Check this Out: Rocksteady by Josh and the Jamtones


One of the most exciting jobs I had when I was a teenager was working at…wait for it… Sam Goody. Who remembers the music store Sam Goody?! I worked in inventory which was such a sweet deal because employees got to keep their share of CDs before they hit the shelves. It was here that my love for ska, punk, and hardcore blends of each blossomed. Sublime’s 40oz to Freedom made it’s way into my regular rotation and somehow my parents were completely ok with it, thankfully. For those familiar or even unfamiliar with this album, it’s definitely got its share of expletives and “adult content.” As a parent, I would probably try and postpone similar things by at least a decade for my daughter, or at least work hard to find radio edit versions. Isn’t it funny how that works?

This is where kids music has opened up many doors for our family in terms of introducing all the flavors of adult music, without compromising the quality. One of the bands that takes me back to the “Goody days” is Josh and the Jamtones. I first witnessed the power of this Boston-based crew during a live performance showcase at an industry conference (“Kindiefest”). This band lit it up! Instant success. Instant sweat. I have since gone on to work with them as their booking agent but our family’s adoration of their music has preceded my professional affiliation with the band. As a music lover and blogger, I consider it my wholehearted responsibility to introduce you to a really killer listening experience.

Josh and the Jamtones has been pumping out ska/reggae/rock jams since 2012. Their music has always had a catchy element to it, garnering several top placements in the Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live Countdown, but it is with their latest album, Rocksteady, that the Jamtones deliver exactly what makes them such a successful family staple. And they come correct! Rocksteady is a powerful amplifier that cranks out hit after hit. And there is no age limit. This is literally music that the whole family will enjoy.

Produced by Patrick Hanlin, also the Jamtones’ beatmaster/drummer, Rocksteady features several special guests including Grammy nominated hip hop master Secret Agent 23 Skidoo who drops some goosebump-inducing lyrical color on “I <3Ur Face” and “I Love U (JZ Remix),” Father Goose (featured on Grammy nominated Dan Zanes’ albums), and Jesse Peter Wagner from The Aggrolites, who sings on a remake of Toots and the Maytals’ “Monkeyman.”

Though the tempo of most of the songs reach some bpm heights, the band offers some cool down opps during the smooth dub-reggae track “Katmandu,” the sweet pop melody of “L-O-V-E” and acoustic ballad “1 of a Kind” though these tracks are not sleepy by any means. There is also some comedic interludes between bandleader Josh Shriber and producer/drummer Hanlin, similar to their previous album, Bear Hunt. Adults will likely find this humor more relatable and funny than their tots. I found myself laughing out loud several times while my daughter preferred to move on. The improvisational skill between Shriber and Hanlin is undeniable and I think these bits could do very well in their own dedicated release or podcast as opposed to being integrated into an already colorful musical landscape. But that’s again what drives the appeal to more of an all ages crowd.

For the music lover who likes just the right amount of attitude coupled with 40oz of their favorite kid-friendly elixir, Rocksteady is an all natural, preservative free guaranteed spirit booster. Get your hands on a copy and skank your cares away.

Rocksteady is available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.

Fans of Josh and the Jamtones may also like The Not-Its!, Board of Education, The Aquabats, the Boogers, Sublime, The Police, Bob Marley, No Doubt, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Bad Brains, Toots and the Maytals, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, The Aggrolites, Gorillaz, Beastie Boys, and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

#WhatMakesYouSmile featuring Rissi Palmer celebrating the release of Mighty Mo’s Smiles Ahead


The idea of living life with childlike wonder has been rolling around in my mind for a while, and not just because I’m a mom. Sometimes I just want to get closer to that uninhibited, ridiculously silly voice that otherwise takes a backseat to professional and parental obligations. Obviously, as a mature adult I can’t get too uninhibited, but, in general, my day could really brighten up with a little more nonsense and play. Kids are amazing in that respect. They move through life in moments, and their joy is naturally infectious.

For my daughter, each day begins with a fresh new perspective. Waking up to our dog licking her face, catapulting into my bed in the morning, wearing a cape, drawing on a pristine piece of paper, or just holding a pretty marble are all things that make her smile. That’s the beauty of childhood and something I truly envy at times! It’s also what makes being a parent such an adventure, keeping me closer to living life with childlike wonder.

