Lead singer Adam Marshall pooh-poohed the prospect of "a couple of inches of snow," pointing out that the band hails from Minneapolis, where "a couple of inches of snow is what we call November."

Married educators Adam and Kristin Marshall were joined in this scaled-down performance by guitarist Mike Senkovich. They played to a packed Nimoy Theater (literally SRO) that seemed to alternately amaze and excite the trio, who went through tunes from all four of the band's CDs (according to Ben, who is my source for such fact-checking).

The Bazillions have used "educational rock and roll" as their mantra, although they attempted to push a more general "fun for all" family motif, picking their spots to actually teach without preaching. To that end, we had "Q and U," with audience participation (including a birthday girl whose party helped fill the auditorium) and "Silent E" (not the Tom Lehrer version).

Old favorites "Tommy Got in Trouble" and "Career Day" from their debut CD, ROCK-N-ROLL RECESS, helped anchor the set. But the Bazillions have never strayed far from their bread and butter (or is that peanut butter), so the songs all sounded fresh and fine, especially to one fan who traveled all the way from Buffalo, New York to finally see the band in person.

One of the most entertaining parts of going to a children's music concert is watching the reactions of kids who are clearly attending a live show for the first time. Many just sit in shock – amazed that such a thing actually occurs, not just on TV. Others dive right in, scrambling for a toy shaker or scarf, so they can join in the fun. But it's an unforgettable short-term memory that helps wire them for other musicians (and live arts) down the road. I don't know for sure how many kids qualified at the Bazillions – but many more were too happy to shout the names of their favorite action stars for "Superhero Rock Band." And many more will be happy to return for a different concert on another day.

Just Kidding Kids continues through March at Symphony Space with upcoming performances of The Joshua Show (Saturday, February 24) and the Not-Its (Saturday, March 3).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 15, 2018

Peace Be To All – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
Soar  – Mo Phillips
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Here For you – Spaghetti Eddie
Dance With Me – Phillip Phillips

Shawn Colvin Revisits Childhood on 'Starlighter'

Maurice Sendak inspired many a children's dream, as well as a nightmare or two. His illustrations are evocative and fanciful; smart and welcoming yet hinting at great menace and peril. Among his best-known work is LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS, accompanying music and arrangements by lyricist Alec Wilder. The book has enchanted and given flight to many imaginations. Among the best-known of those is singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin, who brings forth THE STARLIGHTER, her interpretation of many of those same works.

Over the course of her 27-year career, Colvin has been honored with three Grammys (two for 1996's “Sunny Came Home”). But she's better known in my household for her fourth album, 1998's HOLIDAY SONGS AND LULLABIES, recorded while she was eight and a half months pregnant with her daughter Caledonia. The album became such a regular nightly routine for my older son, Ben, that we wore out one copy and had to purchase a second.

LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS struck a childhood chord in Colvin. She returned to it once her daughter was born. And she returned to it again for THE STARLIGHTER. The 14 tracks range from "Hush Little Baby" to "Minnie and Winnie" (video also available from her web site) with lyrics by Alfred Lord Tennyson. If this was a one-off, THE STARLIGHTER could be dismissed as a cynical attempt to take advantage of public domain collateral. However Colvin has made repeated – and admirably sincere – visits to this well. And has a lengthy, demonstrated love of the source material.

THE STARLIGHTER succeeds dramatically as a musical equal to its parents, both Colvin and LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS. I conducted several listenings, attempting to ensure that I stayed awake throughout the process. I was mostly successful, drifting off during "The Journey" and "Bobby Shaftoe" at one point. But that's more a reflection of the dreamy nature of the fully realized and orchestrated arrangements and my own occasionally spotty sleep patterns. Colvin strove to be true to Wilder's vision and voicings. And if she can catch one lone reviewer unaware, imagine the stunning effect THE STARLIGHTER could achieve on many a child. Among them, your own. As poet William Blake wrote (now the closing track, "Cradle Song,"):

Infant wiles and infant smiles
Heaven and Earth of peace beguiles.

