Check This Out: Turn Turn Turn – Elizabeth Mitchell with You Are My Flower and Dan Zanes

81UOKIKRSJL._SL1500_Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell have devoted what seems like a lifetime to making music; in particular, kids music. Each artist has been producing albums for over a decade now and whether they are singing their own renditions of classics or creating new ones, their music always brings comfort and joy.

In Turn Turn Turn Zanes and Mitchell deliver a basket of folk goodies. Although they have come together as a duet on singles before (“Green, Green Rocky Road” from Mitchell’s Sunny Day album), this is their first full-length collaboration, and the pairing is as natural as bread and butter!

Turn Turn Turn starts off strong with the song “Sail Away Ladies,” an upbeat jig that will get you moving and is fun to sing-along with.

Although this effort is a collaboration, there are songs that favor each artist’s style. “Coney Island Avenue,” one of my favorites on the album, is a signature Zanes song and one out of the 5 Zanes originals on the album. It’s a hip song that provides a picturesque depiction of what it might be like strolling down Coney Island Avenue “Counting all the barbershops 1-2-3/ And all the little markets A-B-C.” Alternatively, “Honeybee” is a signature Mitchell song, co-written by Mitchell and her sister-in-law Anna Padgett, which prominently features Mitchell’s delicate voice floating over simple, sweet lyrics.

I particularly love the asynchronous harmony between Zanes and Mitchell on “So Glad I’m Here,” which first appeared on Mitchell’s You Are My Sunshine. Zanes’ almost faint, echoing vocals emphasize Mitchell’s more prominent, angelic tone, making the words “so glad I’m here every day” as much of a definitive statement as it is a personal one. The song strays a little from the original with the fresh addition of a plucky banjo throughout.

Both Zanes and Mitchell encompass what it means to make “family style” music. Whether they are writing songs, recording or performing live, you can be sure to find a melange of instruments and a band (pun intended) of friends and family joining in. Turn Turn Turn, for example, was recorded in just 3 days at the home studio of Mitchell and husband, Daniel Littleton as they were surrounded by family, friends and lots of food.

An added bonus to the album are the verses sung by Storey, Mitchell and Littleton’s daughter. Adding Storey on tracks like “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” originally written by Pete Seeger, is touching considering Seeger’s wife, Toshi, added verses specifically for children. Adults and children will no doubt love Storey’s singing as she reminds us that there’s “A time to cry and make a fuss/ A time to leave and catch the bus/ A time for quiet/ A time for talk/ A time to run/ A time to walk.”

Other songs that showcase the effortless talents of Zanes and Mitchell is the joyful, “In the Sun,” which is filled with positive vibes as it reminisces on things to be grateful for. “When You’re Smiling,” is a wonderful song to whisper to your little bundle or sing along to as you snuggle with your big tot.

Turn Turn Turn is a joyful experience reminiscent of a Sunday afternoon backyard jamboree. Highly recommended for all ages. Digital samples of tracks, as well as the full album can be found at Dan Zanes’ online shop, as well as our affiliate Amazon. Below is another video for “Now Let’s Dance,” which pretty much speaks for itself in its intent. So grab a partner and get ready to dance, dance, dance!

Check this Out: When the World Was New – Dean Jones

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Kids have so many questions and one of the things that I love  is getting asked a question that makes me go “hmmmm….” and then talking through the possible answers to that question. I am fascinated by the way our mind works and watching my daughter take in and process the world around her is a bit like magic. I tend to forget that so much of what I see and experience on a daily basis is something that she is experiencing for the first time. Music is one of the main mediums that provoke these questions which is why I am so pleased to talk about Dean Jones‘ new album, When the World was New.

When the World Was New, is a unique album which explores evolution, mother nature, the absurdity of human nature, community and of course, music. Jones illustrates how these elements coincide as he pensively wanders (and wonders) over topics such as how life was at the beginning of time in the title track, “When the World Was New.” I particularly love the lyrics “Well they always had music/ and they drew with sticks/ there was time for leisure/ and they could get their kicks without the tick tock tick of time.” “A Sparrow’s Soul,” a song that explores the circle of life and poses the lovely question “Does a caterpillar have a heart/ Does it quietly sing?” These questions spawned a long conversation between my bug loving 4 1/2 year old who once brought home about 10 caterpillars from the playground. Editor’s note: all 10 of the caterpillars safely made it through metamorphosis and we even discovered that one of them was a butterfly!

