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.

Free Music Download: Summer Sounds Playlist

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We love playlists any time of year but there are certain times where it feels like the season dictates the need for certain kinds of sounds. Summer is one of them. Every summer, we look forward to creating a soundtrack that echoes the feeling of warmer weather, beach days, outdoor concerts, nature walks and road trip adventures. Even when the hot, sticky weather calls for more time spent indoors, we reach for things that are upbeat, breezy and remind us to just take it easy.

Thanks to our friends at Sugar Mountain PR, the following playlist will help kick-start your summer soundtrack. Starting today, the playlist is available for download through May 25, 2016.

Like what you hear? Click on the artist’s name to visit their site and learn more. Be sure to also check their shows/schedule pages to see if you can catch a summer concert in your town.
Frances England – “Explorer of the World” (Explorer of the World) 
Charity and the JAMband – “Sing a Summer Song” (Earth)
Raffi – “Garden Song” (Owl Singalong)
Aaron Nigel Smith – “Take Time In Life” (ONE)
123 Andrés – “Fly, Fly” (Arriba Ababjo)
Alphabet Rockers – “Players’ Life” (The Playground Zone – coming soon
Sugar Free Allstars – “Upside Down Town” (Self-titled)
The Not-Its! – “Bird On A Wire” (Are You Listening?)
The Whizpops – “Pika” (Ranger Rick’s Trail Mix Vol. 1 – out May 20, 2016)
Red Yarn – “I Had A Rooster” (Wake Up & Sing)
Okee Dokee Brothers – “One Horsepower” (Saddle Up)
Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could – “One Day By The Riverside” (Press Play – coming soon)

Audio Premiere: “Shine” – Charity and the JAMband

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San Francisco’s Charity and the JAMband recently released their sixth album for families entitled Earth. As the title would suggest, the album is an ode to Earth, but moreso to the interconnectedness we have with it (and each other), and how our actions have a direct impact on maintaining a sustainable well-being for our planet.

Though this is a concept album, there is a variety of tracks that are also wonderful meditations meant to cultivate lovingkindness, peace, happiness, unity and build awareness of the power we have to effect change together any day of the year.

As part of the celebration honoring the album’s release, I am pleased to present the premiere of the song “Shine.” “Shine” offers a musical meditation built on cultivating feelings of goodwill within ourselves which can then be given to all other living things, and directed back toward the earth. The intention is to shine out everything we’ve got – love, appreciation, peace – toward others, in hopes that our positive energy will carry far and wide. “Shine” also serves as a starting point for discussion with children about themes of kindness, generosity, and responsibility.

Charity Kahn, lead singer and founder explains:

“Shine” is ultimately about what we have to offer to our world. Part of our job in this life is to cultivate positive qualities in ourselves — like peace, joy, and love — and then to reflect these outward, sharing our best selves with others and our planet. And, perhaps most importantly, to remember that suffering is also part of life, and that all beings suffer. When we remember this truth — that we all suffer, and we all wish to be free from suffering — we are then capable of true compassion.

As with all of Charity and the JAMband’s music, “Shine” is delivered in a powerful way with lots of positive energy that simply rocks.

To learn more about the story behind the song, visit Charity and the JAMband’s official site where you can also find activities to share with your children. Kahn will be posting a new song story every day through May 6, 2016 so tune into Facebook and Twitter for updates.

a1506770584_10“Shine” is featured on Charity and the JAMband’s sixth album Earth. More info can be found on the band’s official site and copies of the album can be downloaded/purhcased through BandcampiTunesCD Baby, Spotify (streaming).

To learn more about Kahn and her mindfulness based practice and offerings check out a guest post previously published here.

 

 

 

The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast – Todd McHatton

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I am just gonna dive right into this new find here because I am extremely excited about it.

Todd McHatton has just launched a new podcast that we are cuckoo crazy over.

The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast, dubbed as “an imaginary NPR style rock and roll space comedy,” debuts (officially) Thursday, April 21, 2016, but is available digitally now for anyone ready to experience a harkening back the golden age of radio. Broadcasting twice monthly from a red and white rocket hurtling through the Galaxy friendly monsters Marvy and Finch along with other special guests (voiced by McHatton) cover topics that channel the mystery, intrigue, drama, and comedy of old time radio. Each character has a very inviting way of drawing you into their world of galactic awesomeness. The podcast covers live sports coverage of events like the Semi-Final Regional Galactic Bubble Blowing Contest, music reviews featuring artists like Flat and U Lence, news programming and even quirky sponsors.

