Some kind of musical artistry dances in the magic of a “mix tape.” Hand picked tunes set in just the right order to create just the right sentiment for just the right person. The result is a collection of music that is personal and intimate. A present that doesn’t need a card attached. The message is in the music.
Mix tapes have staying power. Compilation albums, albums comprised of various artists, can have the same impact when curated well.
Mighty Mo Productions, a Kansas City-based indie record label started by Jim Cosgrove and Tim Brantman are curating music with the intent of delivering the same sentiment and appreciation as a mix tape. As a follow up to their 2015 debut Smiles Ahead, Mighty Mo Productions returns with Heart Beats: Feel Good Songs for Families, an album full of songs that are primed to bring you warm fuzzies.
Heart Beatsassembles some of the same artists featured on Smiles Ahead such as Caspar Babypants, Brady Rymer, Katydid, Rissi Palmer and The Verve Pipe as well as newly added Ratboy Jr., Sunshine Collective, Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights, Andrew & Polly, Josh and the Jamtones and label creator, Jim Cosgrove (featuring Jazzy Ash). It’s a Who’s Who line-up of the indie kids music genre.
The 12 tracks swirl around the album’s overall theme: Love. Most tracks land solidly on the message of I Love You while The Verve Pipe’s “One Became Two” touches upon family, Brady Rymer’s “Light of Love” rallies for listeners to send joy out into the world, and Katydid’s “Love My Lovey” gets bonus points for its superhero ode to childhood “loveys.” (Perhaps a child’s most loyal love, aside from mom and dad, of course.) Joanie Leeds’ voice soars on the comfort of a goodnight hug and kiss in “Give Me A Hug,” and Ratboy Jr. gets tender with “E’s Lullaby” to cap it all off.
Music is a gift, and giving the gift of music is something really special. Heart Beats arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day, and really is worth a spin to lift the mood anytime.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the 7-year-old girl in the backseat who shouted “Turn it up!” so she and her best friend could sing along together. That, my friends, is what heart beats are made of.
Bonus!: In celebration of the album, there will be four all-ages concerts taking place around the U.S., 3 of which are in Hallmark stores. The concert schedule is below and be sure to store locations and hours for more info.:
Saturday, January 30 at 11 am – Amy’s Hallmark Shop, Manhattan Village, Manhattan Beach, CA – a morning sing-along featuring Andrew & Polly, Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove and Mista Cookie Jar (featured on Mighty Mo’s first album release, Smiles Ahead). Save 10 percent on CD purchases that day! FREE admission.
Sunday, January 31 at 11 am – McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA – a full-length family sing-along with Andrew & Polly, Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove and Mista Cookie Jar. Tickets: $10 each (kids under 2 free).
Saturday, February 6 at 11 am – Amy’s Hallmark Shop, Airport Plaza, Farmingdale, NY. A sing-along with 2-time GRAMMY Award nominee and North Fork resident Brady Rymer, Brooklyn based kid-pop star Joanie Leeds, and Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove. Save 10 percent on CD purchases. Free admission.
Saturday, February 13 at 11 am – Amy’s Hallmark Shop, Crown Center, Kansas City, MO. A sing-along with KC based artists Katydid and Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove. Save 10 percent on CD purchases. Free admission.
Happy New Year! I’ve been tinkering for weeks about whether to put together a “best of” list. Lists have never been my thing, but this week when I pulled up past interviews, reviews and music, I was quickly reminded that 2015 was in fact another incredible year in kids’ music. So, let’s do this thing!
The list below represents a sampling of the 20 best albums from 2015 plus one from 2014 (because I included my picks for the Fids and Kamily Awards which considers albums between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015) and a few honorable mentions. The albums are presented in no particular order, and are personal favorites of mine and those of my 7-year-old daughter Emily. They appeal to families who love music, the adventure of finding more of it, and parents who want to foster a love of music in their own kin. This, for me, is the big enchilada. It’s what I enjoy most about being a part of the industry and covering it for you.Take 10 minutes and sample a few songs on each album. I promise you’ll find more than one to love, regardless of your age.
[Flight of the Blue Whale] is eccentric. There is a meticulousness in the overall composition that captured my attention, in addition to the variety of instrumentation. Waltzes serve as segues, buoyantly carrying the listener along, while nontraditional objects are used to emphasize critical pieces of the story, e.g. Drinking glasses sonically illustrating weightlessness as a baleen whale takes flight.
Imagine if you were to open a National Geographic Kids or Ranger Rick magazine and there was music playing on each page. Animal Tales takes the pages of these beloved magazines and brings them to life with soundtracks cleverly matched to a variety of animal personalities. Each song is rich with fun animal facts, infused with the artists’ lovable sense of humor and clever ability to play with words and phrases, making it one of the most listenable and entertaining albums out there.
