Video: "Bile Them Cabbage" - Red Yarn

Deep Woods Revival album cover

Deep Woods Revival album cover

The folk music revivalist Red Yarn is back and for the first video from his new album Deep Woods Revival, he (unsurprisingly) brings a whole bunch of Portland-area folks -- and puppets -- for a singalong.  "Bile Them Cabbage" will sound an awful lot like "Shake Those Simmons Down," but that's part of the beauty of folk music, how it bends to suit musicians' will.

Also, it's good for singing along with.

Red Yarn - "Bile Them Cabbage" [YouTube]

How I Got Here: Shanti Wintergate, Play Date

Shanti Wintergate

Shanti Wintergate

Shanti Wintergate is probably best known in the kids music world as one-half of the pop-punk kindie duo Play Date, but she's also a solo musician, actor, and children's book author (I Went For a Walk).  Wintergate and her Play Date partner, husband Greg Attonito, have a new Play Date album, We All Shine, coming out later this month, and in anticipation of that, both she and Attonito have written entries for "How I Got Here," the series where kids musicians write about influential music.

Wintergate's spin on the series is a little different than most in that rather than pinpointing influential albums, she's picked out a couple specific moments -- one in utero (!) -- that indicated a life in music might be for her... 


Shanti Wintergate with mom and brother

Shanti Wintergate with mom and brother

As my mom tells it, the story begins in Hollywood, California where my mother’s family is from, where I was born, and where the beginning of my musical journey began - on stage, from inside my mom’s belly, kicking to the beat of the drums.  

I’ve been surrounded by music, since before I was born.  My parents are musicians who have performed together throughout the world since the late ‘60s, and up until the mid ‘80s the LA club circuit was their home stomping ground.  The owners of one of these LA clubs, known then as Gazzarri’s (located where the Key Club is today) wanted to throw a benefit concert featuring my parents’ band, Lightstorm, and a few other acts in support of Child’s Sunvillage Inc., a non-profit established by my parents to support arts, music and mindfulness programs to children around the world.

Although reluctant at 8 months pregnant (with me), my mom agreed to perform a set for this rock and roll event, “For the sake of the children of the world!” as she so passionately exclaims when telling the story.  As they began playing, and to my mother’s surprise and excitement, I began kicking to the beat of the drums, in utero.  This is a story that I’ve heard countless times, and as whimsical as this rock and roll fairy tale may sound, this is where it literally began for me.

Shanti's parents on a motorcycle in costume

Shanti's parents on a motorcycle in costume

Throughout my life I’ve been immersed in the creative process of music, which began by singing with my parents, listening and watching them, and eventually learning how to play a few different instruments.  I was such a shy kid that my parents never pushed performing on me at all.  Creating music was one thing but performing it was a different beast all together.  It wasn’t something I was interested in doing at all until later in my teens.  It was something my parents did, not me.  It was something I watched famous musicians do, not little ole me.  

Shanti as child, just barely taller than the guitars

Shanti as child, just barely taller than the guitars

All those silly thoughts shifted in me, the moment I saw a friend of mine pick up my dad’s guitar and perform an impromptu cover of a John Denver song in our living room.  In that moment, I was like, whoa… she just did that and it was AWESOME!  It didn’t matter how good or bad she sang or played that dang song, “Take me home, country road, to the place I belong…” but she did it!  It was so empowering to see someone who was my peer just casually pick up a guitar and accompany herself singing a song.  I was hooked!  It really took someone outside of my parents to impress this upon me even though my dad had offered to teach me guitar for years!  Ha, my damn teenager brain!  Looking back on her song choice now I almost giggle out loud because in that moment, I found my home and where I belonged… I can see that now. 

The very next morning I asked my dad to start teaching me how to compose songs and play guitar and I haven’t looked back.

In one way or another, the girl singing in my living room and the story that my mom tells me about kicking to the beat of the drum before I was born have shaped who I am today.  They’ve helped me remember how important it is to find that rhythm of life and to tune into that ever present symphony of the universe.  I believe we’re all born with this innate sense, even if we’re not the greatest dancers and even if our rhythm is so unique that it isn’t like anyone else’s on the planet.  We all just get where we are, in our own way, one step at a time. 