THE STARLIGHTER is available February 23 exclusively through Amazon Music (pre-orders being taken now).

Here is the video for the title track, as depicted by Victorian paper theatres in the illustration style of children’s books from the same era, created by WeFail, the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio. Every video element was drawn using a digital tablet before being animated by hand. Colvin’s character consists of 30 individual hand-drawn pieces, each digitally painted before motion design was applied to create the complete figure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I Love The Night – Gustafer Yellowgold
The Man Who Built The Moon – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
Happy – Spaghetti Eddie
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Bazillions Coming to Symphony Space - Sat., February 17

Chuck Berry once sung about "School Days" and learning the golden rule. Continuing in that tradition of rock and roll and learning something in the process, The Minneapolis-based family band (headed by married teachers Adam and Kristin Marshall) The Bazillions are making their way to New York's Symphony Space this Saturday, February 17 at 11 AM. It's part of the Just Kidding family program and helps the band promote their fourth CD, ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK – a years' worth of family curriculum in 12 songs (and 35 minutes).

As I wrote when I reviewed ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK in 2016:

The Bazillions know the kids they're targeting will grow up and away from their music. However they want the information to penetrate those developing noggins. And the best way to do that is with music that sticks in the cranium like a pervasive earworm. Um, of the best kind. And I mean that in the best possible way. Give your child a sandwich and they'll ask you to cut off the crusts. Give your child ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK and maybe they'll ask for guitar lessons. Live and learn, right?

Just Kidding is consistently one of the best music series for children in the metropolitan area. If you're around on Saturday, February 17 at 11 am, drop by Symphony Space and say hi. Click here to buy tickets. Enter code Yearbook2018 at checkout for $3 discount on general admission tickets!

ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK is available from the Bazillions' websiteAmazoniTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for their song, "Back at School." Full disclosure - my kid made the cut:

Monday, February 05, 2018

Frances England Livens Up LICM

A key difference between major touring musicians and kids musicians is the touring. The vast majority of children's recording artists are regionally-based and tour extensively within the surrounding real estate. It's similar to the old territorial days of pro wrestling, where the McMahon family "controlled" the East Coast tri-state area and Roy Shire ran the West Coast San Francisco area. Speaking of touring and San Francisco, SF resident Frances England made a NY swing this past weekend.

After two shows at Lincoln Center, England and musicians Stew Peck and Chris Chan dropped by the Long Island Children's Museum for a pair of performances. We made able to see the 2 pm concert along with a small contingent of attendees, muted no doubt by that afternoon's Super Bowl.

The timing was unfortunate, but the concert was intimate and fanciful. England's songs are up-close and personal, and that's exactly the experience that everyone received. From Chris Chan leading a conga line of children around the auditorium to kids shouting out their favorite toys and even one emboldened tyke attempting to abscond with her water bottle.

England spanned the scope of her recording career, with key selections from the Grammy-nominated EXPLORER OF THE WORLD and MIND OF MY OWN. There were even videos running behind many of the songs, which turned the concert into a full multimedia presentation (as you can see from the selections here).

The LICM does fewer children's music shows than other metropolitan venues. However that works, as location-wise they draw more of an audience from Suffolk and Nassau County then the New York city-based facilities. The theater remains a delightful, hidden pleasure to see a diverse selection of national musicians doing their "due diligence."

Coming in March to the LICM: Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band (Sunday, March 4 at 11:30 am and 2 pm)

Friday, February 02, 2018

In the Bazaar With Falu

World music comes in many forms. For children's music, that sometimes means the most basic rhythms and "this is our country" mannerisms. At other times, the artist jumps right in with both (oftentimes bare) feet and there's a sparse sprinkling of English language to satisfy parents who want their kids to "understand."