The fact that this podcast is being marketed to kids/families makes it so unique because it’s reach is really so broad. There really is nothing like it out there in the kids podcast market and it’s so refreshing. Adults who love Monty Python and even cult fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will appreciate the way the characters exchange dialogue throughout, and particularly when it comes to the science-based aspects of the podcast. There is also a touch of Mister Rogers in there in terms of the thought McHatton has put into bringing all of these weird and wonderful characters to life. Underneath it all, there is a big-hearted person who has managed to hold on to that sense of wonder and imagination that has allowed him to create infinite amounts of excellent experiences for all ages.

Underneath it all McHatton’s love of comedy, novelty, and preserving vintage gold of yesteryear just shines. Listeners will be drawn in by McHatton’s natural and endearing presentation which feels as though he is sharing his favorite things with you, his friends.
In short, The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast is just McHatton being McHatton and that has always been my favorite thing about listening to anything he produces. I think it will be yours too.
Subscribe to The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast today because I really shouldn’t be the only one putting this on repeat more than once an hour.
And there are TWO episodes just waiting for you! Go!

Check this out: “A Club Called Awesome” – The Singing Lizard

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Being part of something special. It’s a longing that defines us as humans – whether we’re 7 or 77. Imagine for your child an open club where everyone belongs and is welcome to just be themselves. No overthinking things. No self-consciousness. Just the freedom to enjoy the heck out of every moment of childhood. Pure and simple.

Bay Area-based singer-songwriter Liz DeRoche (aka The Singing Lizard) captures this joy in her new album, Club Called Awesome. With a sun-kissed electro-pop sound, she opens her arms wide and invites everyone to be part of the action, beat by splendid beat.

Throughout the album you get the feeling that DeRoche is the kind of person that EVERYONE would love having as a friend on the playground. You can hear it in her uplifting, breezy tone. There is a reassurance, a sincerity that you are with someone who wants the best for those in her company. Club Called Awesome was inspired by and largely reflects back on DeRoche’s own childhood in which she started her own club in a friend’s tree house and “made friends with every kid in the neighborhood.” DeRoche shares, “I was allowed to grow up in my way, with my own peculiar inquisitiveness. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but there was never a lack of love and laughter.” It is in these thoughts that you can find the bedrock of the album’s heart.

While the album succeeds in its mission of fun, DeRoche also ventures into the territory of feelings and acceptance. “Show Me Your Happy” calls upon kids to demonstrate an expression of happiness (“show me your happy / jump up and down / clap your hands / dance to the beat”). “Feeling Blue” tells kids it’s okay to feel their feelings because everyone has tough days, especially when “you’re growing up and learning how to be yourself.” “Be Yourself” expresses that whether you are a boy or a girl there are no rules that define you. You are welcome to play just as you are, whether that means being the kind of girl that likes to ride her bike in the mud or a boy who makes cookies for his great grandma. It’s an empowering message that I would have wanted to hear as a kid and the message that I want my daughter Emily to hear as often as possible.

There is so much goodness baked into Club Called Awesome. DeRoche fills each song with positive messages, meeting kids where they are, identifying with them and making them feel safe to be themselves. No judgment. As members of this awesome club, kids can expect a wonderfully inclusive, welcoming place that promises to provide nonstop excitement. Friends will be made. Fun will be had.

You can purchase Club Called Awesome on iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp. As a bonus, listeners will receive a comic book version of the album written by DeRoche.

Stay in touch with The Singing Lizard at her official site, Twitter and Facebook to learn about new music releases and shows.

New music!

While I’m working on some things behind the scenes, I’ve got some new music to share with you. So let’s take a dive into what’s poppin in the kindie world.

For the most part, the following items are videos, but I’m also pleased to share some audio clips from a couple of our favorite artists. So let’s start there.

Laura Doherty – “Early Bird & Night Owl” and “Animal Tracks”

Doherty releases her fourth children’s album today (April 1, 2026)! Animal Tracks is a collection of 10 previously released animal songs, plus 3 new ones. Dougherty has such a nice way of crafting cozy, singable songs. Doherty plays acoustic folk punctuated by a bouncy ukulele. A great combo that always prompts a little wiggle or two and incites lots of other kinds of interaction. Spending time with Dougherty always feels like a great way to pass the time. In celebration of the album’s release, she is also releasing the first single, “Early Bird, Night Owl” and the album’s title track.

Early Bird, Night Owl

Animal Tracks


Turkey Andersen – “Rhonda Bubbles”

Turkey Andersen is a crafty songwriter that tells interesting stories with a keen sense of humor. His sound echoes that of They Might Be Giants and is always entertaining to listen to. From Anderson’s latest album, Turkey Andersen 2, meet “Rhonda Bubbles” whose culinary choices are dictated by their shape. Unique, yet parents will find it very familiar.


