Video: “Town Town” – Dean Jones

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Every now and then Grammy winning producer, Dean Jones of Dog on Fleas​ conjures up a little ditty of his own. The results are always unexpected and entertaining. One of my favorite things about Dean is the clever quirkiness that pops up in his music. Dean is not afraid to get goofy and creative and lay out the contents of his imagination. Life is more interesting that way, as is listening to music.

Check out “Town Town” by Dean Jones. You’ll want to watch this one twice.

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Check This Out: Blink of An Eye – Frances England

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Since I became a parent, there have been so many times where I wish I could siphon out my memories at the end of the day and have them automatically recorded. I regularly feel compelled to stop time, and thankfully I have successfully done so with the click of my camera’s button. As my daughter got older and moved into a busier phase of her life – walking, running, jumping, biking, – life seemed to move faster than I could keep up with. Frances England‘s 2013 release, Blink of an Eye, has invoked great nostalgia, reminding me of my obsession with creating memories.

England has been recording gentle, acoustic melodies that capture the wonderment of childhood as it appears and is felt through the perspective of a child. Since her 2007 debut, Fascinating Creatures, each song has consistently been delivered with beautiful emotion, winning over the hearts of many grown-up listeners, as well as kids.

Blink of An Eye is filled with songs that create a vision of togetherness. My favorite tracks, “Day You Were Born”, “The Sun Will Shine Again” and “Salt Water Swirl,” gorgeously illustrate the awestruck relationship and tender bond between parent(s) and child(ren).

Sometimes music provokes a physical and emotional reaction and this album strikes a chord in both categories. The warmth of England’s soft voice is akin to the feeling of the sun shining on your face as you are cradled, buoyantly, in a lush, grassy field.

Typically, England’s sound is acoustic. For Blink of an Eye, England recruited the masterful Dean Jones which is made obvious by the “kitchen sink” rootsy and eclectic accompaniment on many of the songs (most notably “Blink of An Eye” and another one of my favorites, “Move Like A Saturday Night”). Elizabeth Mitchell and Molly Ledford of Lunch Money also lend their talents in ways that enhance England’s unique sound, ultimately creating achingly beautiful harmonies. “Bicycle Built For Two” is a perfectly paired collaboration between Ledford and England.

England’s fourth album to date, Blink of An Eye, captures the sentimentality and sweetness of being a parent. Just as a mirage offers temporary wonderment, so do the fleeting moments of childhood. Thankfully, England reminds us of those precious memories in this album.

Blink of An Eye is available through England’s site, CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes. You can also sample clips from this album (along with previous releases and her awesome artwork!) at her official site.

Bonus: Below are some beautifully produced videos from the album. Get ready for some goosebumps!

Sun Will Shine Again” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Day You Were Born” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Tell Me It All” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Video Premiere: “Grand March from Aida” – Dog On Fleas

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Baby it’s cold outside and with each weather report comes the call of yet another battle against nature. Fear not, for Dog On Fleas has come to offer a reprieve! In their video for “Grand March from Aida,” a “triumphal march” takes place as a procession of creatures strut, scurry and float across the screen. There’s even a surprise guest in the mix (Gustafer Yellowgold fans, I’m looking at you)! And what would a triumphal march be without the right ensemble? Thanks to the Backyard Dorkestra, the animal parade is given some regality while being accompanied by a a melange of instruments, including an accordion, kazoo, bassoon, flugelhorn, violin, sousaphone and glockenspiel, to name a few.

“Grand March from Aida” was originally written by Giuseppe Verde for his opera, Aida, and can be found on the Fleas’ eighth album, Buy One Get One Flea, which officially releases today! While the song is completely instrumental, it stays with you, leaving you no choice but to grab a kazoo and create your own grand parade. So sound the alarms, raise a ruckus, stomp around, heat things up and join in the celebration!

Buy One Get One Flea is available for purchase via CdBaby.

For more Dog on Fleas goodness, don’t miss their one-hour Rumpus Room concert this weekend. Details below:

Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78) features a special Dog on Fleas Rumpus Room. The concert will be airing 4X this weekend:
Friday Feb 21 –  6pPST/9pEST
Saturday Feb 22 –  9 am EST / 6 am PST, 5 pm EST/ 2 pm PST
Sunday Feb 23 – 12pEST/9aPST

Interview with Dean Jones

“Recording can be tricky, but I think my strength as a producer is to get the musicians together and have them PLAY. PLAY PLAY PLAY. Not work.” – Dean Jones

222157_1064956471577_9924_nThe creative process can be such a vulnerable place and as an artist it helps to have someone in your corner supporting you through your creative endeavors. Welcome Dean Jones! Musical maestro, Dean Jones, of the kindie band, Dog On Fleas, has played a major role in the production of many kindie releases over the past few years, including The Okee Dokee Brothers Can You Canoe? which won him a 2013 Grammy award for Best Children’s album.

