Music Review and Free Mother’s Day Download: Hello My Baby – Vered

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Today’s music review is for a special album that will resonate with new parents, new-ish parents, and grandparents. In honor of Mother’s Day, you will find a free download at the end of this post so read on!

The first time I celebrated Mother’s Day was when I was pregnant. It felt so strange to suddenly be included in this Hallmark holiday without actually having a baby yet. At the same time, I knew it marked a major milestone. I just didn’t know how major. After having my daughter, I remember thinking “Now what?!” Suddenly, I was responsible for this new life, so fragile and dependent, and I felt completely unprepared. I had so many questions! Being around other moms kept me together and sane.  Looking back, I wish I had Vered Benhorin’s new album, Hello My Baby.

Hello My Baby reaches out with a loving hand to remind all of us, babies included, that it’s all ok. Through warm, soothing vocals, Vered relates to her audience like a best friend who understands and will support you. Her songs remind me of how lucky I am to be a mom. Hello My Baby delves into the most complicated aspects of parenting in which we are constantly at odds with selflessness and selfishness; being a parent while still wanting to be nurtured ourselves. As I listen, I find myself laughing, crying and just taken by the reality of it all. 

The album opens with the title track “Hello My Baby,” which is more than just a greeting. In many ways, it’s the start of an experience that reflects the diverse and sometimes conflicted range of emotions that we have as parents. The second song, “Jump,” expresses the joy and and physical response our bodies have when we see that beautiful face, glowing eyes, and bright, toothless smile.  …“makes my insides go jump.”

Since her last record, Vered has spent time working with families and developing her company, Baby in Tune. With advanced degrees in both Music Therapy and Psychology, plus being a mom herself, Vered explains that “These songs are first and foremost based on my personal experience as a mom. But they are also informed by the time I spend listening to new parents who are looking for someone to relate to. I hope that these songs express how we all feel as parents and our connections to ourselves and our babies.”

In “Something other than a Mom,” Vered unmasks the naked, raw emotion of remembering who you were, who are you are now and how the two identities converge into one: “These days i forget to look into a mirror/ But if a glass catches me/ I see something other than a mom/ When I run my hands over my body/ I feel something strange/ It’s not like when i was something other than a mom/ It’s not to say that I don’t like being her/ But I’ve grown to know and love another/ So my baby/ Since you came/ I wonder if she’ll return.” This is something that goes through my mind all the time. Though I have been a mom for six years, and have mostly returned to my pre-baby form, I am still very aware that my body has changed, as has my identity. I know I can’t be the same girl I used to be, but as I listen to this song, I feel that I can be both the mom I am now and the girl I once was. 

Parenting is an adventure which presents many opportunities to learn, change and grow with your baby. Hello My Baby is a memorable album and one that I have not yet encountered in terms of its intent, depth and honesty for parents. This special collection of songs bridges the connection between parent to baby, encouraging a rich bonding experience. This album is a perfect companion to Vered’s debut, Good Morning My Love. I just wish I was handed these CDs instead of sitting through a birthing video from the 60’s in Lamaze class.

BONUS: I hope you enjoyed today’s music review! Hello My Baby is an exceptional album. In honor of Mother’s Day, Vered is offering Kids Can Groove readers a free download of her song “Changing.” Grab it here

Learn more about Vered’s work at the Baby in Tune official site.

For tips on using music to bond with your baby, check out Vered’s guest post here.

Check This Out: Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes – Andy Z

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In the children’s music genre there are folk songs a plenty, and with good reason. Their repetitive choruses encourage language development, and build a foundation for rhythm and rhyme. Many of them offer opportunities for movement, as well. I know I’m not the only one who has galloped around the room while singing “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain!”

Releasing an album full of traditional folk and classic children’s songs may not be out of the ordinary, however, as much as I have heard “This Land Is Your Land,” “Your Are My Sunshine,” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” I always appreciate when artists put an original spin on them, essentially creating something that feels new. That’s the difference for me every time.

Andy Zs sixth studio album, Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes, does just that. While planning for the release of this album, the Bay Area-based musician spent time researching the origins of popular folk songs in an effort to present them in their original lyrical form. Andy preserves the authentic sounds of the genre through carefully curated orchestral arrangements and infuses them with his signature charm and positive energy.

Families will enjoy singing along with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” a seasonal classic, revisiting the wild west with “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and harmonizing to “Happy Trails,” which features a sweet duet with Karla Kane from The Corner Laughers. Younger listeners (pre-school to lower elementary ages) will smile as they “Shake a Friend’s Hand,” “Shake Their Sillies Out,” and do “The Hokey Pokey.”

Em and I listened to the album together, and as she heard “This Land is Your Land” followed by “Shake a Friend’s Hand,” she proudly sang along excited by the fact that she knew all of the words. As I listened to her, I recalled how we sang together during her toddler years. It was surprisingly nostalgic.

Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes is an enjoyable collection of time-honored tracks that will appeal to children and adults of all ages. Sometimes reinventing the wheel can fall flat, but taking that same wheel and giving it a fresh coat of paint can be a wonderful thing.

Learn more about Andy’s latest efforts and Listen to samples from the album at the official “Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes site.”

Also make sure to check out the stellar troupe of Bay Area artists that accompanied Andy on “The Team” page at the official “Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes site.”

The album is available for purchase through CDBaby, Itunes, and Amazon.

Be sure to catch more of Andy’s tunes by subscribing to his Pandora channel.

“The Siblings Shake” – Happy National Siblings Day with The Mother Company And Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

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It’s hard enough navigating through this world as a single child, and just when you feel like you’ve got a handle on things a sibling comes into your world and changes up the dynamic. I have heard from many moms with multiples how intense the fighting can be at times. On the other hand, there are beautiful moments where siblings just hug it out like crazy and play together like the best friends.

The Siblings Show,” the latest installment in the “Ruby’s Studio” series, a multiple award winning show produced by The Mother Company, aims to encourage harmonious relationships between young siblings. Through animation and problem solving skits The Siblings Show offers relatable scenarios and tools to help siblings learn to understand and express their feelings, embrace teamwork and celebrate family. The show also addresses topics such as birth order, adoption, and anxiety around a new baby. Em has been very outspoken about not wanting a sibling for fear of losing time with us so being able to watch something that speaks to her and can comfort her is reassuring.

In honor of National Siblings Day, The Mother Company released a video performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band for the song “The Siblings Shake.” As expected, Lucky and Alisha pour their infectious, sunny personality into this song with a bit of whimsy and humor. It’s hard not to feel the love when watching these two!

The Mother company is an awesome group of moms and experts who aim to provide rich entertainment to young children, and advice for parents. In addition to their latest installment, they also offer episodes empowering kids in areas of friendship, being the boss of their own body and safety. There is something for everyone in the family! Visit The Mother Company’s site and check it all out.

You can learn more about “The Siblings Show” and purchase the full-length DVD here.

Check this out: Cat Doorman – Calling All the Kids to the Yard!

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Cat Doorman (aka Julianna Bright) is back with a new EP! Calling All the Kids to the Yard! takes a quick little jaunt through a garden of fresh, rockin’ songs. Making a perfect companion to the ethereal Songbook, Bright’s kindie music debut, Calling All the Kids to the Yard! kicks things up a notch with 4 sprightly tracks eager to make you dance.

One of the many things I admire about Bright’s music is the cohesion between the vocals and instrumentation. Accents such as the piano or hand claps are perfectly timed and in sync with the meter of the song, as well as Bright’s bouncy vocals. There is clearly a lot of thought put into the production of her work!

Each track, infused with beautiful themes such as peace, love, kindness, and wonder, are filtered through inspiring words that are refreshing to hear.

“Drink this cup” picks up where “Peaceful” (from Songbook) left off. “Peaceful” ends with the lyrics “This life we choose, it fills our cup/ This life we choose, it gives so much,and “Drink this Cup” opens with Bright gratefully declaring that it’s time to “Drink this loving cup” and be nourished by the beauty life has to offer. “Wake Up” encourages kids to move through their day with kindness and an open heart while the title track encourages community building and care for the environment. “All the Pretty Little Horses,” is taken from a saunter to a canter as it urges you to “Kick up your hooves” and shake your tail, which you certainly will. Bright’s playful take on this classic showcases her hip style and dynamic range as a musician.

I love Bright’s style and am really enjoying the upbeat swing of this EP. Calling All the Kids to the Yard! is the first in a series of 4 seasonal EPs that are set to release over the course of this year. You can purchase this digital only release through the Bandcamp widget below.


For more Cat Doorman, check out Bright’s recent DJ spot on the Hilltown Family Variety Show, and her interview with the The Oregonian.

Exploring Kids’ Music Album Art: The Perfect Quirk by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

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Secret Agent 23 SkidooThe Perfect Quirk

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s 2014 Grammy nominated release rode in on the wave of encouraging kids to be themselves. This empowering proposition has been the underpinning of Skidoo’s genesis as a kids’ musician.

Throughout his career, Skidoo has been a staunch advocate of embracing your quirks, standing proud and tall and being who you are. His expressive style of encouraging kids to show their natural, bold colors is complemented well with the tonal choices made by North Carolina-based artist, John Hairston, Jr

Hairston, jr. is a fine art painter who often captures the juxtaposition of beauty and oddity. The images that appear throughout The Perfect Quirk packaging are unique for a kids’ album cover, and together with the music make a cohesive package. Skidoo is a kid hop artist and pays respect to the hip hop genre by including elements such as his graffiti tagged name, and the third eye of the boy on the back cover.

