Veterans Day Guest Post: Derek McGee of Funkinships

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Today is a special holiday in which we honor and pay tribute to the brave men and women who serve/have served our country. The band of brothers and sisters that put all of themselves into protecting and fighting for freedom and justice.

In honor of Veterans Day, I am proud to present a guest post by Derek McGee of the band Funkinships. Derek is an Iraq war veteran whose reintegration into regular life was made easier with the help of music, and a friend by the name of Charlie Chamberlain. The two men met aboard the Mystic Whaler, a sailing classroom on the Hudson River. Together, along with the crew and some friends on board, Derek and Charlie created Funkinships, and subsequently released their debut album, Post Folk Absurdist.

Derek’s guest post highlights the significance of being a part of a pack. The powerful effects of strength in numbers, both actively and emotionally. The strength of your crew, your band, is what gives each individual member strength, especially out on the battlefield. It’s a piece that will resonate with many, whether you are honoring a veteran you know, or simply observing the day with your own pack. As a bonus, check out “Chicken Flap Fly” at the bottom of the post.


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Veterans Day is different for veterans than it is for the rest of the country.  For most it is a chance to show appreciation to the men and women who served in the Armed Forces, but for those who served it is a time to reflect on our time serving.  I will tell you what this looks like for me.  I miss my herd.  Humans are a social animal.  We belong in herds, tribes, packs, clubs, or platoons.  Whatever you call your group, you need one. That was one of the hardest parts about getting out of the military.  I was suddenly on my own.  I have a fiancé and as of 6 weeks ago a daughter, but I still miss the completeness that only a herd can bring.  Today, my herd is the band Funkinships. That includes anyone singing or playing along.  Funkinships has a fluid membership.

We all want to belong to something larger than ourselves.  Making music with the people around you lets you do more than feel like you are a part of something bigger — you can hear it.  You can hear how you fit into the whole.

When I came back from Iraq the second time I bounced around looking for a herd.  I tried finance.  That didn’t work. I joined a sailboat crew — that worked but I couldn’t do it forever.  Then one day on the boat I met Charlie Chamberlain, a musician.  Together we wrote songs (even though I had no musical experience) and held a band rehearsal with some other volunteers on the boat.  I got that same sense of contentment I did bunking with my platoon in the train station north of Fallujah, Iraq.

So, this Veterans Day I will look through the old photos and reach out to my fellow Marines like I always do.  But I will also put on the Funkinships CD and sing along.  And while I am thankful for the veterans of this country, like everyone else, today I am especially thankful that there are people willing to sing along with me.  Because I need a herd.  What is your herd?

Video: “Anta Gata Doko Sa” -Elena Moon Park and Friends (World Premiere)

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Experiencing how other cultures greet each other is one of the things I love most about learning a new language. In many ways, the greetings are similar—”Hello,” “How are you,” “What is your name,” “My name is”—but expressed with their own unique flavor. The richness of World Music gives us a vehicle through which we can better understand and connect with a community of people, which is why I am thrilled to present today’s video premiere, “Anta Gata Doko Sa” (“Where Are You From?”).

Elena Moon Park made her 2012 debut with the stunning Rabbit Days and Dumplings, an album that mixes traditional American folk music with traditional Asian sounds offering a diverse array of songs from East Asia (Korea, Japan, China, Tibet and Taiwan).

“Anta Gata Doko Sa” is a popular Japanese children’s song often sung while playing with a bouncing ball. Park’s video features beautifully animated oil painting (credit: Lauren Gregory) that fluidly glides along with the smooth Dub-infused rhythm of the song. The combination is fun to watch and learn from. Look for a charming little girl who bounces a ball with her shoulders and transforms into a ball herself.

For those in the New York area, Elena Moon Park will be performing in Symphony Space’s Just Kidding Series with Sonia De Los Santos on Nov. 5. I highly recommend this show as both of these artists are extremely memorable.

Check out Park’s video for “Sol Nal” which features Sonia De Los Santos.

Subscribe to Park’s YouTube channel to view additional live performances, and follow Park on Facebook to stay in touch.

Videos!

It’s been quite a year. Big changes are coming to the Kids Can Groove household (to be revealed shortly!). While I’ve been busy on the home front, lots has been happening in the world of kids’ music and it is time to catch up on some excellent music videos.