Indian performer Falguni Shah (aka Falu) has been working with American audiences since her emigration to Massachusetts in 2000. She was appointed Carnegie Hall's ambassador of Indian music in 2006, among other career honors and highlights. Her new children's CD, FALU'S BAZAAR, speaks with an authentic South Asian voice and guides listeners through a fictional Indian marketplace.

Opening track "My Name" is completely misleading; presenting her five-year-old son Nishaud speaking Hindi to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The album segues into a more traditional-sounding "Tararum Pumpum" with English and Hindi street-crossing directions. FALU'S BAZAAR proceeds from there with "Shapes," "Pots and Pans," and concludes with "Nishaud's Lullaby." FALU'S BAZAAR a world music delicacy if you're seeking to whet that specific appetite for your kids.

FALU'S BAZAAR is available February 16 from Falu's website and iTunes. You can also hear her music on Soundcloud.

Here is a video for "Let's Sing About Indian Spices":

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 2, 2018

Rewrite The Stars – Zac Efron & Zendaya
Lost And Loving It – Kepi Ghoulie
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Keep On Reaching – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
I Dare You – Phillip Phillips
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!

Quick Hits: New Videos from Shawn Colvin and the Salamanders

Grammy-winning artist Shawn Colvin has delivered a music video from her upcoming album, "The Starlighter," a collection of songs adapted from the children's music book "Lullabies and Night Songs." The CD will be released on February 23 via Amazon Music.

The video for "Minnie and Winnie" is based on Victorian paper theaters and the illustration style of children’s books from the same era, and was created by the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio WeFail.

Big kids music news from Montana! The Salamanders received a helping hand from Uncle Dox to deliver a video for their quirky song, "Matt Damon Hypnotized Me." Do you really need to know more than that? I didn't think so.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 1, 2018

Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
Summer Days – Cosmic Park
Holy Mountain – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Home – Spaghetti Eddie
Magnetic – Phillip Phillips

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hold the Sauce, Not Applause, for Spaghetti Eddie

Every now and then a children's music act goes completely under the radar, generally acknowledged inside their region of the country but otherwise an unknown entity. That's the case with Brendan Parker, who has just released the fifth volume of SPAGHETTI EDDIE! AND OTHER CHILDREN'S SONGS.

The concept is fairly simple – the first CD introduced Spaghetti Eddie, but it wasn't a song cycle. Indeed, it was merely a clever collection of amiable tunes for tykes and early education students. Over time, Parker and company have added characters but the formula has remained charmingly and disarmingly consistent.

Perhaps the best-kept secret in Oklahoma City (unless there's some Twin Peaks craziness that hasn't broken loose yet), Spaghetti Eddie falls into that fine divide between the Sugar-Free Allstars and Mo Phillips – a solid foundation of wordplay and musicality that doesn't talk down to kids or make their parents want to "disappear" the CDs.

Brendan and bandmate Erick Alexander don't tackle any overtly heavy subject material (although that may happen down the road). Spaghetti Eddie instead mines the minutia of everyday kid life, such as "Wonder Where Everybody's Going," " Let's Go Explore," and "Forts," with the refrain:

My fort can be anything I want
Be careful not to knock it down

Perhaps it's time for Spaghetti Eddie to get cooking and prepare for wider exposure. The first time I heard of them was when Parker contacted me directly (a common story). With more content giving their backstory on the Website or Facebook, and a little friendly radio play on podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, or SiriusXM Kids Place Live, Spaghetti Eddie could add some meatballs to their saucy selections.

SPAGHETTI EDDIE! AND OTHER CHILDREN’S SONGS VOLUME 5 is available from their website, Soundcloud, iTunes, and Amazon.

Here is the video for the song "Kitty Cat Town":

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Symphony Space Hosts Best of Family Music - Saturday, January 27, 2018

Full confession: I thought this blog post would serve as a reminder for people to buy tickets to this event. However I have since learned that it is sold out. A SOLD OUT children's music event in Manhattan! This is a milestone, people. As such, it will serve as a reminder that such things do happen in this generation.