Emily carried this CD around for weeks completely fascinated by the metamorphic characteristics of the kids, especially the boy with the third eye. She was intrigued and wanted to know what the reasoning was behind the choices made for the cover. Seeing the peculiar images piqued her curiosity and imagination over and over again which ultimately enhance her listening experience.

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“The kids and parents all represent a mutation towards higher consciousness. The boy is spiritual, with a 3rd eye representing higher awareness. The girl has antennae, representing alien or intergalactic consciousness. The mother is multi-armed, riffing off Hindu deities and the Dad has angel wings. The race is supposed to be a futuristic mix of all races, when racism has been put down and everybody gets with everybody. The skin color, hairstyle, face and eye shape, etc.” Continue reading

Check this Out: Watching the Nighttime Come – Suz Slezak

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Imagine, for a moment, strolling barefoot through a lush grassy meadow. As the first light hits your face you are instantly caressed by its warmth. The joy that comes from bathing in that moment describes the feeling I get when listening to Suz Slezak sing. Her gentle voice tenderly radiates warmth and peace.

Slezak’s solo debut, Watching the Nighttime Come, was originally written for friends who are also young parents. As a lullaby album it does it’s job of providing soothing ambient sounds that are perfect for, as Suz explains, “anyone that just needs some chilling out in their life.” I can definitely relate to this, and actually found myself mostly playing this album after my daughter was asleep as a way to help me unwind and reflect on my own day.

Watching the Nighttime Come was started while Slezak was pregnant and finished after she had a babe in her arms. As someone who seeks a creative outlet while trying to balance my responsibilities as a mom, I greatly admire Slezak’s dedication to herself as an artist.

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The collection of songs on the album present a nice blend of originals and classics, some with vocals and some that are simply instrumental which make for nice, fluid transitions. There are also some cultural songs such as “Caballito Blanco,” a Mexican lullaby which features Slezak’s husband, David Wax, singing in harmony with her. One of my favorites, “Leather Winged Bat,” a well known English Folk Song, is actually an uptempo song, adding some buoyancy to the collection.

Another talent of Slezak’s is the fiddle, which she plays in the acclaimed indie-folk band David Wax Museum. We get to hear a bit of her magic in “Jessie’s Waltz,” an instrumental track showcasing the stringed instrument’s gorgeous and contemplative sounds. “Jessie’s Waltz” echoes the graceful, gliding movement of an actual waltz. I enjoyed taking my daughter’s hands and slowly dancing with her. She loves this song and at times she would close her eyes as she danced like a ballerina, feeling the music. It’s an intimate song that would also be wonderful to hum to a sleepy infant while smoothly sliding around as you cradle them in your arms.

Watching the Nighttime Come is officially released tomorrow, February 10, 2015. You can sample several songs, and get an up close and personal look at their touring van, through Slezak’s Pledge  Music site.

In honor of the album’s official release, you can stream “Where Did You Come From,” (the album’s first song) through the Soundcloud widget below.  As you listen to this track and experience the remaining 9 tracks on this album, you will quickly discover what a treasure it is, for you, for your family, and for your friends, as its meant to be.

Slezak will be playing a bunch of CD Release shows leading up to Valentine’s Day. For more information, check out the David Wax Museum website and follow Suz Slezak on Facebook.

 

Exploring Kids’ Music Album Art: Pairing visuals with sound

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2 ART FORMS IN ONE

I love album art! Since I was a child, I have been obsessed with the imagery that accompanies music. Two art forms in one package has always been a source of wonder. Getting a new record, taking in the smell of fresh pressed vinyl, and examining the cover was just as exciting as dropping the needle and hearing the crackle and pop.

LP jackets adorned our walls as though they were installations in a gallery, and with each one I would spend a considerable amount of time examining the art, wondering why a specific image had been chosen, what inspiration and story lay behind it, and how it represented the music within.

As music is increasingly consumed digitally, album art is at risk of becoming an afterthought. There are still many musicians, however, who are taking the time to ensure that their music has a visually distinctive identity. In the children’s genre many kindie artists are preserving the novelty by releasing a complementary LP version of their album while others are beefing up their album packages with informational booklets, and DVDs.

The graphic at the top of this post shows a sampling of albums from 2014 that caught my eye. As you glance at this collection, you’ll immediately notice what a diverse array of artwork it is! I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a talented community of artists and musicians, each working hard to create a lasting multi-sensory impression.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be talking with musicians and artists, gaining and sharing insight into the creative process that led to the final packaging you see today. If you’re a music fan, a fan of art, or simply a collector of interesting artifacts, I hope you’ll join me in learning about the “other half” of the album…. the one you see, but never hear.

Follow along by reading about Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s Grammy nominated album, The Perfect Quirk.