How I Got Here: Greg Attonito, Play Date (The Who's "I Can't Explain")

Greg Attonito

Greg Attonito

Greg Attonito wears many hats -- founding member and musician in the much-loved New Jersey-based punk band The Bouncing Souls, painter, and, with his wife Shanti Wintergate, part of the pop-punk kindie duo Play Date.  Play Date have a new Play Date album, We All Shine, coming out later this month, and in anticipation of that, both he and Wintergate have written entries for "How I Got Here," the series where kids musicians write about influential music.

Like Wintergate, Attonito writes below about a specific moment and song that played a big part in setting him down the path to becoming a musician.


“I canʼt explain” how I REALLY got here but I think if I have to choose a musical moment that played a big part in getting me to this moment... Iʼd have to go with the first time I really sang a song live with a rock band. The song was “I Canʼt Explain” by the Who.

Greg Attonito in his dad's attic, 1988

Greg Attonito in his dad's attic, 1988

I was in high school hanging out at my friend Bryanʼs house watching him, Pete, and Sean practicing in their cover band, The Switch. They asked me if I wanted to try singing a song. I had heard them play “I Canʼt Explain” a few times before and I had the cassette so I knew enough of the words to have a go at it. I nervously grabbed the microphone as I heard those guitars and drums chopping out that intro riff... "Da DaDa Da DADA... I gotta feeling inside, I CANT EXPLAIN! Itʼs a certain kind, I CANʼT EXPLAIN! I feel hot and cold, I CANʼT EXPLAIN! Yeah, down in my soul but I Canʼt Explain!”

The Who, "I Can't Explain" 45 cover

The Who, "I Can't Explain" 45 cover

WOW! What a feeling. I couldnʼt have put it into words at that moment but I had found a new form of expression that turned me upside down and inside out in the best way. Rock and Roll, baby! Not just LISTENING to rock and roll but becoming a part of the live beast that is rock and roll music. It was SO AWESOME! That was my first moment discovering an amazing language which gave me a deeper way of expressing myself. What a gift and what an opportunity! Performing and eventually writing music allowed me to access and share parts of myself that were totally incredible and I never knew existed. What a revelation!

When that first attempt at singing “I Canʼt Explain” ended, everybody was smiling. That moment was twenty-six years ago and I havenʼt stopped making music with those guys since. The feeling and positive experience we shared making music together eventually took us around the world and changed peopleʼs lives... Saved peopleʼs lives!! Including our own.

Itʼs not always easy to remember how important that “I Canʼt Explain” moment was for me. Its also not easy to remember it's really something special to have lots of opportunities to create that kind of moment for others.  Playing music for children and their families gives me those opportunities in a new and unexpected way all the time. I may lose sight of the potential magic, power and life changing possibilities of music but the sound and the feeling of hearing and performing good songs are constant reminders, and Iʼm so grateful.

Greg Attonito performing at Riot Fest.  Photo credit: DT Kindler

Greg Attonito performing at Riot Fest.  Photo credit: DT Kindler

Photo credit: DT Kindler (Attonito at Riot Fest)

Video: "Siete Elefantes" - Mister G (World Premiere!)

Los Animales album cover

Los Animales album cover

Over the past few years, Massachusetts-based Ben Gundersheimer -- best known to the under-6 set as Mister G, has released a number of albums partially or even predominantly in Spanish, and he shows no sign of stopping that trend.  He's just released Los Animales (the album title's a pretty good clue as to the album's theme and primary language) and to celebrate, the album's first video for its title track, world-premiered here!

Mister G teams up with the same folks who created the animated video for "Cocodrilo" -- director Leo Antolini and animator Andrea Cingolani.  This one's every bit as charming as that one, a rainbow of animals.  Non bastante!   More, please!

