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":