Here are a few gems that have crossed my path recently, perfect to lovingly place in the back pocket of your favorite jeans. Or in any pocket you have handy.

“Smiles Are Contagious”Bobby Beetcut
While this isn’t Bobby Beetcut’s latest video (see “Energy” from Up in A Tree), “Smiles Are Contagious” is a catchy, timely contrast to the anxiety-producing (and frown-inducing) nature of current events. “What you put out comes back to you. When you feel love, you see that it’s true.” The video offers a powerful message behind a simple, yet equally powerful, gesture.

“Cousin Party”Karen K
Next up is some sweet country flare by Karen Kalafatas (of Karen K & the Jitterbugs) with a song and accompanying video that capture the joy and mischief of hanging with your ancestral brethren. “Cousin Party” is the second single release from Kalafatas’ bold solo effort, The Blue Bike Chronicles, which is meant to reach the more evolved, mature pre-tweenage crew. The single runs like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” but without the Louisville Slugger and automobile fury. You’ll dig it, as will your pre-tween.

“Love Light Shine”KB Whirly & Mista Cookie Jar
Sometimes in music, you get collaborations that seem to be written in the stars, and you wonder, “What took them so long?” So it is with the gelling of KB Whirly and Mista Cookie Jar, two soul-fueled, super funktified, multifaceted kids’ music masters. They are so very well paired and really smooth. “Love Light Shine” was produced by Patrick Hanlin of Josh and the Jamtones and the result is a groovy vibe with far-out visuals that just makes you feel allll kinds of good.

“Lemonade”Justin Roberts
What happens when life hands you lemons? You dress them up and cast them in your video “Lemonade.” The latest release from Justin Roberts’ forthcoming album of the same name, “Lemonade” celebrates the nostalgia and refreshment on the dog days of summer and the tradition of setting up a stand to earn your first dollars. Justin’s delightful style echoes that of Paul Simon, both in his lyrical wit and his on-screen demeanor. A real treat to watch.

“Dream Too Much”Amy Lee
Amy Lee is known in the grown-up world as the golden voice of Evanescence (see “Bring Me To Life”). Now, after having a child of her own, she has partnered with Amazon Music to premiere her debut album for kids. The album’s first single, “Dream Too Much,” peeks into the surreal landscape of a child’s dream world, complete with animated paper imagery (such as flying sandwiches and jellyfish). The song’s mantra “there’s no way you can dream too much” gives kids (and parents) permission to let their imagination run free and wild because “once in a while you’ll have dreams that come true.”

 

“Dance Like There’s Music In Your Pants”Sara Lovell
Bay Area artist Sara Lovell encourages all happy feet to get on up and dance. Just like singing, moving your body is a therapeutic way to express yourself and lift your mood. Whether you’re dancing in your room, with your kids or friends, give this video a whirl and get ready to shake it. “Dance Like There’s Music in Your Pants” also features a special guest appearance by the son of Tommy Shepherd, Jr. (Alphabet Rockers).

Interview: Genevieve Goings (of Disney Jr.’s Choo Choo Soul)

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To children five and under, Genevieve Goings is simply irresistible. The star of Disney Junior’s “Choo Choo Soul,” Goings has made her mark as the effervescent conductor, breathing new life into Disney classics such as “Bare Necessities” and creating some much-loved originals of her own through Do You Know?, her solo album for preschoolers. Goings is also the superstar host of Radio Disney (she sings the theme song to boot) and is focusing on special performances throughout the Choo Choo Soul live concert tour.

As part of her extensive touring for “Choo Choo Soul,” Goings realized the very real need for—and benefits of—performances designed for those who have been diagnosed with autism and other disorders. Committed to delivering the best live music experience to her young audience, Goings has begun adding particular elements to her performances to create special sensory-friendly shows.

Goings continues to find ways to enhance the magic of childhood, leaving long lasting impressions on her audience. I was happy to have had a chance to chat with Goings and learn more about these sensory-friendly performances and what is on the fashion horizon for her. (Hint: Yes, those seriously sweet neckties are included!)



Kids Can Groove: Choo Choo Soul is built on beats and dancing. How do you feel kids respond to R&B and Hip Hop music?