Other songs Emily and I enjoy grooving to are “Prehensile Grip,” a fancy phrase which gives meaning to why we can grip things like a pencil or scissors. It’s also a great companion should you find yourself rationalizing with a tot about why using a fork for those greasy buttered noodles is a really good idea (Ahem).  Jones brings the funk in “Snail Mail,” a groovy tune that reinforces the beauty of a handwritten letter. And “Outshining Nomads” never fails to get repeated plays. It’s a wacky tune about a traveling band of jolly circus performers. I particularly love the song for a couple of nerdy reasons. First, the composition is made up of all kinds of layered harmonies, whether it’s an added distortion during the melody or a haunting echo during the chorus. Second, I love how the catchy chorus “fifteen men on the dead men’s chest/ yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” was integrated into the song. It fits perfectly despite it actually being part of a fictional sea-song that was originally featured in the famous novel, Treasure Island.

While most of the songs are exploratory in nature, there are songs that send a message in support of peace. “Peace in the Valley” speaks about standing up for a particular cause against those who might disrupt peace in our world and our future (“…tyrants and despots/ get ready for a great big fall“) while one of my favorites, “Stand With Me,” featuring Shamsi Rhue’s gorgeous vocals, touches upon the idea that the future is uncertain but we can remain strong by comforting, respecting and supporting one another.

When the World Was New is an enriching piece of art for the whole family. Jones is a skillful musician who deftly creates an environment that fosters a child’s sense of curiosity and imagination. It is a rare gem in the world of children’s music and one that shines more brightly with every listen. Highly recommended for ages 4 – 8.

Clips from the album can be sampled via the SoundCloud widget below. Digital copies of the album can be purchased through CDBaby or our affiliate Amazon.

Check This Out: Justin Roberts releases Recess and speaks on why you won’t find it on Spotify.

UntitledHot on the heels of last year’s sonic dream of an album, Lullaby, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, Justin Roberts, returns with Recess, his ninth release to date. Read on to find out about the goodies that await you with the purchase of the album and why you won’t find Recess on Spotify.

Roberts’ music creates what I like to call the Pixar effect. Like Pixar films, Roberts’ music consistently appeals to the hearts and minds of both adults and children, contains incredible visuals delivered through extraordinary songwriting, and makes a commitment to bringing a sense of wonder and imagination into his songs. Similar to the relationships between characters in movies like WALL·E, Finding Nemo, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc, Roberts understands the kinds of relationships that define us – both familial and friendship based (whether real or imaginary). And when you add in the exceptional talent of producer Liam Davis and the rest of the Not Ready for Naptime Players, everything becomes illuminated.

Recess is a joy of an album. It’s Em and I refer to as “happy time” each time we play it. Opening the album is the energetic title track, which reels listeners in with Roberts’ signature power chords, coupled with triumphant horns, essentially mimicking the excitement of a barrage of kids emptying onto the playground. It’s the perfect song to blast in the car while shuttling around town. Although, it makes for wearing a seatbelt quite a downer as Roberts’ music basically begs to be listened to with the volume turned way up and your body in constant motion. Further echoing the carefree abandon of childhood is “Check Me Out I’m at the Checkout” which depicts a kid’s rogue adventure through the supermarket (complete with an announcer calling for cleanups in various aisles). Roberts touches upon the expansiveness of a child’s imagination in “I’ll Be An Alien” which features a misunderstood kid who imagines taking off into space. And, in “My Secret Robot,” Roberts brings a special mechanical friend to life while softly encouraging us to “listen to the beat beat beat” of his heart. I love how Roberts creates a story here that connects the robot and the kid as though they are one. Awesome song.

What continues to impress me about Roberts is how authentically he can capture and convey the emotions of the subjects in his songs. Typically, Roberts’ songs are sung from the perspective of a kid. However, in Recess, he expands his repertoire by taking on multiple perspectives. For parents there is “We Got Two,” which expresses the trials and tribulations (and joy) of having twins while “Every Little Step” gives voice to a man’s/kid’s best friend with touching lyrics like “Hey there kid/ I know you so well/ when you’re scared or sad or lonely I can tell/ Before you can call/ I’ll be there by your side/ there’s no trouble half as big as my heart is wide.”

While Recess is filled with upbeat, power pop notes, there are the quieter, more emotional moments that I have a particular soft spot for. Roberts paints a picturesque landscape in the dreamlike sounds of “Looking for Trains.” “Red Bird,” one of my absolute favorites on the album, is so raw and beautiful in its moving depiction of loss and healing. And while “School’s Out (Tall Buildings)” is more upbeat, it presents a touching dedication from a graduating student to their teacher. 

Roberts once again delivers a lyrical masterpiece filled with memorable melodies. Recess is more than a collection of songs, it’s a series of experiences which cover a broad range of topics that will appeal to listeners of all ages.

