Check this out: Alastair Moock – All Kinds of You and Me

a1194426617_10“You’ve gotta be who you’ve gotta be, a dancing plant or a cat who skis // A boy in a dress, a girl in a tree, you be you, I’ll be me.”
– “It Takes All Kinds,” All Kinds of You and Me

Artists in the kids’ music genre frequently reference two classic albums that inspired them and whose music embodies their same values: Schoolhouse Rock and Free to Be…You and Me. No doubt that both are landmarks, and it’s easy to see why many artists making music for families aspire to carry on the legacy of these albums and uphold the same values and messages.

Understandably, creating a modern day version of such a notable and groundbreaking album like Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be would be quite a feat. However, if anyone were to approach this task, Alastair Moock is the man.  To take on such an epically classic album that has impacted so many people and challenged society’s view of our world takes courage and really the perfect amount of humor and swagger. And I don’t mean swagger like Jagger.  Well, maybe in that way, but we’re talking about the children’s music genre. Think G-rated swagger.

In Free to Be, Thomas very directly spoke to her 1970’s society, proclaiming equality across all conceivable categories. With his latest album, All Kinds of You and Me, Boston-based singer-songwriter Alastair Moock picks up where Thomas left off. Joined by a stellar group of musicians (Rani Arbo of Daisy Mayhem, singer-songwriter Jennifer Kimball, Debbie Lan of Grenadilla, singer-songwriter Samirah Evans and producer Anand Nayak who is also from Daisy Mayhem), Moock gently reminds kids (and adults!) that we should all be free to be who we want to be, without limitations or the borders of stereotypes, and that love is very much a force that drives acceptance. Love of ourselves as well as one another.

Moock is a modern day Woody Guthrie, mixed with a hint of Bob Dylan. You can hear it in his style, in the way he uses music as a guide for justice and most certainly in his clever wit. His gentle voice with its signature rasp lends itself nicely to the Americana sounds of his compositions. Like Dylan, there is poignancy in Moock’s approach but also a deep well of passion for social justice, equality and healing through music.  As with poetry, artists can eloquently articulate in music what might seem heavy-handed, too serious or too awkward in the written or spoken word – especially for a young audience.

Through clever repetition, “My Life is a lot Like Yours” speaks from a child’s perspective and illustrates the normalcy of family life with same-sex parents (two moms/two dads), reinforcing that families might look different but they can still be a solid unit and operate in similar ways to those with a mom and dad at the helm. “You Might Be A Girl” stomps on gender stereotypes by articulating the endless possibilities available to girls today; Samirah Evans’ voice adds so much strength to this empowering song. Like it was written for her (and in a way it was), this song tops my daughter Emily’s favorites list.

Taking on topics and conveying them without preaching is delicate. Moock meets the right criteria with poetically intricate lyrics that are impactful, delightful and accessible to a large audience. His 2014 Grammy-nominated album, Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids, for example, gave listeners insight into his ability to address sensitive subjects head on; each song reflects his family’s experiences during the time when his daughter Clio (now in remission!) was diagnosed with leukemia. Moock’s capacity is tremendous.

In “I Am Malala,” Moock sings: “I raise up my voice for an equal chance // To live and learn and grow // to be who I want to be and explore // The things I want to know.” Through these words, he reminds us that it takes courage to stand up for who we believe we are. But through that courage we grow and learn how to make a lasting impact.

As I was listening to this album and thinking about an angle for a review, the seemingly ever-present phrase Live Laugh Love came to mind. While I recognize the beauty in this motivational quote, it’s so overused that I typically write it off as just another “Hallmark” greeting.

The thing is, the effect is much more meaningful and profound when I think of the words one by one. Each one makes a bold statement, commanding me to remember to hold onto its important value as I move about my day – as a parent and just as me. All Kinds of You and Me offers the same relief. My personal favorite song, “All in a Day (featuring Anand Nayak),” inspired by Cynthia Rylant’s book of the same name, smoothly underscores this sentiment with encouraging words: “...live it well, make it count // fill it up with you // The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now… // See what you can do.”

Whether we directly speak to our children about justice, acceptance and global love, we prominently place a big Live Laugh Love sign in our homes or we let the music do the talking for us, it’s never too early to incorporate the values woven within All Kinds of You and Me. Just like Guthrie and Dylan, and many others who spoke out so freely and took a stand for change and love, Moock proudly joins the ranks, inspiring future generations to do the same “cuz every life’s a kind of prize.”

All Kinds of You and Me is available through Moock’s official store.

Check out Moock’s video for “It Takes All Kind,” illustrated by Key Wilde, for a visual treat.

Singled Out: “I Wanna Be A Giraffe” – Andrew & Polly

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I love when kids wear their dress up clothes in public like it’s just another day. The matter of fact way they own whatever identity they take on is so amazing to watch. Almost 7, and in first grade, my daughter doesn’t seek to dress up as much anymore, but she used to dress up all the time: The Hulk, a blue bird, a Bob Marley medical doctor mashup. And it didn’t matter if we were walking down the street, or going into a restaurant, library or post office. It was all the same. Playing dress up gives kids such an amazing outlet to explore their imaginations, expand their creative minds, and even connect a little more with their own feelings and emotions. In their latest single, “I wanna be a giraffe,” Andrew & Polly capture the essence of all of this.

“I wanna be a giraffe” was inspired by a beautiful photo of a giraffe camouflaged in front of a tree that Andrew & Polly found while doing research for Ear Snacks: Disguises. Check out the second photo in that link. See if you and your kids can find the giraffe. It’s pretty hard to find!