Genevieve Goings: Kids love rhythm and patterns, and hip-hop & R&B use a lot of patterns that work well for them. I think kids have a natural urge to dance and sometimes stronger, more prominent beats really help them let loose and have fun!

KCG: Do you feel that all children can benefit from seeing live music? How?

GG: 
I most certainly do! Music is a release, and it brings people together. Children love to be a part of something, and with a live concert, they can! There are so many things going on at a live show that it takes the entertainment experience to a new level. Kids can see live performers, lights, dancing, other children, and more! I believe that seeing a live show opens up a child’s mind by involving them in the act of making music.

KCG: When did you first realize the need for sensory-friendly types of performances? Was there something in particular that really prompted you to move forward with them?

GG: I have always known that there was a need for these types of shows, but I really understood the importance of them at the first sensory-friendly show that we did. It really is hard to imagine what it can do until you really host one, and see it. 

 There are so many families that have children on the autism spectrum who have stress every time they leave the house. They have to worry about how their child will react to the world, and how the world will react to their child. They need, just as every family does, a place to go and have fun as a family. These shows are special because they don’t need to explain or worry about being judged while they enjoy something comfortable for their child. The thankfulness from the parents was so genuine and touching.

KCG: Are there particular songs or styles of music that work best in a sensory friendly environment?


GG: I think that any style can work in a sensory-friendly environment, since it’s not the content that is sometimes a problem; it’s the way it’s delivered. With a sound-sensitive child, they need the music to be at a lower volume, possibly with the higher frequencies turned down as well. With that being said, any musical style can be enjoyed, as long as it isn’t hurting their ears!

KCG: What can audience members expect from sensory friendly shows?

GG: At a sensory-friendly show, you can expect to have the lights in the theatre seating area on at about a 40% level throughout the entire show. This way, everyone can see where he or she is walking and won’t be in complete darkness at any point during the performance. The lighting on stage will be bright, but “moving” or “strobe lights” will not be a part of the show. At a sensory-friendly show, the volume level will by lower as well, and we encourage the crowd to feel free to move around or even talk during the performance.

KCG: What have you learned about your young audience from doing sensory-friendly shows versus regular performances? Has that had any impact on how you approach your regular performances or on you as a performer?

GG: I have learned that everyone wants to be happy, find joy, and have fun with their family. I have also learned that as much as we all want the same things, we all receive information and enjoy certain things in our own individual ways. What sounds great to one person may sound different to another. As a performer and creator, it will always be my job to deliver music in the best way that I can: to be enjoyed by all. I have learned that this is a work in progress, and I will be learning forever! I am certainly up for the task.

KCG: Are you doing sensory friendly shows as “Choo Choo Soul” or as Genevieve for your solo album (or a mix of both)?


GG: So far we have only done Sensory-friendly shows as Choo Choo Soul, but there will be shows for both in the future! This really needs to be a joint effort by both the artists and the venues.

KCG: You currently appear in Radio Disney Junior. Tell us about your role there.

GG: I am the host of Radio Disney Junior, which is on the Radio Disney Junior app. This app is a place for music lovers that also love Disney Junior!! We have created a new series for the app called “Rhythm & Rhyme Time,” where we play musical games and learn musical lessons! Kids can watch videos, play games, and listen to music on a radio station that is hosted by me! I am so excited about this, because I have been a part of it since it began, and I have a lot of input into the content. I live and breathe Pre-school music, so I am right where I want to be with Radio Disney Junior!

I also do voice-overs for Radio Disney Junior. I record little blurbs for the station and create fun imaginary environments for the station. For example, I could record something like, ‘Lets ride on the roller coaster!!!!! Put your hands up!! Let’s go (with the sound of a roller coaster, suggesting that we are really riding one)!! I also do voice-overs for Disney Junior the Channel, by narrating cooking recipes or singing Holiday songs!

KCG: How does radio compare to Disney TV work?

GG: Radio is so much fun because no one can see the faces you are making (haha)!! I love to get really into what I am recording and make it sound really fun for the kids listening. I would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in entertainment to try voice-overs and radio.

KCG: Can we still find you on TV?