Mister G - "Los Animales" [YouTube]

Best Lullaby Albums

It was foolish, perhaps, but I went ahead and did it anyway -- I boiled down more than a decade's worth of listening (and more than a half-century's worth of recordings) to what I thought were the five most essential albums for new parents.  Despite my trepidations in providing such a list (including the insanity in thinking that such a list could even be limited to five), it seemed to be well-received.

So now I'm providing my second list of top albums -- this time, it's my list of best lullaby albums.

Before I provide my list, I should note that, unlike the broader set of albums for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, as far as I can tell there weren't nearly as many lullaby albums dating back a half-century -- I can't find evidence that Pete Seeger or Ella Jenkins, for example, bothered recording a specific album of just lullabies.  That is an interesting musicological question worth exploring, but not today.  In any case, the upshot is that the notion of a "classic" or "best" lullaby album is far less settled than it was for the "new parents" list above.

As a result, this list feels more idiosyncratic to me than that other list, like I'm going out more on a limb.  I do have a particular preference for lullaby albums in a way I might not for kids music albums generally and that preference is for music that would conceivably be played to lull a young child back to sleep.  I have memories of taking the 3 AM feeding shift, or of calming a restless infant, and sometimes (some of) these albums were the soundtrack for that. In my experience, many lullaby albums seem far too hyper and vocally piercing to be very useful for that quiet, darkened room.

So, with that, here are my five picks, listed alphabetically by artist.


Lullabies: A Songbook Companion cover

Lullabies: A Songbook Companion cover

Julianne Baird, Madeleine Kapp, Mela Tenenbaum & Richard Kapp: Lullabies (A Songbook Companion) (1997) -- This might have been the first lullaby album we had that we truly enjoyed, so it's possible that personal affinity drives this selection more so than most.  But as with the other albums here, even today it holds up very, very well.  With piano, violin, and viola accompanying the vocalists, this is unsurprisingly by far the most traditional (and classical) album of all those listed.  It covers a wide range of lullaby songs from not only the English-language tradition, but also others.  There are also a handful of instrumental tracks that serve as nice counterpoints to the vocals.  And while a few tracks are more emotive than I'd prefer, on the whole, it's both thorough and gorgeously done -- a one-stop lullaby shop.

Now the Day Is Over album cover

Now the Day Is Over album cover

The Innocence Mission: Now the Day Is Over (2004) -- This album more closely resembles the majority of the lullaby albums here -- unique interpretations of songs, only some of which might originally have been considered lullabies.  This is the band's only venture into the kids music world, and were it not for the cartoon-y cover art, the listener might not necessarily file it there at all.  Low-key, minimally-arranged, the "hushed" on this album is dialed up to 11.  Singer-songwriter Karen Peris' voice is distinctive and has a bit of a distinctive taste, but I've heard this album so many times that I can't think of many of the songs they cover ("Stay Awake" and "Moon River," among others, along with some instrumentals and one original) without it.  Definitely a secret to be passed from one fan to another.

Napper's Delight album cover

Napper's Delight album cover

Dean Jones: Napper's Delight (2007) -- First, yes, that's an awesome album title.  But moving beyond that, this is probably the most daring lullaby album on here (it's the one whose inclusion on the list I took the most time debating).  How many times do you hear drum machines on lullaby albums, or at least on lullaby albums you want to listen to repeatedly?  More so than the other albums listed, this is also more of a journey as the first few songs aren't super-sleepy.  But give it a few songs and by the time Elizabeth Mitchell lends her vocals to "Grow Little Flower," the relaxed vibe is definitely established.  Jones' eclectic taste in instrumentation (see drum machine above) makes this the most unique album here -- definitely not a lullaby album in the strictest definition of the phrase, but a superb take on sleepy time and relaxation.

All Through the Night album cover

All Through the Night album cover

Mae Robertson & Don Jackson: All Through the Night (1995) -- I don't even remember how I first heard this album.  I think it was probably one of the (comparatively) few (at the time) kids music CDs at the library, but I remember playing it over and over in a darkened nursery.  Robertson has a lovely voice, but doesn't oversell (i.e., over-emote on) the songs.  Her choice of songs -- relatively few of which would be considered lullabies in any traditional sense -- delighted and surprised me.  And the musical arrangements from Robertson and Jackson, featuring guitar, piano, and a handful of other stringed instruments, are warm enough to snuggle in.  In short, this is the lullaby album I imprinted on and the one I still implicitly judge all other lullaby albums by today.

