December 14, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Lisa Loeb, Ella Jenkins, & Mister G | ClefNotes

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redstarCamp Songs. Performed by Ella Jenkins. CD. 62 min. Smithsonian Folkways. 2017. $14.98.
PreS-Gr 5–Every recording that nonagenarian Jenkins releases is cause for celebration. Producer Tony Seeger (Pete’s nephew) explains in the accompanying 36-page booklet why Jenkins invited a group of local singers to join her on this collection of 25 classic songs, each sung around campfires for generations. Jenkins is noticeably frail in several places. However. she enthusiastically contributes musically to each song, whether giving an introduction (“Tumbalalaika”), singing (“Kumbaya”), or playing harmonica (many songs). Guest singers include Seeger (“Everybody Loves Saturday Night,” “Good Night, Irene,” “This Little Light of Mine”), Kate Seeger (“The Court of King Caractacus,” “Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder,” “Down by the Riverside”), Chris Walz (“Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” “Down in the Valley,” “Sloop John B.”), and Bucky Halker (“This Land Is Your Land,” “Union Maid”). A children’s chorus is featured on 13 songs. Well-paced with musical arrangements spot-on, this should be a must-have item for libraries. VERDICT Libraries looking for a collection of camp songs should make this one their go-to recording.—Stephanie Bange, Dayton

redstarDessert Island. Performed by Froggins and Bug. CD. Approx. 35 min. Prod. by Dean Jones. 2017. $12.99.
Gr 3-6–Dean Jones (of Dog on Fleas) and Shane Kirsch present 12 original, wacky, silly songs/conversations in jazz, reggae, and rock musical styles. All of the musicians give terrific performances on guitar, upright bass, saxophone, flute, trombone, keys, drums, and percussion. Like Amelia Bedelia, “Literal Red Riding Hood” understands idioms literally; when advised to chill out, she places ice packs on herself. Listeners are reminded that you can’t take off your “Birthday Suit.” The duo want to live on “Dessert Island,” with apple pie, blueberry pie, chocolate cake, and other desserts in alphabetical order while on “I Wish I Could Eat Pinecones” they want to eat milkweed, Playdough, and other inedible items. Dean and Shane decide to invent some “Sports,” but find out they already exist, such as ice hockey and tennis. The remaining songs are just as silly: “Get a Job,” “Puppets Are Controlled by People,” “Red Red Red Red Red,” “Ecoute,” “Horace the Horse,” and “Pseudonym.” VERDICT A fresh and innovative album.—Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library, TX

Feeling Good. Performed by Mr. Dave. CD. 33 min. Mr. Dave Music. 2017. $12.97.
PreS-Gr 3—Mr. Dave, or Dave Hamilton as he is commonly known, returns with another uplifting and entertaining album. During this outing, Mr. Dave employs a fun, Kendrick Lamar–style groove to enforce safety when walking in more urban areas in “Street Smarts,” a quirky, infectious beat when talking about diversity and acceptance on “Pelican Kid,” and a Beach Boys quality to “Two Wheels” about the joys of going for a bike ride. The title track, “Feeling Good,” hits on the simple joys in a day like walking the dog, watering plants, and having a tea party, while “I Will Share” is a beautiful song about doing the best you can by helping others. VERDICT The high production values combined with important messages and enjoyable melodies makes this an album that families will enjoy listening to again and again.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public LIbrary District, IL 

Feelings. Performed by Josh Turner. CD. Approx. 30 min. Revert Records. 2017. $12.99.
PreS-K—Mr. Josh performs 10 original, simple songs about different feelings, all backed by an acoustic guitar in folk musical style. The songs are very straight-forward and include: “What Proud Means,” “Embarrassed,” “Angry,” “Scary, Scary,” “Sad,” “I’m So Excited,” “Happy Face,” “I Feel Lonely,” “Owie Song,” “My Body Feels Tired.” While other children’s music artists have included songs about feelings on their recordings, this is one of the few in which all of the songs deal with children’s emotions. VERDICT This album would be especially useful in a daycare setting.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library, TX 