GG: Yes, Disney Junior still airs Choo Choo Soul in between programming! You also can hear my voice all day long on Disney Junior, singing songs about setting the table, taking naps, and more!

KCG: What’s next for you? Any exciting projects you’d like to talk about?unnamed (1)

GG: Right now I am very excited about the new videos for the Radio Disney Junior app that I co-produced. I also have my own clothing accessory line for kids coming out for the Holidays!! Troy James – The Genevieve Goings Collection will have bow ties, neckties, and suspenders sets coming out exclusively on http://www.walmart.com! I am also in the beginning phases of creating a performing arts camp for kids.


Learn more about Genevieve through her official site.

Stay in touch with Genevieve through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Check this out: Alphabet Rockers – The Playground Zone

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Every day another tragic story of intolerance gets added to the pile. The future of our country and the world at large looks pretty bleak—if you believe we are powerless. But I can’t go there. I have to believe that we can DO something. That we can make some change happen. Otherwise, why not just give up and live in bunkers underground?

Thinking about change on a large scale—nationally and internationally—is a tall order. How can we move the needle even just a hair? Can we lean on music to work some magic here?

Letting Go of the Baggage

When my daughter Emily was around three years old, an African American girl sat down next to us at the library. Emily pointed to the girl’s arm and asked, “Why is your skin brown?” The girl’s response was striking. “Because my mom and dad are like that. My brother said it doesn’t come off.” That last part hit me hard.

I went on to explain to Emily that friends are all different colors and come from different places. The diversity of the people in our everyday lives allows us to have a uniquely dynamic social experience. I’ll admit the topic was uncomfortable for me, only because I have already been exposed to the heaviness of how skin color can define you.

Emily wasn’t fazed. She didn’t have the baggage. This year when her first grade class studied Martin Luther King, Jr., she and her classmates were stunned that not so long ago they wouldn’t have been allowed to sit together at lunch because of their skin color. To them, this idea was ridiculous. And their reaction shook me awake. Kids are not inherently biased. Skin color means nothing until someone or something gives it meaning.

If there is going to be change and acceptance and tolerance in our future, kids are where we need to start. It’s not a new idea. But it’s an idea that can’t wait anymore.

This is where music fits in. It becomes the voice inside your head. It reinforces messages in a way that is direct and relatable. Music can empower children with the fuel and fire to move forward with the desire for change, peace, acceptance, and a more inclusive world.

Starting the Conversation with Our Kids

Oakland-based Alphabet Rockers deliver hip-hop music infused with positive messages. This seems simple but the work of Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, Jr. goes deep.

Their latest release, The Playground Zone, is a different album for the Alphabet Rockers. It boldly steps into a more social, personal light. Produced while at the Oakland Zoo Labs Music Residency, McGaw and Shepherd created a powerful album that shines a light on timely issues related to race, ethnicity, neuro-diversity and the strength found in community.

These topics may not be obvious dinner table discussions and for sure they aren’t always comfortable to initiate. But we have a responsibility to guide our children—and to help shape their perception of themselves and the world. How children process and integrate words, ideas, fears and beliefs are what drive their thoughts and actions. This is where change is going to happen. 

McGaw and Shepherd are passionate about putting their craft to work and helping parents and educators engage and connect with young children. The music plants seeds of acceptance that can grow to empowerment and knowledge that can ultimately change the world. As a parent, the songs offer a roadmap for questions like: How do I get the conversation started? How do I keep it age appropriate and simple? How do I talk about acceptance in a way that won’t be misconstrued or create more anxiety about what goes on in the world?

As a group, the Alphabet Rockers are stepping forward and putting out the call—for all of us to step up. Change is not going to happen just because it’s the right thing. Or with two hip-hop artists on a stage. We are all responsible. In “Change the World” McGaw and Shepherd emphasize that it’s time to make the changes that we suggest to others. It’s time to recognize the power in numbers and walk together.

Wishing for the day where we don’t have to hide – who we are, how we pray, how we love – it’s all right
Everyone gets the chance to speak their mind
And people stand up – stand up for what’s right
How about you – would you make that change?
How about me – will I do the same?
Wishing for a time when the world’s safe for all
And no matter who it is there’s help when we fall
No one feels alone – love is the call
And people feel safe without borders, or walls
How about you – would you make that change?
How about me – will I do the same?