Polly adds: This song is sung by a giraffe – but also by us, obviously!  It’s a little absurd but we feel this way all the time.  At first, the giraffe is feeling awkward and exposed out on the savannah.  After trying out a few disguises, the giraffe realizes how much fun it is to try new things – we can imagine a great montage in which the giraffe stands in a dressing room trying on lots of different costumes while singing, “I wanna be something else!  I wanna be something else today!!!”

There are so many different ways to dress, so many different jobs and hobbies you could have, so many different ways to talk and think and look and feel.  The giraffe likes imagining all the possibilities – we do, too!  So the giraffe realizes – “I wanna be like you…  And I also kinda wanna be me, too.  There’s just so many ways to be – I wanna be a lot of things.”

Trying out the new things helps the giraffe realize – you don’t have to just be one thing.  And you can change whenever you want.  At the end of all that, it’s easy for the giraffe to say – “I…  I wanna be a giraffe!”

So grab your best dress-up clothes and get ready to sing-along!

Halloween Special 2015 – Get into the spirit!

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Halloween is my favorite holiday. The spookiness, the pumpkin flavored everything, and the unlimited creative potential for weird and wonderful decorating fun.

Of course you can’t have Halloween without the proper soundtrack. I have always liked when artists embellish on the “go big or go home” side of this holiday. The lush orchestral arrangements, suspenseful guitar/bass plucking, creepy stringed instruments, spooky soundbites, and a crazy cackle. Even the more whimsical ones can set the right tone.

What I also like about Halloween music for kids is that in addition to grand arrangements there are thoughtful lyrics offering messages of bravery.

Today’s post features some recommended singles and videos that are just spooky enough to capture the fun without giving your little spirits too much of a fright. 

a0596386326_10“Bumps in the night” – This kindie debut is the collaborative product of Keith Wasserman aka Mr. Whirly and Patrick Hanlin of Josh and the Jamtones. “Bumps in the Night” offers a heaping spoonful of courage with a bold declaration that shines a big ole spotlight on anything that threatens to go bump in the night.

Like what you hear? Grab a free download and take it with you.

download“I Am Not Afraid”Renee & Friends with Caspar Babypants and Rolfe Kent. The orchestral crescendos beautifully complement the song’s fierce declaration.

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“Are you a Monster, Too?”Harmonica Pocket. Because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Such a sweet little video for all those monsters, goblins and ghouls out there.

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“Creatures Under My Bed”Caspar Babypants. The monsters lurking in the shadows really just want to come out and play silly songs. The boogie woogie earthquake anyone?

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“The Skunk and the Robot”Ratboy Jr. With all the little skunks and robots running around on Halloween, this could be a preempitve way to get them all to get along. Even after the candy high wears off.

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“It’s Only In Your Head”Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips. Sometimes our minds play tricks on us and our imaginations get the best of us. When that happen it can really spoil a good slumber. The wonderful truth Mista Cookie Jar tells here is that sleep demons are no match for the love that surrounds kids when they are awake.

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“Snowstorm on Halloween”Turkey Andersen. The irony in this song is pretty great. While hopefully it won’t happen, it’s still very likely that it could snow on Halloween. And those holiday ornaments out on the pharmacy shelves? Yeah, those are real. So, really, that right there is like a snowstorm on Halloween. Thankfully, this song keeps the cheer of both holidays alive. Happy Snowlaween y’all!

For more Halloween music to add to the spirit of the day. Check out previous Halloween playlists posted on Kids Can Groove. 

Check this Out: Rocksteady by Josh and the Jamtones

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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

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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.
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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

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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!


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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.

Audio premiere: “It’s Only In Your Head” – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips

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Life can be a little scary for kids. So many changes are happening it’s as if their heads could start to spin any moment. Unfortunately, little minds tend to process life’s cornucopia while they are asleep. When Emily was younger she used to refer to her dreams as the movies in her mind. When she would wake up, she would either refer to what she saw as a bad movie or a good movie and recount the scenes with plenty of detail. The bad movies were scary and disorienting, and I always found it hard to explain wicked dreams as the result of an overactive mind. Even pretending to spray the monsters away after a sudden nightmare didn’t always provide relief. 

In the spirit of squashing late night haunts, I am proud to present the premiere of the 13th single by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips. Sprinkled with echoing soundbites and twinkling glockenspiel,“It’s Only In Your Head” reminds kids that no matter how real things seem when they close their eyes, they are safe and surrounded by the love that awaits them when they wake up. And that is the perfect remedy for any scary thoughts or moving images that affect their slumber.

Today’s premiere serves as a mile marker that closes up the circle in Mista Cookie Jar’s “song-a-month” project making 13 a pretty fantastic number. CJ Pizarro (“Mista Cookie Jar”) shares his thoughts and inspiration behind the song:

“‘It’s Only In Your Head’ is four years in the making, so it really took it’s time to simmer. I had a feeling that this was gonna be a deeper one than usual and it took me a while to figure out the full scope of where it was going both musically and lyrically. And now here it is, just in time for the anniversary of the first single, “Halloween Every Night.” I realized it’s a song to encourage the little ones when they hit fear in regards to dreams, odd synchronicities and self-doubt. It’s a heart song about free will really — managing the darkness on a “feeling” level. As the saying goes, “Life is but a dream.” The power of imagination mixed with a good heart plus the collective hearts of a village can turn a major nay into a yay and move mountains.

In terms of children’s works, there’s an abundance of fantasy and stories about dreaming, i.e. Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, and my favorite, the films of Miyazaki. It’s my theory (and not just mine of course) that children by nature are tapped into the otherworldly. Everything is so new to them, they might not even understand the difference between reality and dream. The imagination of the child is sacred for sure. “