Dean lives in the Hudson Valley, which is also the headquarters of his “lovely straw bale recording studio” called No Parking Studio. In addition to producing, Dean spends time collaborating with fellow kindie musicians, providing support and lending his talents on a variety of instruments ranging from brass (trumpet, trombone) to the keys (or “ivories” as he puts it in Joanie Leeds’ song “Bandwagon“).

Earlier this year, Dean released his third solo album titled When The World Was New, which will definitely be on our list of favorites for 2013. Its sound is an eclectic blend of funk, disco and folk and Dean’s voice has a warm quality to it that softly glides through each song.

Dean is a busy man so when he agreed to participate in an interview with me, I was very grateful. In the following interview, Dean provides insight into his philosophy as a producer, as well as some inspiring advice on how thinking can be the enemy. Read on and then read my review which also contains a sampler of free songs from the album.

Kids Can Groove: Were you a singer/musician before you started producing?

Dean Jones: Yes, I’ve been playing in bands, and making up my own bands for a long time. All kinds of bands, usually strange and hard to explain. I’ve also worked with a lot of different kinds of artists, writing and playing music for puppet shows, shadow plays, art exhibits, and some other spectacular things. I love collaborating!

KCG: What made you decide to get into producing?

DJ: Well, I had a partner in crime for many years named Warren Perrins. We bought some recording equipment and just started recording our own bands because we thought we could figure it out ourselves. It took us a long time to really figure it out, though! But, ever since then I’ve really loved the challenge of recording and producing my own music, as well as other people’s music.

KCG: Who was the first children’s artist you worked with (production wise)?

DJ: Oh, well, first I started recording my own songs and then that turned into my band called Dog on Fleas. We’ve recorded 7 CDs. And next up was my great great great uncle, Uncle Rock. Actually, we’re not related, but he is great.

KCG: How did you get into children’s music?

DJ: I have had a bunch of bands (the Falling Wallendas, Harmonica Virgins, For Sale by Owner Orchestra, to name a few) and I’ve always written music that appealed to kids, but it was never called children’s music. All my bands have been very theatrical, ridiculous, childish, and fun. Eventually, a friend of mine pointed out that I was really writing music that kids like, so why not make a CD for kids. And, Dog on Fleas was born.

KCG: What have you learned from your first collaboration/production up til now?

DJ: Oh ho ho ho. So much I can’t tell you. I think the most important thing is that music is communication. If you are feeling uptight, tired or nervous, that’s part of what will be communicated. I think it’s really good to be clear about what you want to be communicating, and to whom, and then look at the big picture!!! You want it to sound fun; You have to be having fun. Recording can be tricky, but I think my strength as a producer is to get the musicians together and have them PLAY. PLAY PLAY PLAY. Not work.

KCG: You have worked with an array of genres plus you are an artist yourself. What is your working philosophy?

DJ: Oh, I just answered that in the last bit. I can say more. I like to create a working environment (even though I said it’s not work!) that encourages experimentation. Relaxed and fun, and you can try something and maybe fail at it, but it’s not a loss. Every song can turn out a million different ways. It’s a great challenge to draw out the essence of a song.

KCG: How do you stay true to yourself as a singer/songwriter while maintaining an objective point of view as a producer?

DJ: I try not to think. Thinking is the enemy. Oh, that also answers the previous 2 questions too.

KCG: How do you find time to record your own songs?

DJ: I have to go right now, I don’t have time to answer that.

KCG: How does the process of writing and producing your own music compare to doing that for others?

DJ: Sometimes I have to tell an artist that what they’ve just written and recorded is a really great song and sometimes they doubt themselves. My job is to keep them going in the right direction and making sure they know what their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s pretty much the same producing myself. Sometimes I don’t know if what I’m doing is any good. I have to play my music for other people and trust their opinions. I really believe in trusting, trusting, trusting and not overthinking. Just doing something is better than thinking about it.

KCG: You are a multi-talented artist and bring World accents into many of the arrangements/albums you are featured on, as well as your own, using a broad range of instruments and even incorporating a foreign (French) language. It makes for some really interesting, eclectic sounds. Are you self-taught or have you taken lessons?

DJ: I did take piano lessons when I was 8 years old for about 6 years, I think. I have always been a ravenous collector of instruments, sounds and music from around the world. I have tons and tons of instruments. And records. And sticks and rocks and pringles cans, and anything you could blow into or bang on. The area I live in, near Woodstock NY, is full of amazing musicians from all over the world. In the 70s and 80s there was a school called the Creative Music Studio here that Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Dave Holland, and so many other great jazz musicians, and I guess, World musicians taught. A lot of people came here to study jazz, but there was so much emphasis on just improvising with whomever you were with, and a lot of exploration of music styles from around the world. Many of the students of that school stayed here and hence there’s much more awareness of music from different parts of the world. I play with a lot of those folks in various bands.