The musical variety of Big Block SingSong is tremendous and the lyrics are insightful and amusing, A block with a German accent singing in euro-funk style about hair; a monkey snapping off bluegrass-y lyrics about a “Two Banana Day”; and, with a catchy indie-pop backdrop, caveman named Dave pointing out that an erupting volcano is a hot mess. These are just a few of the priceless gems you’ll find in this collection.
I was decorating our tree with my daughter Emily the other night and when I heard her singing along with “Frosty the Snowman” it seemed like everything was quiet in that moment. Music is such a significant part of the holiday season and it never goes out of style. This year brings another great bunch of variety to add to your classics. They also make excellent holiday gifts/stocking stuffers! Giving the gift of music is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy!
Rocknoceros comes forth with a rock solid collection of holiday jams. Happy Holidayscontains 9 tracks that start from Halloween and end with New Years. What I love most are the combination of musical styles and the creative approach this Virignina-based trio takes towards traditional tunes. In many ways they remind me of They Might Be Giants. “Christmas Brie,” for example, features some punny dialogue around the words “Christmas Tree” and is layered over some Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz. The Peanuts quality of this song goes well with the album cover which also reminds me a bit of scenes from the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. “The Dreidel Song” honors a traditional Chanukah game and “Wenceslas” echoes all the gratitude, love and giving of the season with a memorable story set to the toll of beloved holiday bells. Happy Holidays will help you glide through the last quarter of the year and send you happily sailing into the coming new year.
A huge part of Jewish tradition is centered around music – song, and especially dance. Each one significantly contributes to the practice of traditions and observance. So the fact that Josh and the Jamtones, known for their high energy kindie jams, put out an album that promises to be a “Holiday Xxplosion” (double X for Xtra Large fun!) just makes sense, and is awesome. Though there are plenty of songs for Jewish families out there, the Jamtones bring a hip, cohesive alternative to the fold.Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is a collection of 14 songs in both English and Hebrew. The prayer for peace, “Oseh Shalom” sounds even more on point backed by some equally harmonious reggae rhythm, while the more secular “Amen,” a Bluegrassy/Big Band track encourages gratitude in a bold way. “Amen” is such a joyful song, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself engaged with this song while clapping along. Chanukah specific songs include a rollicking ska-drenched version of “Oh Chanukah” – super danceable for those ready to turn their living room into a mad Horah dance party – and a swingin’ version of “Dreidle.” Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 offers families a one-stop destination ready for a happy set of celebrations throughout the year. We are a family that celebrates both Christmas and Jewish holidays and having an album with popular Jewish songs all in one place has been an especially welcome convenience.
Andrew & Polly– Other Days
Representing the West Coast is the wonderfully warm duo of Andrew & Polly. They are offering up a sweet little gift of 4 songs celebrating tradition and family. As a bonus gift, the duo teamed up with master collaborator Mista Cookie Jar in “L.A. Christmas” which delights with festively mellow sun and sand style. Together they remind us that regardless of whether you’ve got pine trees or palm trees (or are rockin’ a Hawaiian shirt), this is simply the season to fill up on love and just sway together. The beauty of Other Days is that it truly can persist beyond the holiday season. Though half of the songs include holiday specific references, “Thank You for the Box” and “A Mapmaker’s Song” go beyond the boundaries of this time of year, and feature what makes Andrew & Polly so lovable – a little whimsy and a whole lotta charm. Ending with “A Mapmaker’s Song,” families will relate to the sentiment that home truly is where the heart is.
Greg Page, otherwise known as The Yellow Wiggle, has embarked on a solo path with a new production group called Yellow Entertainment and a children’s program called Butterscotch’s Playground (available through DVD ). Just in time for the holidays, Page has produced a holiday album full of original and traditional songs which display vocal chops that easily put him in even footing with some of the holiday’s best crooners. Page’s voice, like Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and even Ol’ Blue Eyes, is full of the same smooth characteristics that have made the aforementioned notables significant voices of the season. Here Comes Christmas! will be nostalgic for adults reminiscing on their own childhood traditions while gleefully making new memories with little ones to reflect back upon when they are grown. Beloved tunes such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” among other favorites found in this collection are why music has become such a staple for invoking the holiday spirit. The arrangements are preserved to the tee for the most part, although “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets wild and wooly as it features guinea pigs, goldfish and puppy dogs with a bonus of goat’s milk (which is made into…well, you’ll have to listen to find out! No holiday spoilers here!). Among the aforementioned albums in this post Here Comes Christmas! is a comforting and familiar place to return to, just like coming in from the cold and being handed a warm mug of cocoa and some freshly baked cookies. This is definitely an album you can just spin while gleefully trimming your Christmas tree. Every now and then you might just catch yourself singing along and then smiling as you look around and see your little ones joining you in the chorus.