Celebrating that unfettered joy and offering it up in the form of music is something I tend to get really excited about. Rissi Palmer, a North Carolina-based singer-songwriter, is featured on Smiles Ahead, a compilation that is debuting today by new kids music label Mighty Mo Productions. What you will immediately notice is that Rissi’s voice is golden, and her song “Best Day Ever” is just such a wonderful reminder that life’s precious and most gleeful moments can be found in the little things. Whether it’s the bestest breakfast or just chillin’ in your jammies, it’s the in-between, the tiny details that make life so sweet.

Many of you may be familiar with Rissi from the Country music world. Best Day Ever is also the name of her debut family album and there is just so much soul and joy in this record. Rissi has had an extremely accomplished (putting it mildly) career as a Country Soul singer, including earning a comfy spot in Billboard’s Hot 100, and recently appearing on the Tavis Smiley Show. She’s amazing and another excellent choice that makes Mighty Mo’s new compilation such a treasure.

Smiles Ahead will be available in select Hallmark Stores. You can also purchase it online at Mighty Mo Produtions’ official site, iTunes and Amazon.

Below, Rissi shares what makes her smile, and I am extending the same questions to all of you. I would love to hear what makes you, your family, your pets smile.

For more #WhatMakesYouSmile goodness check out the post I published earlier this week featuring Frances England. You can listen to and watch the video for “The Sun Will Shine Again” here.

Kids Can Groove: Tell me about “Best Day Ever.” Is there a special meaning or inspiration behind it?

RP: “Best Day Ever” was the first song written when I decided to do a children’s album. My co writers (Deanna Walker, Rick Beresford, & Blue Miller) and I sat in Blue’s studio with my then 9 month old daughter Grace as our inspiration/mascot and talked about all the things that would make up a kid’s perfect day. It turned out to be such a fun song and set the tone for all the other songs on the album that we decided to make it the title of the whole project.

KCG: How did you earn about Smiles Ahead, and what drew you to it? 

RP: Jim Cosgrove gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse lol! Once I heard the concept and who was on the project, I was sold.  This is a special thing and I’m really honored to be a part of it. I especially love the tag line “cool music for cool families”.

KCG: What makes you smile? Could be a memory or two, a special someone or something like fills you up, etc.

RP: Listening to my 4-year-old daughter, Grace, sing the songs she makes up makes me smile. Music has been a lifelong passion of mine and it brings me so much joy to see my child grow to love it as well.

KCG: What is next on the horizon for you?

RP: I am currently recording a Christmas EP that will be released in November 2015 entitled 3 and I’m on the road supporting my “adult” EP, The Back Porch Sessions, which was released in May 2015.

#WhatMakesYouSmile Interview: Frances England featured on Mighty Mo Productions debut Smiles Ahead


Since the school year started, and we’ve gone up a grade, I’ve been feeling conflicted. Almost 7, my little girl is growing up and with developmental changes and maturity comes the desire for more independence. As much pride as I feel watching her flap her wings, I also feel some unexplainable pangs of fear and vulnerability. I already see her setting higher expectations for herself and staying affected for a little longer than usual after a challenging situation. At the same time, the zeal she carries with her every day is inspiring. Together our perspective is shared, and as a result we are constantly learning new ways to navigate the life’s greatest adventures together. In reality, though, she is my muse.

Regardless of what comes her way, I just want her to be able to draw upon the wealth of knowledge she gains from our shared experiences. And to help achieve that, I am striving to better model my reactions for her. It’s not always easy to articulate the right words, and thankfully, when words can’t describe big emotions, music does. It can set the scene, undeniably capture the spirit of the moment, and offer just the right words. It can literally turn a frown upside down.

Frances England has consistently been able to capture the unexplainable with her soft but powerful voice. Her words are precious as well, and together with her euphonious acoustic melodies she just finds a way to breathe out compassion and courage. England’s song “The Sun Will Shine Again,” is featured on a new kindie compilation called Smiles Ahead which is being released on October 16, 2015 through Mighty Mo Productions. Also featured on her 2013 release, Blink of an Eye, “The Sun Will Shine Again” is a comforting track that looks at life with an optimistic view. Life can be unpredictable and reassurance from a comforting voice is sometimes exactly what we need to find that smile ahead.

 Mo Productions was created by Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove and Tom Brantman a Kansas City musician and integral part of Kansas City Jiggle-Jam, a highly regarded family music festival. Smiles Ahead is the label’s first album and, in addition to England, the compilation features a slew of top, award-winning artists making music for families like The Okee Dokee Brothers, Grammy nominated The Pop Ups, Brady Rymer, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Rissi Palmer, Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips, Johnny Bregar, Grenadilla and Kira Willey. The album also includes fresh new tracks by Caspar Babypants and The Verve Pipe, and a debut single from Katydid. It’s an excellently curated compilation and one that is aptly named. It definitely delivers on the promise of its name.