The Okee Dokee Brothers – “Saddle Up.”
This video wows me as with most videos by the Brothers. Shot in Ultra HD, it’s almost like a virtual reality trip. Gorgeous panorama, sweeping landscapes from all points of view, and story song. “Saddle Up” is the first music video and title track from their forthcoming third adventure album. As Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander take viewers along for another ride as they once again explore and get inspired by the great outdoors. This time their journey takes them to the great West where, as you’ll see, they rode horses along the Continental Divide. Their story is inspiring and a testament to how getting connected with what’s outside really feeds the soul. Get ready to soak in the sights and sounds. Pre-order Saddle Up (CD + DVD Combo) through the Okee’s Official StoreiTunes | Amazon


The Singing Lizard – “Be Yourself”

Bay Area-based electro-kindie artist Liz DeRoche, aka The Singing Lizard, just released A Club Called Awesome which offers an exclusive membership for kids to find their happy place. And will they ever! In her latest video, DeRoche invites kids to be themselves, whatever that means to them. It’s a wonderful message and there is a really personal message in here for kids to know that there are no rules about what kids should like based on whether they are a girl or a boy. It’s a call for recognizing how awesome each and every child truly is. Get a behind the scenes explanation of what motivated DeRoche to write the song. Stay tuned for album review. iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp


Jumpin’ Jamie – “Astronauts Love (feat. Danny Weinkauf)”

“Astronauts Love” will immediately appeal to kids’ curious minds as they follow along and imagine what it’s like to be an astronaut in space. Questions like  A clever, catchy little tune that fuses together what kids love to do in their own daily life with what an astronauts might be doing with all of their time in space. Could they really lift 600 lbs (due to lack of force) and not get sore? These and other questions are explored in Jamie’s new stop motion video. Purchase it at iTunes | Amazon


Phoebe Lichty – “Duck’s Song”

I’m a sucker for some good comedy and Phoebe Lichty’s video for “Duck’s Song” from her forthcoming album April Fool struck my funny bone. This video will absolutely make you smile. Though the song has a sincere message, Lichty has a pretty great sense of humor which balances the visual parody of the song’s accompanying video out nicely. “Duck’s Song” is presented as a parody of the TEDx stage speeches with a truly inspiring message. Heartfelt and empowering, the track encourages grabbing hold of your inner voice and owning your strengths and just going for it. No fear! Just fly!

“Duck’s Song” is also part of a greater narrative that lives in April Fool which tells the story of a girl (April) who wants to be a jester, a king who stands in her way, and a duck who inspires her to go for her dream.

As a gift, you can receive a full download of April Fool from Lichty’s official site (no joke)! You can also purchase tracks from the album at Lichty’s official store | iTunes


Chibi Kodama – “In My Room”

Man do I love encountering some rock music that echoes the likes of what I stock up in my own library. With their new video, “Take a Time Out” (off of last year’s We’re Not Going Crazy) Chibi Kodama comes forth with a new video for a stellar song that reminds me a little of Weezer with the crunchy electric guitars that dominate throughout (in a good way). It begs for high volume and air guitar, inflatable guitar, real guitar or any DIY guitar that will allow serious shredding as soon as you click play. The song itself touches upon the need for kids to recognize (and parents) when its time to take a time out and reset. That’s true wisdom right there and though it’s sometimes so hard to do in the moment, this rockin’ song offers a catchy lyric or two that will serve as helpful reminders. What else does this video have: Kids rockin’ out? Check. googly eye chin faces? Check! Order the album at iTunes | Amazon. Chibi Kodama will be releasing their third family album, Stardust, in late May 2016. Sample and preorder tracks from the album here.


Emily Arrow – “The Dot Song”

Emily Arrow is a kidlit singer-songwriter who brings children’s books to life through song. We are crazy about books here and when I first learned about Emily Arrow, I swept away by her magical ability to give the wonderful stories she covers a new dimension. Her sweet voice is immediately appealing and the songs have a pop radio quality to them. Arrow is 2015 Winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the Children’s Category for her song The Curious Garden Song which was inspired by the book THE CURIOUS GARDEN by Peter Brown. Emily was also a finalist in the 2015 Great American Song Contest and the 2014 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Today’s video for “The Dot Song” is an older video but it’s featured on her debut Story Singalong Volume 1. Purchase the album Arrow’s her official site | iTunes | Amazon

Check This Out: Explorer of the World – Frances England

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Artist: Frances England
Album: Explorer of the World (official store) | iTunes | Amazon
NOTE: Read through for bonus activities for you and your family inspired by this album. England will be releasing an accompanying activity book (expected May 2016).

“Be an explorer of your world.” These were instructions given to my classmates and me during a recent improv class. Our assignment was to embody our experiences, put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

For example, the next time you eat sushi, imagine being the sushi chef. Embodying that identity brings you closer to the experience of eating sushi, appreciating the texture and taste beyond what you could access as just the consumer. You connect with your imagination and feed your curiosity.

I recalled the impact of this exercise when I first heard Frances England’s new album, Explorer of the World.

Sometimes people look they don’t see. They hear without listening. They miss the beat. And I don’t want to be the one to miss out. The one who’s not looking at the world around. (“Explorer of the World”)

We spend so much of our time in front of screens, digitally connecting with the world, that we forget to really see what’s around us. As my daughter Emily has gotten older and her interests have shifted more to gaming (and the excitement of a new Poseidon dragon being born in her game!), I admit I’ve become less motivated to get outside and just discover with her.

This modern-day state of affairs is partly what inspired England to create Explorer of the World, which urges families to find beauty in the world around us and really dig in.

Children are natural explorers and really the best improv instructors. Their imagination and super curiosity fuels us as parents. We get to break new ground with our kids in the real world. And it does get real. Like that moment when your child is playing with her umbrella in the gusty wind and she turns to you and asks, “What if I threw an umbrella up into space while standing on the sun?”

Those are the precious moments that Explorer of the World characterizes and inspires. In “Little by Little” England sings “I do love you, you appreciate the wonder in everything,” and I feel my heart ache because I want every moment to last while knowing the days are quickly ticking by. England brings such depth of emotion as a mother, the whole hearted and body feeling of loving your children with everything you have, wanting to savor the time you have with them while reassuring them (and yourself) that you will always be there. This is underscored in “My Street” as England sings, “I’ll be there to show, show, show you the way / I’ll be there to warn you about those twists and those turns / I’ll be there to lead you back home, to lead you back.”

What I love about Explorer of the World is the subtle reminder that feeding your curiosity doesn’t mean spending a lot of money or a big, grand outing; the world around us – whether city, country or our own backyard – provides so many little things to see, to understand and to learn. We can find patterns in common sights and familiar places and rhythm in everyday life, whether it’s stopping to listen to a beatboxer or grabbing hold of opportunity and pretending to be a tightrope walker on the shadow of a telephone wire.

francesenglandbannerA long-time resident of San Francisco, California, England uses the artful city as the backdrop and inspiration for her fourth album. In fact, England spent two years capturing the sights and the sounds of the city by carrying around a handheld recorder and integrating what she recorded into the songs. For Bay Area residents, the bucket drumming that opens “Street Life” is a street performance on Market Street, and ambient noises were recorded on late night walks through North Beach.

England is sensitive to the world. She feels through the things she sees and can so vividly recreate the richness and emotion of an experience. There is this layer of being awake, the exhilaration of seeing what we see when we step outdoors, to bond through our experiences together when we let the sizzle of our surroundings breathe life into us and take us away.

To produce Explorer of the World, England once again teamed up with Grammy award-winning producer Dean Jones. The album was also co-produced with Dave Winer from Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. The result is a very eclectic composition that mixes electro and acoustic melodies and harmonies with a rhythmic blend of funk and beats. This new dynamic is a very fitting dimension to England’s smooth sound.

So whether we pretend to be a sushi chef, pack up a bag to climb Mt. Everest, make a map of our neighborhood, visit where our parents grew up, or actually fly to another land and step through a new culture, we have the power to experience life together as a family, treasuring every moment little by little. Those are memories that will change us, strengthen bonds, and last far beyond the time Poseidon the dragon was born.

Bonus activity: Be an explorer! Listen closely to England’s lyrics that offer fun suggestions to dive deeper into the adventures right outside your door. Watch for England’s accompanying activity book (expected May 2016).

  • Neighborhood Map: Make a map of your neighborhood. Draw in the houses. Fill in the trees. What about cars and their colors? Shrubs, animals, fences, mailboxes, kids, sidewalk cracks, neighborhood oddities and fixtures? Go home and draw your version of your neighborhood map and compare to your family members’ map. Discuss the ways you see things in similar and different ways.
    • Quiet Observation: Take a camera and notebook on a walk. Spend 10-20 minutes walking silently (depending on your children’s ages) and observe the things you pass every day until you find at least three patterns you’ve never noticed before. Look for shapes. Look for color. Talk about the patterns. Take notes. Take photos of the patterns.
  • Neighborhood History: Find out who has lived on your street the longest. Interview them. What has changed? What’s better? What’s worse?
  • People Watching: Sit on a bench in a public area or silently walk through your town or city. Listen to the people walking by. What are they saying? Write a story about who they are and where they’re going.
  • Family Meeting: Arrange a time for a family meeting. Bring a calendar. Have each family member name a place he or she really wants to go this year. Maybe the museum, the waterpark, the train stations, the zoo, camping trip, kayaking, the mountains, the ocean. Decide what’s realistic and write it down (whether it’s today, tomorrow, this year or in the near future).