The brilliance of The Playground Zone’s foundation is that it’s built around the playground—a familiar place where kids get to be kids. It’s a testing ground for negotiation, a lab in itself for divisions and collaboration. It’s where you find who you are and who you want to be with. As serious as this may sound, play is at the heart of if all. The playground is meant for all children to find a place to coexist together. To feel confident that the ground they are standing on belongs as much to them as to their best friend or the kids climbing monkey bars and playing tag next to them. This self-evident truth is the subtext for The Playground Zone.

We Are Not All Created Equally. That’s a Beautiful Thing.

Children start off with a clean slate, able to see equality across differences. In fact, without other influences, labels don’t even emerge for a good portion of their little lives. Differences are curiosities but easily embraced. As children grow and outside influences seep in, they become aware that not only are they different from their peers, but those differences mean something. In songs like “Oddball,” the Alphabet Rockers welcome the idea that we are all different.

This song goes out to all the brains of the world
We all got them, they all work differently
You feel like you don’t fit in? Well…

In “Gimme Some Skin,” Alphabet Rockers take a familiar gesture and turn it into an opportunity for connection between races, highlighting the magnificence of different skin tones coming together. The symbolism of something so basic and familiar is electrifying when spoken through Shepherd’s voice.

Skin color is a spectrum we know that fact
Highlight its beauty through high five contact
Human is human we have the same parts
Skin tones are different but not too far apart
Every high five is special because we are
The colors, together they raise the bar
Bringing us together, dropping that guard

The Lyrical Flow—Conversation is Key

Through lyrically poetic verses, hip-hop and rap speak out and communicate to others who can relate. McGaw and Shepherd passionately and confidently begin timely conversations carried along by their own self-expression with heartfelt lyrics and rhymes articulated over infectious DJ beats. Their technique is solid and clear. Their quest to encourage inclusion, tolerance and equality is felt in every syllable.

Unity and love are at the forefront of the Alphabet Rockers’ messages and with those guiding principles kids are encouraged to embrace their uniqueness, rock an ultimate high five with a friend and just get their wiggle jiggle on. A refreshing spectrum that has the possibility to make a significant, rippling impact.

Alphabet Rockers’ music presents their young audience with a fundamental shift in thinking—to see the world with more open and tolerant eyes than generations before. The Playground Zone gives parents a place to start conversations with kids and a place to let the music speak for itself uniting us with a vision of liberty and justice for all.


The Playground Zone is available through the official Alphabet Rockers store, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

More information on Alphabet Rockers can be found at their official site.

Stay in touch through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Singled Out: Free Music – “Time to Make the Donuts” – Recess Monkey

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Following in the footsteps of their kindie peers, Recess Monkey’s 12th(!) album, Noveltieswill be released exclusively through Amazon Music to Prime members starting June 17, 2016.

In honor of this milestone, the Seattle band of spunky monkeys is offering a free download of “Time to Make the Donuts.”

Amazon Prime Members can stream or download this new single starting today through June 23, 2016 at no additional cost via Amazon’s Prime Music service.

RECESSMONKEY66.72Novelties arrives just in time for summer with a celebration of original and frosty treats. The album is now available for pre-order through Amazon. Customers who pre-order the album will also instantly receive the single, “Time to Make the Donuts” to enjoy at no additional cost. Novelties will be available on June 17, 2016 for digital download and CD purchase on Amazon Music as well as on Prime Music for Amazon Prime members to listen ad-free at no additional cost to their membership.

Go on, give your ears a little sugar!

 

 

Red Yarn – Wake Up & Sing

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Lately it seems music has stopped evolving—or slowed to a subtle crawl. Where there used to be well defined, bold eras (think disco, punk, grunge, R&B), now is a mixed pot of electronic-accented indie with indie becoming ever more mainstream.

The children’s music genre holds onto boundaries a little better with more definitive styles that still largely lean toward the folk/acoustic side. Portland-based Red Yarn is a star of this style and the devotion that Andy Furgeson, the man behind the moniker, has toward reviving traditional folksongs and lyrical tale telling is worth noting.