Here Comes Christmas! also contains 4 bonus songs from Butterscotch’s Playground and is available from iTunes and the official Butterscotch TV website.
One of the most iconic soundtracks of the season is The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s lush orchestration is truly prized and unforgettable.
Adapted and conducted by Stephen Simon and narrated by Jim Weiss, Maestro Classics presents music (performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra) that tells the story of this enchanting ballet.
This retelling of The Nutcracker is punctuated by the majestic sounds of the ballet in the background. Jim is a master storyteller and his enthusiastic narration will adorn children’s imaginations with lavish scenes full of wonder featuring Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the battle with the Mouse King, and the dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker will always conjure up feelings of Christmas and this album is truly an excellent gift of the season. Maestro Classics is dedicated to fostering a love of classical music and their storytelling series will help children pair important works with time honored soundtracks, thereby identifying with the music (independent of the story) later on. Combining a story with the music also serves as a great resource for children who may not already be familiar with or who may not prefer classical music or songs without words.
Each CD set comes with an activity booklet which includes bite-sized educational features such as The History of Ballet, a few lines of music for “Overture to The Nutcracker,” information about the Harp, a brief bio of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, and some word games. In addition to The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics offers other timeless pieces as part of their Stories in Music series which brings the magic of theater, classical music and storytelling into a very accessible space for families, whether you are listening at home, or traveling in the car.
The following songs are from one of our favorite holiday albums, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which features a mix of Christmas, Chanukah and seasonal songs. “Candle Chase” has a nice rhythm similar to the beat found in many Jewish songs. Perfect for celebrating around the brilliant glow of your menorah.
Laurie recently came out with a new video for “Children Go Where I send Thee” which also features 2-time Grammy nom Brady Rymer. It’s such an infectious version of this classic song which is featured on an equally heartwarming and upbeat album. You’ll love it. “Children Go Where I Send Thee” is featured on both A Laurie Berkner Christmas andLaurie’s recently releasedLaurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs.
Read my previous review of A Laurie Berkner Christmashere.
As a native of New Jersey, and a resident of California, the sounds of this song, and seeing Santa give the shaka (aka “hang ten”) sign makes me smile. Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam’s new holiday track, “Summertime Santa” rings with jingle bells and some good ol’ Jersey Rock n’ Roll. So what does Santa do in the summertime? He hangs up his big red winter coat, and heads down the shore to unwind, basking in the glory of all that the boardwalk has to offer. Didner and the crew conjure up some classic Springsteen sounds with this happy holiday number. Check it.
A good blend of original and traditional tunes keeps the music of this season feeling fresh. Each one of the albums and videos mentioned in this post, as well as those from previous years, is guaranteed to fill you up over the coming holi-days!
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.
“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.
“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.
“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?
“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.
“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.
“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!
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 Jamtonesdeliver 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.
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.
Josh and the Jamtones are a Boston-based group known for their killer live performances, and hilarious improvisational banter. Their energetic Roots rock/Reggae style is high octane for little feet, which seem to go at full speed while joining in a dance party led by the group’s charismatic frontman, Josh Shriber.
Prior to the formation of the Jamtones, Shriber started up a program/performance center called “Jammin’ With You!” where about 350 kids per week are introduced to music in a variety of ways. For the smallest jammers, also known as Jamkids, there are in-home lessons on any of 10+ instruments, i.e. piano, guitar, voice, drums, beatboxing, etc. If they feel like jamming in a more public environment with other kids, they can go to the center to join a rockin’ band. In addition, there is Stageplay and StageJam where kids put on a show and learn theater basics, games, singing, and even mic technique.
Since producing their first kindie album in 2012, the Jamtones have soared on to release a DVD movie based on their last album Bear Hunt and have their music and videos play in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants around the country.
These guys are unstoppable and worthy of a prominent placement in your music collection. Look out for their forthcoming album, Rock Steady, due out this summer.
For today’s Father’s Day Q&A, Shriber, father of three, shares some deep, heartfelt thoughts about being a Dad. His answers are so relatable and touching that I got a little weepy when I was reading them. So cozy up and get to know this Dad who ROCKS!
KCG: What does being a Dad mean to you? JS: Everything! Including never sleeping, changing diapers, getting puked on, carrying 3 kids at a time even when it’s 400 degrees out and at least 2 of the 3 are perfectly capable of walking, sharing your breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks while begging and pleading for them to eat the exact same thing that is right in front of them!