Imagination. Performed by Jess Penner. CD. Approx. 20 min. Position Music/Recurrent Records. 2017. $6.
K-Gr 4–Penner puts her light, breathy vocals to work on these six covers and two original songs, all in an electro-pop style. Penner and the backup musicians make excellent music on guitar, ukulele, bass, strings, keys, bells, drums, and percussion. “I’ve Got No Strings” is from Disney’s Pinocchio. Penner covers Sesame Street’s Ernie in “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.” In “Mr. Sun,” she covers one of Raffi’s well-known songs. Penner channels Judy Garland in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and breathes new life into “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Thank You For Being a Friend” (the Golden Girls theme music). Her original songs, “Imagination” and “Forever in My Heart,” were inspired by parenting her own two children. VERDICT This lovely album is sure to appeal to children and adults alike.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library, TX

redstarLife on a Trampoline. Performed by Randy Sharp and Dave Kinnoin. CD. Approx. 39 min. Song Wizard Records/CD Baby. 2017. $14.95.
PreS-Gr 3–Sharp and Kinnoin follow up their critically praised 2015 effort Calling All the Elephants with Life on a Trampoline, winner of a Fall 2017 Parents’ Choice Gold Award. The dozen songs on the recording are joyous and uplifting, often fun with a few silly bits that keep the overall tone of the production light. The duo harmonize beautifully, often complimenting each other and passing lead vocals playfully. Musical styles range from a bouncy country tune with banjo (“Last Time I Was Here”) to blues featuring saxophone and harmonica (“Betty Mumbles”) to easy listening (the title cut with a solid rhythm section sound). They tackle kid-friendly topics in many lyrics, including “Squadoosh” (fear of monsters and the dark), “That Thing” (breaking annoying habits), and “We Don’t Share” (the importance of sharing). Kinnoin does double duty by playing most of the musical instruments, with a few guests sitting in on several songs. This is sure to be a hit with the whole family. VERDICT Pack this in the car for that long trip; you will enjoy listening to it over and over.–Stephanie Bange, Dayton

Lullaby Girl. Performed by Lisa Loeb. CD. 41 min. Furious Rose Productions/Amazon Music. 2017. $12.99.
PreS-Gr 2–Lisa Loeb’s voice was made for lullabies. In her newest collection of family music, Loeb takes 11 well-known songs such as “Be My Baby,” “Dream a Little Dream,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and crafts them into soothing tunes that could easily accompany children into dreamland. Classic children’s songs “Rainbow Connection” and “Inch Worm” are included, as well as two lovely originals, “Close Your Eyes” and “Lullaby.” VERDICT This album is perfect for children during bedtime and for adults searching for some tranquility in the day.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL 

redstarMundo Verde/Green World. Performed by Mister G. CD. 27 min. Coil Records. 2017. $14.99.
PreS-Gr 2–Mister G’s latest bilingual album is an incredible treat for the ears. The 11 songs compiled here all address the same theme: the need to protect this amazing planet on which we live. From the first note of “Mundo Verde/Green World,” fast-paced Latin beats will have listeners moving and grooving. The topics of recycling, the wonders of nature, el coqui, bees, and fish are all featured, as well as a celebration of many different animals in “Patas en el Aire/Paws in the Air.” Mister G and his guests, including Mari Nobre and Estrella Acosta, seamlessly move back and forth between Spanish and English both during the interludes between songs and in the lyrics themselves, making each song a delight for native listeners of either language. Each song is backed by talented musicians from around the world, giving the album a real world-music feel. Eventually, the dance party ends as things slow down and the celebration concludes with the lush “Las Estrellas/The Stars.” VERDICT This is a must have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

Rock-n-Roll Yearbook. Performed by The Bazillions. CD. 35 min. The Bazillions. 2017. $11.97.
K-Gr 3–Rock-n-Roll Yearbook is the fourth album of kid-friendly rock and roll from the Minnesota-based band The Bazillions. The opening track, “Back at School,” perfectly encapsulates what the first day of school is like and encourages lots of interaction from listeners (clapping, jumping, listening to teacher) while “New Pair of Shoes” captures the joy of getting a “so fast, jump high, supercharged new pair of shoes.” Other songs such as “You Could Be the One” (you can grow up to be anything you want), “That’s My Style” (you do your thing and I’ll do mine, and that’s cool) and “More To Be Done” (I’m learning and growing and together we can make change happen) convey messages that may empower young listeners. One of the treats of an album from The Bazillions is the skillful way they teach grammar and writing; here, they explore the “Wide Open World of Adjectives” and break down the writing rules of “Who What Where When Why.” VERDICT This delightful album will be a great addition to classroom lessons as well as fun family listening.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