As part of his dedication to creating a meaningful and interactive experience, Roberts created a 6NCD12super cool CD package which includes a whimsical hopscotch design by artist Ned Wyss, a fold-out lyrics sheet, a colorful limited edition popup robot and links to a secret website with art projects and digital music samples. You can purchase the album through Justin’s website along with a t-shirt and coloring book.

When Recess was released I went back and forth between listening to the actual CD and streaming the album on Spotify for the times when I forgot to bring the CD with me in the car. Just 3 days later, I noticed that the album was removed from Spotify with the exception of the title track, “Recess.” When I reached out to Justin, he shared his thoughts on how streaming services like Spotify make it harder for independent artists to support themselves, ultimately making it harder for fans to experience the true value of what is put into making music today.

Justin explained:

“I came up with the idea of a pop up robot and a secret website site with unreleased music and craft projects to help encourage people to purchase Recess and not just listen to it streaming online. I think streaming services like Spotify and Pandora are great for music discovery, however, they are quickly becoming a substitute for people actually purchasing recorded music and I find that troubling. As an independent artist with a small but devoted fan base, I rely on people purchasing recordings to pay back the expensive costs of making a professional sounding record. Beyond that, sales of recorded music has been one of my main sources of income as an independent musician.”

While Spotify is known for its expansive music catalog, it has also acquired a reputation with several independent artists for not providing a fair financial return. According to Justin, “When a song gets streamed on Spotify, I make less than 1/2 a penny. When someone buys a song on iTunes, I make about 60 cents (which is great). If someone buys an entire CD at a show, I make $15. I think streaming music is probably the future, I’m just not sure how independent artists can continue to make professional records which include months and months of songwriting time, renting studio space, paying professional musicians, engineers, producers, artists, graphic designers, manufactures, etc. if no one is going to pay real money for those recordings.”

If streaming music is the future, how can we best support artists who pour everything they have into providing the best musical experience to their audience? It seems like a good start in this case would be to get on over to the Justin Roberts’ shop and get yourself a copy of Recess.

Check this out: Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids – Alastair Moock

SingingOurWayCoverSqYou can’t prepare for life crises but when you are faced with one, keeping hope alive and maintaining your spirit can prove to be an arduous task. In July of 2012, Alastair Mock and his wife, acclaimed writer Jane Roper, were faced with the biggest challenge of their lives when they found out that one of their twin daughters had cancer. Clio, only 5 years old at the time, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “It felt like we were drowning,” says Moock. “For the first week or so, my wife and I walked around in a trance. Then, I went home and got my guitar.”

Out of that musical epiphany blossomed a beautiful songwriting partnership between father and daughter. Moock and Clio spent their first month in the hospital singing and writing songs together. “Singing together in the hospital was transformative, not just for Clio, but for me. It reminded me how powerful music can be,” says Moock. Watching Clio’s spirit come alive as they sang songs like the whimsical “I’m A Little Monkey,” was magical and the driving force that propelled Moock to create Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids, an inspiring album filled with joyful songs that could touch children and families in the same way.

Starting off the album is an acrostic style poem called “I Am The Light” using the word “cancer.” This empowering opener is spoken from the perspective of a “brave kid,” standing strong, able and ready to make the best of the long voyage ahead. Following this song-poem is the funky “When I Get Bald,” a song that embraces the beauty of the changes one faces with this sort of illness. The song’s accompanying video is touching yet light-hearted as it highlights Moock’s knack for artful humor.

Moock, a Massachusettes based children’s artist, is a veteran musician with a long-standing career as a folk singer. First, playing for adults and then moving into the children’s genre in 2010 when his children were born. With his signature gravelly voice, à la Louis Armstrong, Moock combines playful lyrics with rootsy melodies, reminiscent of Woody Guthrie.

Joining Moock on this recording are some amazing artists that add a hearty blend of sounds. Elizabeth Mitchell joins Moock in “Take a Little Walk with Me,” a soft folk song with a motivational message while The Okee Dokee Brothers bring on a hootenanny with a lively rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Hard Travelin.'” Blues legend Chris Smither adds soulful vocals in “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” while patients, former patients and siblings, collectively named “The World’s Bravest Kids” join in on “This Little Light of Mine.” And, considering the family as a whole, are songs like “Have You Ever Been Jealous,” featuring Rani Arbo and “Children Take Care of Your Grown-Ups.”

Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids provides a well rounded account of what life is like “on the inside” of cancer, while also challenging the fear and pain that comes along with it through the healing powers of music. Built on the foundation of love for his daughter and the positive effects the entire process has had on her, Moock has created a vehicle through which he hopes can benefit children and their families in the same way. Singing Our Way Through: Songs For The World’s Bravest Kids is more than just a collection of songs. It’s a companion that seeks to uplift spirits, while providing support and understanding to those who might need a little sunshine through the clouds of any troubling circumstance. A truly powerful album that any family can benefit from.