Folk Music Alchemy
Furgeson is redefining this style ever so slightly, encouraging its evolution. Like an alchemist, he infuses elements of modern sound while holding tight to the constitution under which this folksy music was born. For his third release, Wake Up & Sing, Ferguson journeyed to the Hudson River Valley to see the grounds that inspired some of his musical heroes, from Seeger’s Clearwater to The Band’s Big Pink House in Woodstock.

While in New York State, he joined forces with Grammy-winning producer Dean Jones (another musical alchemist), whose influence is recognizable through the variety of eclectic instruments. But the genius behind Jones’s producer mastery is honoring Furgeson’s style and giving him space and encouragement to emit even more electricity. Songs like “Clap Your Hands” and “Fourth of July” are fueled with a mix of classic rock and bluegrass, punctuated by a rollicking banjo.

In many ways, Furgeson’s style echoes that of Pete Seeger, a man with an acoustic guitar and a passion for encouraging kids to sing. Seeger came riding the tide of a social landscape that drew strength from community, knowing that there is power in numbers especially when it comes to music. In this environment, singing along isn’t really a conscious choice. The music draws you in with a force that is consuming.

Furgeson breaks through in this way as well. His approach is vibrant. It’s passionate. He steps so fully into the lyrical content and traditional stories that he becomes the music. Though Wake Up & Sing features prominent vocals by Furgeson, it toys with the possibility of full stage ensemble with special guest appearances by the likes of Mo Phillips, Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold) and Furgeson’s wife, Jessie Eller-Issacs.

Simple Melodies that Start a Sing-a-Long
In his previous two releases, Deep Woods and Deep Woods Revival, Ferguson reintroduced American folk classics from anthologies such as Carl Sandburg’s Great American Songbook (1927) and Alan Lomax’s Folk Songs of North America (1960)—with a balance of light and dark content and a focus on animal perspectives. Wake Up & Sing preserves some animal subject matter but moves into a more playful, sunny arena with the songs retaining a formula that has made children’s musicians like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Ella Jenkins such celebrated artists. Furgeson knows exactly how to get his young audience to participate through simple, gentle melodies, playful lyrics, and familiar and appealing language.

Songs Filled with Big Love
Wake Up & Sing also takes a somewhat more personal detour as much of the album comes from Furgeson’s archives—notebooks of folksong adaptations and rhymes he had written for his son. The tender and original ballad, “Welcome to the World,” is instilled with the staggeringly raw emotion of first-time parenthood and reminds us that song is a powerful mouthpiece for the heart. It articulates the inarticulate moments when your chest swells, throat tightens and eyes well up, overcome by the depth of love and the longing to protect and shield your child from the world.

“If I could take you in my arms and tell you that I’m going to
Keep you safe from harm, you know my boy I’d want to
But it’s a mean and mystic world and everybody’s going to

Find out on their own, you know my boy you got to
And I’m just looking for the words…

Just when you’re grabbing for the tissues, the song comes back around to comfort not only your child but you as well.

But remember now and then, anytime you want to
Find your way back home, you need a place to run to
To feel the sky above, to feel the earth below you
You got this heart to love, you got these arms to hold you

And I’ll say, “Welcome to the world…”

The Background to a Beautiful Day
Wake Up & Sing is a delightful addition to the Red Yarn repertoire and an album absolutely worth exploring. Its 11 songs offer a sun-moon cycle as it coaxes listeners into a day full of discovery and wonder, gently lulling you back into a sweet little slumber. As Red Yarn, Ferguson has created a style all his own which will no doubt take him on a path to reach the same time-honored status as some of this genre’s classically favored artists including Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins and Raffi.

Wake Up & Sing is available through BandcampiTunes and Amazon. Find additional music and videos by Red Yarn at his official site and stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Shout out to Ryan Bruce for the brilliantly colored vintage linocut print found on the album’s cover.

Bonus Material: Families new to Red Yarn should know that there is so much more to this artist. Behind the music is a brilliant stage show featuring a family of puppets (endearingly referred to as “critters”) familiar to many from The Deep Woods albums and productions. Furgeson has also become a staunch supporter of the Portland kindie music community by producing a family music series called The Family Ramble in downtown Portland. This year’s series capped off with a performance by Grammy winning artist Tim Kubart, and will return in the fall.