As to how England’s track adds to the compilation, Cosgrove explains, “When I first heard this song, I fell in love with it. And then when we decided to do this project, I knew we had to include it. It’s so full of hope, and it’s a great reminder that sometimes happiness can blossom from a very low place. Kids get that. And Frances‘ voice is so comforting! She makes us all feel like everything is going to be just fine and beautiful.”

In honor of today’s release, I am so pleased to present an interview with Frances England. Check out what makes her smile. And to keep the warm, fuzzy feeling going, please leave a comment letting us know what makes you happy!


Kids Can Groove: Can you tell us the inspiration behind the song, “The Sun Will Shine Again?”

Frances England: “The Sun Will Shine Again” is really about accepting that some days bad things happen — you get knocked down, you feel mad or angry about something — but you have to move past those feelings and start again.  It’s also about taking risks – if you never try something new, you don’t grow as a person.  Taking risks is also about being ok with making mistakes, learning from them and trying again.

KCG: How did you come to learn about Smiles Ahead and what drew you to it?

FE: I learned about Smiles Ahead from Jim Cosgrove and I was immediately interested because of him. Jim’s been making wonderful music for kids and families for a long time and he has so much heart and passion around the projects he’s involved in. So when he told me he was putting together a compilation of good-vibe songs that make people smile, I wanted to be part of that!  And so many of my favorite kindie artists are on this cd so I feel really honored to be part of this project for that reason too.

KCG: What makes you smile? 

FE: So many things make me smile everyday –  my sons’ original jokes & detailed sketches and drawings, my husband skating boarding with my boys, my dog when she gets to run off leash, the quirky neighbors on my block that always have something to say about the weather, the surfers who walk through my neighborhood in wetsuits down to Ocean Beach.  There are so many reasons to smile – I feel lucky everyday.

KCG: What is next on the horizon for you?

FE: I have a new album coming out early next year called, Explorer of the World.  It’s co-produced by Dean Jones & Dave Winer and it’s all about exploration, observation and investigation.  The sound is very different than my previous music – a lot more beats, drum machines, horns, analog synth sounds.  The three of us had such a good time making this record and I can not wait to share it with everyone.

Video: “L-O-V-E You” – Play Date


Recently, Play Date released a video and it’s L-O-V-E-L-Y. Together, Gregory Attonito and Shanti Wintergate (husband-wife duo) capture the spirit, mystery, playfulness and omnipresence of love. It’s such a sweet video to accompany an equally heartwarming song.

Take a listen and then go spread some of that warmth to the loved one(s) in your life.

“L-O-V-E You” is a single from Play Date’s most recent release We All Shine which can be purchased through Play Date’s merch site.

Video Premiere: “Turkey in the Straw” – Andy Z

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What do you get when you mix a popular San Francisco Bay Area-based children’s singer/songwriter and performer, a farm, some puppets and a couple of apes? If you guessed the world premiere video for “Turkey in the Straw,” a single from Andy Z’s latest album, Classic Songs & Traditional Tunes, then you guessed right! Though if you guessed a new spinoff of Planet of the Apes you could be close.

Filmed on location at the lovely Ardenwood Historic Farm, in Fremont, CA, Andy Z (with a special appearance by the Andyland Band) presents one of the most popular singles from the album. As someone who has had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Andy, I am pleased to present this video as it so accurately represents the reason why Andy has been greatly successful as a children’s musician and entertainer. HIs charisma and playful sense of humor regularly brings delight into the musical experiences he creates for families. Those familiar with Andy Z’s live show and existing catalog of music videos will recognize a celebrity puppet friend, i.e. Rasta Froggy, who graciously donned a wedding veil for his role.

Andy explains, “I used a little artistic license when I cast the Mr Bullfrog and Miss Toad puppets (as per the lyrics). I pictured them being newlywed, and dressed them up in bride and groom wear. The Miss Toad puppet is actually my character puppet Rasta Froggy, so I had to cover his head completely with the wedding veil, but the dread locks ended up working well as long flowing hair.”

Eager to present the most authentic renditions, Andy spent hours researching the original verses of the songs featured on Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes, With “Turkey in the Straw” in particular, Andy found that there weren’t many music videos featuring all of the song’s verses and words, and thus the idea to create his own was born. Add in a little jocularity mixed with an ode to Sci-Fi and you’ve got the right formula for today’s premiere!