Highly recommended for all ages.

Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids can be listened to and purchased via the Bandcamp widget below or through the “Singing Our Way Through” store.

Donations from the proceeds of this album will help Alastair perform and distribute free albums to patients, hospitals and oncology programs around the country. The Singing Our Way Through project is not — at least for now — a registered non-profit, so your donation is not tax-deductible. But it is much appreciated, and goes a long way to help. Click here to donate.

Check This Out: Cat Doorman Songbook – Cat Doorman

CatDoormancover1-500x500Cat Doorman, the alter-ego of Julianna Bright, is the latest shining star to enter the world of kindie music. From Portland, Oregon, Bright recently released Cat Doorman Songbook. The album contains 14 impressive tracks (12 originals) offering thoughtful lyrics and a gamut of musical styles and accompaniment by performers such as Chris Funk (Decemberists), Seth Lorinczi (Corin Tucker Band), Garth Klippert (Old Light), Nick Reddel (Golden Bears), Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) and Ralf Youtz (Built to Spill).

While the Cat Doorman Songbook is Bright’s debut into the children’s music arena, the bulk of the album could very well hold its own in the adult indie world, which is not surprising as Bright has experience with indie successes such as The Quails and her current adult band, The Golden Bears.

Bright is also a talented visual artist, which is made evident throughout the album’s “songbook” as her colorful drawings and funky fonts add charm to its pages.

There is so much depth to this album, it’s incredible. To start, Bright has an undeniably beautiful voice which soars and expands with great control. The songs on the album are melodic and smart, containing sophisticated lyrics which were no doubt inspired by Bright’s educational background in English literature, but also by her wonderfully creative mind as an artist. For example, Bright takes a literary approach to the traditional alphabet song in “So Many Words” as she introduces fun words like “Bandicoot,” “Hemlock” and “Katydid.” There are, however, some familiar words mixed in like “Allosaurus,” for the dinosaur loving fans, as well as, “Archipelago,” “Glacier” and “Nocturnal.” Even if these words are not familiar to little ears, they are fun to say and offer a perfect opportunity for learning.

Other familiar songs include a rendition of Syd Barrett’s “Effervescing Elephant” and Bright’s fetching take on “Little Red Wagon,” which was released with an iPad app of the same name (produced in collaboration with Night & Day Studios).

While I appreciate the songs my 4 year old can sing along to, it’s the complexity of the other songs that I enjoy the most, mainly because of the eloquence with which the words are sung and the deeper meaning of the messages they convey. It’s as if some songs on the album are speaking back to a childhood version of Bright while others celebrate the delight she experiences as a parent.

“Two Old Shoes,” a gorgeously arranged song with some wonderful brass accents, is all about being yourself, accepting who you are and finding the beauty in things that are unpolished, despite the expectations of the world. “Lonely Girl” is a message of self-empowerment with a gentle reminder that we are capable of breaking free from the insecurities that keep us from moving towards greater things.

“With Linked Arms,” is a haunting ballad that moves at a saunter while Bright’s voice reinforces devotion and the promise of companionship. “Whistling Song,” reminiscent of Norah Jones in “Come Away With Me,” is a sentimental jaunt that encapsulates the bliss of sharing an afternoon with your little loved one. “Inspiration” is a dreamy reflection of the feelings associated with having your first child while “Let’s Get Dressed Up,” celebrates the fanciful delight in wearing grown-up clothes.

“Turn Around,” my absolute favorite song on the album, features Bright’s golden voice soaring over the following lyrics which reinforces the universal reach of this album. The last verse gives me chills every time I hear it.

The radio sounds a serenade that’s carrying us on.
Surely it is my song
Surely it is yours
Surely it was made just for us all at one and all at once
Surely it is my poem surely it is yours
Let the meter move us, turn us, take us up and ever make us new…

The Cat Doorman Songbook is a lovely gift for the entire family that is best enjoyed while easing into the morning, during lazy afternoons and winding down in the evenings. Julianna Bright delivers each song as though it is a poem and she does it with “all the grace of a flower.”

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Cat Doorman Songbook is available for digital download and purchase through the Cat Doorman official site, iTunes and Amazon. Make sure to check out Cat Doorman’s Little Red Wagon app, which features vibrant illustrations by Julianna Bright and is “both a musical songbook and delightful adventure game.” The app is currently only available for the iPad.

You can listen to clips from Cat Doorman Songbook via the SoundCloud widget below, as well as a video for “Inspiration,” which was inspired by the birth of Bright’s daughter.   The story & illustrations for the “Inspiration” video were made by Bright based on drawings by her daughter.