It's a Big World album cover

It's a Big World album cover

Renee and Jeremy: It's a Big World (2007) -- Finally, this album is the most modern-sounding lullaby album on this list, a combination of Jack Johnson and Elizabeth Mitchell with a series of (mostly) original lullabies.  I remember liking the album a lot, then hearing it on a really good pair of headphones while recording an NPR review of the album and being blown away by how spare and intimate the album sounded.  Since then, I've also become a much bigger fan of how Renee Stahl and Jeremy Toback meld their voices together.  Between the sound, their intertwined voices, and the whimsical cover art, this is the lullaby album most likely to be named "not your parents' lullaby album."

As with any of these "best" or "most essential" lists I'm creating, limiting your choices to these is a little foolish, but people also want them.  But if you're looking for a few more suggestions, here are some other categories of lullaby albums you may want to consider:

Artists I've Already Mentioned: Raffi (with his Quiet Time compilation), Laurie Berkner (with Laurie Berkner Lullabies), Caspar Babypants (with Night Night), and Elizabeth Mitchell (with significant chunks of most of her albums) would definitely have been under consideration for this list were it not for the fact that they already appeared on my best kids albums for infants and toddlers list.  Somehow it's not surprising that artists who record a lot for the youngest of listeners know their way around a lullaby.  As for Justin Roberts, his album Lullaby is excellent, but since he'll be appearing on a future list, I omitted him from consideration for this one.

Putumayo Kids: As I noted in the earlier "new parent" list, Just like its "parent," the themed albums of kids offshoot of the Putumayo label scours are a nice way to dip into the music of a non-American culture (though they offer some nice English-language compilations, too).  Their "Dreamland" albums feature lullabies from around the world -- the sounds can sometimes be unfamiliar to the older ears of the parents (and therefore less than fully relaxing), but that shouldn't be a problem for the kids.

The Secret Mountain: This Canadian label has had an excellent run of nearly 15 years of publishing books and accompanying albums (or is it the other way around)?  I've found their non-lullaby works to be pitched at a slightly older crowd (meaning, non-infant), but their lullaby albums, just like Putumayo's, span the globe in their coverage.  Now if would only start publishing picture or board books that were specifically targeted at kids who might be just year or two old, that would be an awesome combination.

The Kindie Rock Showdown: A Brief Recap

Kindie Rock Showdown logo

Kindie Rock Showdown logo

Well after nearly a full month of kids music video competition to the death... OK, there was no death or even injury whatsoever, the Kindie Rock Showdown over at batteryPOP has come to a conclusion.  When I last let you know what was going on, we were in the middle of Round 1, as Danny Weinkauf's "Ice Cream" knocked off Caspar Babypants' "The Stump Hotel" and Alphabet Rockers' "Dynamite" triumphed over The Bazillions' "No Homework" while we awaited the results of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band's "Blue Bear" vs. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's "Gotta Be You" and Josh and the Jamtones' "John Jacob" against The Not-Its' "Haircut."

Long story short, in the semi-finals the following week, Danny Weinkauf defeated Alphabet Rockers and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo beat The Not-Its, which set up an epic final between the bassist for They Might Be Giants and the hip-hop musician who knew a thing or two about winning a video showdown.  More than 10,000 votes were cast in the final round, and while it was close all week, with the lead changing hands several times, in the end Danny Weinkauf's video "Ice Cream" took home the prize.

As I noted in my last blog for the tournament, thanks to the artists for participating, batteryPOP for taking this idea and running with it, Laurie Berkner for doing a bunch of video intros, and everyone for watching and POPping their favorite videos.  Hopefully this isn't the last time!

Let's watch "Ice Cream" one last time to celebrate Weinkauf's victory.  I think I know how he might celebrate his victory...

Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band - "Ice Cream" [YouTube]