Symphony Space's Nimoy Theater will be hosting a Best of Family Music showcase on Saturday, January 27 at 11 am. With the Grammy Awards returning to New York City this weekend, it's an opportunity to hear from four of the five acts nominated for "Best Children's Music Recording." I was privileged enough to review all five; the four appearing this weekend are Justin Roberts (Lemonade), The Alphabet Rockers (#RiseShineWoke), Lisa Loeb (Lullaby Girl), and Gustafer Yellowgold (Brighter Side).

Yes, you won't get to hear Ladysmith Black Mombaza. But I've already had that experience quite a while back (Paul Simon retrospective show at the Theater at MSG) and honestly a showcase appearance of 10-15 minutes is about all I could take of them.

SiriusXM Kids Place Live's "Absolutely Mindy" Thomas and "Animal Farm" host Kenny Curtis will emcee the program. It's a good opportunity to mingle with the performers (who will likely be signing stuff and taking photos) and let your kids see that musicians are reg'lar people. And also build the notion that if they ever want to play music, some day people may come and see them. Or maybe nominate them for an award.

Like I said, the showcase is sold out. But there's still time to get tickets to upcoming Just Kidding Club events, including musical performances from Alastair Moock (February 3), The Bazillions (February 17), and the Not-Its (March 3).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 19, 2018

All These Years – Camila Cabello
It's Been A Long Day – Caspar Babypants
Summer's Here – The Bazillions
Feels Like Summer  – Weezer
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 18, 2018

Midnight Train – Sam Smith
Play That Song – Train
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Another Head Hits The Pillow – Caspar Babypants
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just A Kite – Caspar Babypants
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
Drink Up  – Train
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 5, 2018

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
First Star – Caspar Babypants
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
Millionaire – Chris Stapleton

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Back to Sleep With Caspar Babypants

Caspar Babypants is working at cross-purposes on his new CD, SLEEP TIGHT! He's performing enthusiastically, with ingenious verve and determination, to put your children to sleep. Which kind of defeats the purpose of producing a full-length musical work, doesn't it?

Chris Ballew's alter-ego is known for his dextrous wordplay ("Bird in An Airplane Suit" comes to mind) and creating a child-friendly playspace. On SLEEP TIGHT, he adds such compositions as "Sleep Mister Sandman" and "Another Head Hits The Pillow" to his pantheon of singalong favorites. He even give the traditional "Do Your Ears Hang Low" a slumber-oriented theme with "Does the Moon Hang Low?"

Chris is big on going you the scoop on what's behind his music. His "Stories Behind the Songs" page delivers paragraphs with big insights. For instance, "So Slow Sluggy" was originally written for a car travel game app he worked on with Jack Forman. "It's Been a Long Day" dates back to his college days and was included (1) because of its unique synth line and (2) because Chris always loved the feel of the tune. You also find the chords to learn to play his music, for instance, the sweet and sadly nostalgic "All Of Your Life":

You spent a little while in the belly of your mom
And someday soon you'll be grown and gone
Just follow your feet and it will not go wrong
For you cause you've got time you've got all of your life

There's always a place for interesting, different bedtime/quiet time music. For instance, Lisa Loeb also released her own kids slumber CD, LULLABY GIRL, this past fall. And the songs on SLEEP TIGHT! harken back to Chris' first lullaby release, NIGHT NIGHT, in 2015. With his 14th (!!) release as Caspar Babypants, Chris seems to be getting a second wind; an interesting respite coming on the heels of his newest nifty naptime nocturne. Adults can always put up another pot of coffee and listen to all 14 tracks. I double dog dare you. Sleep tight.

SLEEP TIGHT is available January 19 from Caspar's website, Amazon, Easy Street, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the song, "Underground":

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Brighter Side – Gustafer Yellowgold
That Way – Chibi Kodama
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
King of the World – Weezer
Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie