Red Yarn – Wake Up & Sing

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


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


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.