Andy Z’s Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes is the winner of a Parents’ Choice Silver Award is available via CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon and Pandora. Keep up with Andy Z through his Facebook page, and if you are in the SF Bay Area, check out one of his shows.

Video: “Gather Round” by Renee and friends featuring Lisa Loeb

downloadRenee Stahl of Renee & Jeremy will be releasing a new album called Simpatico (under the name of Renee & Friendswhich contains a wonderful collection of songs featuring special guests such as Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Colin Hay (from Men at Work!) and Lisa Loeb. Heads up, this album is simply gorgeous.

“Gather Round,” the first video off of Simpatico, makes it’s debut into the world today. The song, featuring delicately balanced harmonies between Stahl and Loeb, is just beautiful both in its sound and its meaning. I love the bare naked rawness that is also so comforting in the spirit of family and community.

Little things like a close up of a girl’s freckles, and Loeb playing her guitar barefoot, underscores the “just bring yourself” aspect of the song. The welcoming lyrics which ask “What can you bring to the table?” feel symbolic in a greater, more profound way. What we can bring to the table in any situation (parenting, work, life, relationships) is ourselves because that’s enough, and as the lyrics remind us “what you bring is always what we need.”

Simpatico will officially release on August 28, 2015. You can download the single for “Gather Round” and preorder the album via iTunes SimpaticoAmazon and Google Play.

Keep up with Renee & Friends on Facebook and Twitter for updates and stories and visit the official site to learn more about the project and special guests on the album.

Ralph’s World – Video Premiere “Follow the Leader and Dance” + Interview with Ralph Covert


Without signposts and clues to meaning, the brain shuts down. With help along the way, the brain can do amazing things as it learns to organize and acquire language.

Music and literacy are two of my favorite topics, and today I am proud to feature a new video and interview by a Grammy nominated Kindie rock veteran who just released an album that reinforces the link between the two.

A new Illinois Reading Ambassador, Ralph Covert of Ralph’s World has been rockin’ kids’ (and parents’) worlds for over 10 years. Throughout his career, he has produced 10 original records, authored 4 children’s books (he is currently working on his first chapter book!) and has been featured on Disney TV.

While so much of Ralph’s World’s material has an educational component, his latest release, Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads!, focuses on literacy. Specifically, the significant role rhythm and music plays in the development of language and skills that lead to a child’s ability to read. Our family first learned about Ralph’s World while listening to his rendition of “The Ants Go Marching” on the Old Town School of Folk Music compilation, Songs for Wiggleworms, and proceeded to completely wear out his first record, Ralph’s Worldamong many others.

The following video premiere for “Follow the Leader and Dance” offers kids an opportunity to get their bodies moving while they are learning. In true Ralph’s World fashion, it’s fun!

Be sure to read on for some insightful thoughts Ralph shares about the role music plays in the development of language, how literacy is integrated into Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads!, and how his son inspired the creation of the album’s special packaging.

Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads! delivers twelve songs from his Ralph’s World Rocks! album, three from his published children’s books, and three new, original songs. The album’s special packaging also includes a 15-page picture book version of his song “Do the Math.”

You can find Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads! through the Ralph’s World store.

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KCG: What was your inspiration for this album?
RC: I’ve always been a big believer in how music can help earlier readers. I was very excited when the Ralph’s World Rocks book came out, because I saw how it could help kids who loved Ralph’s World songs bridge the gap to decoding the written word since they would know the songs already by heart. The Ralph’s World Rocks & Reads! CD was the fulfillment of that vision — those songs, plus all the others embodied in books based on my songs, all gathered together for the benefit of the kids and their parents with a specific focus on helping parents work with their young readers.

KCG: Have you always factored literacy into your creative/songwriting process?
RC: I have incorporated literacy in my songs, but usually in an oblique manner. I’ve always been a fan of what I term “subversive learning,” that is, lessons that are masked by the fun. “Tickle The Tiger” off the very first Ralph’s World album is based on alliteration, and we published lessons plans about how to capitalize on the song in the classroom, for example. “The Rhyming Circus” utilizes many different acrobatic uses of rhyme. Is it fun? Is it silly? Is it poetically informative? Yes, on all counts, but, more importantly, can you dance and sing along? Absolutely, and so the lessons follow subconsciously.