redstarRise Shine #Woke. Performed by Alphabet Rockers. CD. 42 min. School Time Music. 2017. $14.99.
PreS-Gr 5–Oakland, CA-based hip-hop group Alphabet Rockers return with one of the most important children’s albums of the year. Led by Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, the band performs well-crafted tunes filled with complicated rhymes and beats that convey the important messages of inclusion, love, diversity, and lifting each other up. While they never shy away from the tough topics, including racism and building walls between each other, they also keep each tune relatable to young listeners by incorporating raps that are skillfully performed by children and by including interviews with young people as preludes to some of the songs. Teaching children about social justice may sound daunting, but the Alphabet Rockers make it easy. VERDICT A must-have for family listening and discussion, and in classrooms where any of these topics are taught.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

Songs From the Monkey House. Performed by Jack Forman. CD. 39 min. Monkey House Music/Amazon Music. 2017. $12.99.
PreS-Gr 5–After producing 13 albums with the children’s band Recess Monkey, Forman goes solo here. This collection of 12 original songs based on real conversations that Forman has had with children throughout the years covers everything from the dog’s point of view while running in the dog park to an ode to super-stinky blue cheese. The lyrics of each song are clever and multi-layered, providing something for children and adults. Grown-ups will especially enjoy “Yodeling Yoda” a unique love song to Star Wars, “Candy Tour” which retells the tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and “No Name” about a band with plans to make it big until they name themselves Minecraft and receive a cease and desist letter. Forman wrote, provided all vocals, played all the instruments, and produced and engineered the entire album, taking the term “high-energy” to a whole other level. VERDICT Kids and adults will enjoy this rollicking rock-n-roll romp.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

Totally Osome! Performed by Danny Weinkauf. CD. 36 min. Red Pants Music/CD Baby. 2017. $9.99.
PreS-Gr 5–Weinkauf, bassist for They Might Be Giants, composed, performed on, and produced this recording, his third album for kids. With songs that draw on a range of musical styles (including rock “Bah Bah Song,” funk fusion “Alphabet Tebahpla,” easy listening “I’m a Girl Step Aside,” and rhythmically percussive New Wave reprise “Smartphone”), Weinkauf stays on top of the music. He shares the mic with Red Pants lead singer and bassist Tina Kenny Jones. It is obvious they are having fun making music together. Weinkauf makes it a family affair on several songs, with the whole gang joining him in “N Then We Danced.” Other highlights not to be missed include the mellow “Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day” and the rocking “Super Powered Mindy.” Toes will be tapping and voices singing the fun lyrics of these catchy tunes in no time. VERDICT Weinkauf adds another winner to his string of solo albums.–Stephanie Bange, Dayton

Trippin’ Round the Mitten. Performed by Randy Kaplan. CD. Approx. 58 min. Yellow Thing Records & Books/CD Baby. 2017. $13.97.
PreS-Gr 5–Michigan-based Randy Kaplan’s sixth album for families adds four different musical styles to his repertoire of original and cover tunes: hip-hop, pop, doo-wop, and punk. He makes each his own, having fun while performing 18 songs that include “Honk Honk” (a request not to squeeze his nose after having a “procedure,” which channels Lin Manuel Miranda in “Hamilton”), “Tongue Tied” (about not saying what you mean), and “Mr. Bassman” (just try to keep up singing with him!). He passes the mic to Julie May who sings lead on “Bye Bye Baby,” a sultry throwback torch song that also features a muted trumpet solo, and the emotional tune, “Sleeping Dog.” Fans of songs with stories will enjoy many of these including “Sugar” (his cover of the Maroon 5 pop hit), “My Frigerator Broke” (a bluegrass tune with banjo accompaniment), and “Beach Song” (complete with sea gulls calling and kids playing on the beach in the background). The musicians accompanying Kaplan are pros, working together as a cohesive unit. VERDICT Kaplan is rapidly becoming a top-tier singing storyteller who is appropriate for all ages.—Stephanie Bange, Dayton

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Comments

  1. Everyone in my family is learning Spanish, and we love, love, love Mr. G! And he’s great in concert, too.
    Me gusta su musica mucho! Bravo!

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