KCG: How did the theme for When the World Was New come up for you?

DJ: I was in my backyard thinking about recording a new album OUTSIDE, just in my yard with an acoustic guitar and whatever else I could have out there. And then one of my neighbors started using a really loud leaf blower. IN THE SPRING!! That’s absurd!!!!! So I changed directions and wrote the song “Absurd” about how absurd we humans are. And then it got me on a new path, thinking about evolution, where we are and how we got there. It’s somewhat serious, but also silly. I think people are pretty ridiculous, so there’s lots to write about. I know I’m kind of ridiculous.

KCG: It has some complex concepts which I think are fascinating for a children’s album. Did you think about how your audience would receive it?

DJ: Yes, at times I wondered if it was going to be a children’s album. I had to ask for help on that. I give kids a lot of credit for being smart and open-minded. Most of the songs on this record are asking questions, not providing answers. I like sparking thoughts and feelings.

KCG: So you are a dad, producer, singer-songwriter and a member of Dog on Fleas. How do you manage to balance it all?

DJ: It’s hard. I love it. But I always have projects hanging over my head. I mostly have to take my kids out in the woods or away from home so I don’t get sucked in to the business end of the music business. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I’m terrible at Facebook and all that. I just can’t do everything. I’m always writing new songs for new albums when I should be promoting the album that’s just released.

KCG: If you weren’t involved with music, what would you be doing?

DJ: Maybe being a forest ranger. Or millionaire philanthropist.

KCG: What is your favorite way to spend time with family?

DJ: Hiking, climbing, picking wild blueberries, and singing.

Do/Have any books influence(d) you or your music/songwriting?

DJ: Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown. I like the little world she created in that book. I like to create little worlds in song. It’s hard to talk about art and music for me. I like Paul Klee’s paintings. They are not so tied to this world, but evoking something. %&** I guess I am influenced by lots of things. Just feeling tiny sparks of energy wherever they show up.

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.

Singled Out: “Just Another Finger” – Mista Cookie Jar

a4152069260_2On April 25, 2013, I was lucky enough to attend a Kindie Music Mashup held by Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live in their New York City studio.  It was an amazing experience and one that showed off some serious talent.  Essentially, the mashup involved pairings of kindie musicians broken up into teams of two.  Each team swapped a song and played those songs in each other’s musical stylings.

Mista Cookie Jar was paired up with Dean Jones from Dog On Fleas and covered the popular song “Just Another Finger.”  To prepare, MCJ did a bunch of research on this friendly little digit, wrote down some clever lyrics and set it all to a fun kid-hop beat.  You can take a listen and download the song for free via the Bandcamp widget below (just hit BUY NOW and enter “0” when you name your price).  I think you’ll agree that this opposable ode deserves two thumbs up!

Want to sing along?  Check out the lyrics here.

To learn more about the Kindie Music Mashup check out the video below [courtesy of Sirius via YouTube]:

FREE Download: Summer 2013 Rockin’ Kindie Road Trip Playlist

Summer is a comin’ and having a soundtrack to go with it is an absolute must! The good news is that from now until June 1 you can download 13 rockin’ Kindie tracks for FREE. Normally, I would be wary of the number 13, but in this case I can honestly say 13 is a magic number!

Presented by BunchFamily and cleverly curated by Beth Benz-Claus, this list ebbs and flows like a fine mixtape (or digital playlist, in this case) should. You’ll find a variety of styles some of which include Americana, good ole Rock n’ Roll and even some Soul. Check the list and download now before time runs out!

“Wander Round the World” – Key Wilde and Mr Clarke from Pleased to Meet You
“Train Song” – Charlie Hope from I’m Me
“Outshining Nomads” – Dean Jones from When the World Was New
“Slow” – Trout Fishing in America from an unreleased album due out this summer.
“Hard Travelin'” – Alastair Moock (featuring The Okee Dokee Brothers) from an unreleased album due out this summer.
“She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” – Johnny Bregar from Putumayo Kids American Playground
“Honk Honk” – The Monkey Bunch from Power to the Little People
“My Green Kite” – Peter Himmelman from My Green Kite
“Let’s Skateboard” – The Not-Its! from KidQuake!
“Kilimanjaro” – Shine and the Moonbeams from unreleased album due out this summer
“Turn Around” – Cat Doorman from Cat Doorman Songbook
“Fruit Jar” – Justin Roberts from Pop Fly
“Down at the Sea Hotel” – The Secret Mountain