KCG: How do you feel music aids in literacy?
RC: In many ways. Familiarity with the words one is reading (whether from knowing a song, having heard the words read out loud many times, or anticipating them because of meter and rhyme) all help earlier readers more easily decode the written word. I know from my own experience learning foreign languages that without signposts and clues to meaning, the brain shuts down. With help along the way, the brain can do amazing things as it learns to organize and acquire language.

KCG: Does rhythm factor into aiding children’s ability to pick up on language, i.e. the beat sets the pace for example?
RC: Yes, also even more importantly, the ability to understand the rhythms in music aids in the ability to decipher where one word ends and the next begins. That is a fundamental building block of rhythm in language.

KCG: You have written picture books. Does that creative process differ from your songwriting process?
RC: It is very different. Songs are much more driven by the constraints of the melody and the song structure. Picture books are constrained by the what can be communicated conceptually within the images contained on a given page, and even more by the need to condense the written word to the most precise words needed to tell the story. An early reader (and their adult companion reading a given book) are not well served by too many words cluttering the page and slowing down the experience of reading a book. “Quick, clean, and clear” are the essential guide words for the writer of a picture book.

KCG: What were some of your early learning experiences with regard to reading and music?
RC: I was a passionate reader and a passionate lover of music from as early as I remember. That said, I have no memory of my pre-school experiences with either. Somehow, whatever my parents provided must have worked! Given the era, I’m sure it was far more happenstance and random than the opportunities forced upon children today. Kids are resilient, so I’m sure they’ll survive anything — even Ralph’s World!

KCG: What are some ways for parents to enjoy music with their children while reinforcing literacy/reading?
RC: Read, read, read! Sing, sing, sing! Dance, dance, dance! If your kids see you’re having fun and engaging with them, they’ll crave more. So… have fun with it! Don’t read boring books, read fun books. Share it and celebrate it! One of the things I’m most proud about with Ralph’s World is that the parents seem to love it as much as the kids do — that’s awesome, because it means the parents are modeling fun. How cool is that? Well… cooler than cool. The end becomes the means. Victory in parenthood! Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-dum-dum-da! Victory march!! (Am I getting carried away here?) I can’t emphasize this enough.

KCG: The style of “Follow the Leader” is call-and-response. How does this format lend itself to learning, language development and literacy?
RC: Call and response is a primal musical form. It’s fundamental to the communication that music inspires. Learning is all about response and repetition, both of which help lay the groundwork for language development and literacy. (That being said, let’s be honest — that song is about dancing and having fun! And who are we kidding?! The real purpose behind the song is that it has the hidden message that it’s okay to be shy, but that by reaching out and participating you can find friends and have fun. But who’s keeping score here, anyway?)  No, really, it helps reading, too!!!

KCG: Can you share some experiences you’ve had with your own children with regard to music and literacy?
RC: In our household, music is everywhere, so it’s hard to pick specific examples of what has influenced what. One specific experience definitely shaped the Ralph’s World Rocks & Reads CD — when Rita created the original prototype of the Do The Math book that is included in the CD packaging, our 6-year-old, Jude, read and re-read it until he had literally destroyed that first copy from overuse! He was familiar with the song, and as a result was very proud of how well he was able to read the book. He also loved doing all the math problems included later in the story. His positive reaction to the book confirmed our initial idea that including it would be a unique and positive addition to the CD, and also gave Rita the idea of binding it in with the CD packaging so that hopefully parents would have a sturdier and more book-like book that would last longer than the prototype! Also, we really enjoyed the meta-humor that a CD collection of songs which had been included in books was in and of itself designed not only to look like a book, but to include an actual book inside.

KCG: What was your inspiration for the production of this video?
RC: Regarding the “Follow The Leader And Dance” song, the inspiration for including a song like it featuring dancing kids goes back ten years or so to the Say Hello DVD released by our first kids label. I noticed every time kids put on the DVD that instead of watching TV passively, they would stand up and begin dancing along with and imitating the kids on the screen. This was one of the elements that was important for us to include in the pilot. Other key parts of each episode of the show are musical learning opportunities (both musical styles and music literacy), meeting historical figures (but in a conversational, human way), and social lessons (like learning team-work and sharing.)

KCG: Do you have any updates on your TV pilot Time Machine Guitar? 

While we have not yet secured a network home for the show, we are continuing to pursue options both for creating a first season of full length episodes as well as exploring short form variations that can allow us to develop an audience and create the show independently. The entire first season has been written, and all of the puppets have been created and built. It will be an exciting journey either way, and we hope to have at least some short form pieces to share in 2016.