It means loving someone more than you’ve ever loved anything and not knowing it would even be this possible to love someone so much. It means worrying about and praying for things you never knew were important! It means no matter what you “thought” your purpose in life was, you now know for sure without a doubt, and all the little things that were so important instantly hold far less value.
KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad? JS: All the good stuff and all the bad stuff mush into a blurry blob of “life!” There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids. There is no better feeling than getting big hugs and kisses, snuggles, affection, excitement, etc. When they are small and fall asleep on you, it’s the cutest thing in the world, and when they grow up and turn into real people who have real conversations and big time imaginations there’s no match for the pride and satisfaction you feel. When you say “I love you” and they say “I love you too, daddy” it can melt your frikkkin heart!
KCG: How has your work as a musician/artist been impacted by your role as a father? Also, if you are a touring musician, how does that affect the time you spend with your family? JS: I just passed up 5 shows on the west coast so I could spend Halloween and Christmas with you little punks!
Having kids shines a whole new light on writing and performing. You instantly understand what kids will and won’t “get” at certain ages. You learn that if you are gonna be anything to any kid you better have a goofy side and not take yourself too seriously.
KCG: What are your plans for Father’s Day? JS: Working! And my kids will be there of course!
I worry about my kids growing up and what they will think of my work when they are teenagers and too cool for school. Right now they are 1, 3 and 5, and they come to every show, hang out at the studio, and are part of my work everyday. I hope they grow up loving music and feeling like they are a part of my work life, inspiring, assisting, cowriting and acting as role models for others. Also, I plan on getting a million awesome gifts including back rubs, foot massages, an extra 7 hrs of sleep, cooperation, no yelling for at least 1 hour of the day, clean rooms, brushed teeth, clean plates, in-assisted dressings and diaper changes.
KCG: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a Dad? JS: That’s impossible to answer, BUT, my favorite periods as a dad have been when we are expecting new siblings. When we went from 1 to 2, my oldest (Piper) and I bonded leading up to the delivery, but even more so once her little sister was born. Piper and I had so much time, just the 2 of us, and she was 2.5 yrs old which is the best age ever!! Their language is EXPLODING and they are turning into real deal people. Oh, and there’s also the wicked cuteness factor at that age. Anyway, that bonding period was so powerful for Piper and I and from there our connection has only gotten stronger. The same thing happened when our 3rd (Jonah) came along and our middle girl (Adeline) had to detach from mom a bit and trust that I was as fun and funny as every other kid who doesn’t have to live with me thinks!! Introducing your kids to their new baby siblings is just the sweetest most precious time and I never want to forget it!
Right now, I’m seeing, sniff sniff, things that are so present that we assume will always be there like little mispronunciations, the way she dances or the way he crawls or the way she says the word “breakfast” (Briskit). They fade so quickly! My wife and co-Jamtone, Patience, keeps saying the days are soooo long but the weeks, months and years are flying. Everyone who’s been through this parenting thing says “Enjoy it! It goes so fastI” and at first you say “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” but all of a sudden they are 1 and then 3 and then 5 and you can start to feel it moving WAYYYY too fast even if the 3-minute nightly teeth brushing routine feels like 17 hours of torture! Patience and I LOVE being parents. It has defined us as people more than anything we’ve ever done in our lives, but if we have a 4th, I’ll have to sell all my guitars and live on a beach somewhere so we should probably not let that happen!
KCG: How often to do you play music with your kids? Do they perform with you? JS: Patience puts show tunes on regularly. We listen to Jamtones (BY REQUEST!!) in the car nonstop, and well I guess I own a music school or something so they have basically grown up completely surrounded by musicians and music! Addy and Jonah (3 and 1) come to our Jambaby classes at our JWY! Program and Performance Center a couple of times a week and Piper is now in JamKids and StagePlay learning the actual language of music and the ins and outs of being on stage/in a performance.
My kids come to all our local shows for the most part and they jump on stage when we invite the crowd to come up and go crazy with us. But if I had them up for a performance piece, they’d probably hang all over me and grab my legs and my pants would probably fall down and I’d never work again. Funny thing is when I pick up my guitar at home, they say, “NO DAD! We wanna sing with the iPod (Karaoke style).” Thanks kids.
It’s always fun to gather up some great songs, and tuck them neatly into a playlist. Today I’m sharing a bunch of songs (new and previously released) that we’ve been jammin’ to. It’s been fun to revisit some “classics.”
As always, I recommend listening to the playlist in the following order and then mixing things up with a little “shuffle.” If you like what you hear, click on the links below the playlist and consider supporting these wonderful, independent artists.