Review Four-fer: Hullabaloo, Alphabeticians, Mister G, Monty Harper

As you would probably expect, I get many more disks than I could possibly have time to review (unless somebody decides that they want to nominate me for a MacArthur Fellowship). Given my time constraints, there are many reasons why I don't review an album, including it stinks or I can't figure out what to say about it. But there are a number of decent albums with a particular point of view that don't get reviewed in a timely manner just because life goes on. Here, then, are four albums, each with a different approach to the genre -- your family is likely to dig at least one of them. RoadTripHullabaloo.jpgSan Diego-area musician Steve Denyes is a prolific songwriter (see here for a side project of mine he originated), cranking out a Hullabaloo album at least once a year. His latest record Road Trip tackles the theme of, well, car travel (natch), with thirteen tracks covering the experience (truckers' horns, traffic jams, the unfortunate demise of bugs on the windshield). The opening title track is a fun country-rocker, while the rest of songs take a slightly mellower, folkier, Johnny Cash-ier approach. (You can stream the album here.) The album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7. In one sitting, the songs begin to run together, but there are a lot of songs here that would work well in a mixtape for your next trip. Recommended for: your next trip to Grandma's house, your afternoon errand-run. AlphabeticiansRock.jpgMoving up the coast to Portland we find The Alphabeticians, a duo consisting of Eric Levine and Jeff Inlay, AKA Mr. E. and Mr. Hoo, which gives you a little sense of the goofiness that this duo trades in on their formal debut Rock. A little bit of the Pixies and R.E.M. (literally, in the case of the song "Eric Saw Peter Buck's Girlfriend and Then He Saw Peter Buck"), with a healthy dose of They Might Be Giants, "Weird Al" Yankovic, and Schoolhouse Rock mixed in. It could use a little more polish production-wise in spots, but there are some great songs in there (I recommend giving "Metaphor" and "Monkey on my Shirt" a spin at the album's streaming page.) The album's most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 8. Recommended for: the sassy younger kids on TV sitcoms, families who have at least one TMBG album (kids' or adult's) around the house, kids who want lots of alphabet practice.

Kindie Songwriting Club, Vol. 1: Green Beans Everywhere

KSCbasiclogo_lowres.jpgFirst there was the idea -- pick a few artists, give 'em a title to base a song, and set 'em free to do what they do best. Then there was the picking of the title. Now, it's time for the album. It's called Green Beans Everywhere, and it features five fun songs from (in geographical order): Hullabaloo (San Diego), The Hollow Trees (Los Angeles), Charity and the JAMband (San Francisco), Matt Clark (Portland), and Johnny Bregar (Seattle). Some of the artists took a pretty simple approach (similar to what you might see at a typical songrwiting club night), some fancied it up a bit, but all the artists rose to the challenge of creating something out of the barest germ of an idea. Thanks to all the artists for participating. And, for a limited time (at least until we run out of free downloads), you can download the 5-song EP for free. Even if your kids (or you) don't like green beans, and even if one of these songs don't change their (or your) mind, you'll enjoy the album anyway.

Kindie Songwriting Club: Round 1: You Pick the Title!

KSCbasiclogo_lowres.jpgIt's time for the next stage in the first go-round of the Kindie Songwriting Club. As noted before, Hullabaloo's Steve Denyes went up and down the West Coast and picked these five fine songwriters (going up the coast from south to north): Steve Denyes from Hullabaloo (San Diego) Gregory Hollow Tree from The Hollow Trees (Los Angeles) Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband (San Francisco) Matt Clark (Portland) Johnny Bregar (Seattle) Readers e-mailed/commented/Facebooked their suggestion(s), and now I have three for you, loyal readers, to choose from. Here are the three song titles: 1) "There's Dirt in My Bed" 2) "Crunchy Munchy" 3) "Green Beans Everywhere" Your task is to pick your favorite via the voting widget below. All votes are due by 9 PM Friday night West Coast time (of course). One vote per day, please. The winning title will then have not one but FIVE songs written using that as inspiration. Such a deal. Go forth and vote!

Kindie Songwriting Club: An Introduction

KSCbasiclogo_lowres.jpgRecently, Steve Denyes, the hardworking songwriter behind the Southern California duo Hullabaloo, came to me with a suggestion. He said that he'd participated in songwriting clubs where a group of musicians are given a song title or phrase and use that as a jumping-off point for writing a song. And, given my big interest in collaboration, he was wondering whether or not I'd be interested in hosting a songwriting club for family musicians. I think you probably can guess my answer. So I'm excited to announce the creation of the Kindie Songwriting Club and the first set of participants. Denyes went up and down the West Coast, picking some of his favorite songwriters and making some new friends, resulting in these five fine songwriters (going up the coast from south to north): Steve Denyes from Hullabaloo (San Diego) Gregory Hollow Tree from The Hollow Trees (Los Angeles) Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband (San Francisco) Matt Clark (Portland) Johnny Bregar (Seattle) The basic concept of the KSC is this: 1) Readers suggest a song title. Or two. Or twenty. Go ahead, stuff the ballot box! 2) I pick 3, then readers vote on their favorite. 3) The favorite having been chosen, the songwriters craft a song using that song title as inspiration. 4) They record that song however they'd like (though this isn't intended to require fancy studio time). 5) The songs get posted for your enjoyment. 6) World peace is achieved. (OK, probably not. But I'm not ruling it out.) So it's time for the first step -- your suggested song titles. Post 'em here in the comments, on Facebook, or even send me an e-mail (ksc AT zooglobble DOT com). Suggestions for this first round are due by Tuesday, May 31. And stay tuned for further details (voting on your favorite title, hearing the final results). Should be a blast.

Share: "Best of Hullabaloo" - Hullabaloo

First a holiday album, now this: San Diego-area folk-rockers Hullabaloo are offering their new Best of Hullabaloo album for free in the month of February. As one might expect, it's a greatest hits compilation and, yeah, it seems to hit all of the band's highlights from their first six years. The band thanks Stroller Strides for making the download possible, though exactly how is not clear. (One presumes the dozens of shows they've played for the groups have probably won them a few fans in the sippy-cup-toting set.) As long as you have an e-mail address to share, go here to download it, or just click on the links below... <a href="">High Roller by Hullabaloo</a> Track listing:

A Sleigh-Load of Christmas/Holiday CD Reviews

There's so much holiday music in the kids music genre that just listening to it all this year was a daunting task. I've got eight albums that grabbed my attention in one way or another; one of them is bound to please your family (unless you're looking for a solstice, Kwanzaa, or Festivus album). Let's start out with my 3 favorite albums of this particular season... KindieChristmas.jpgThe most ambitious kids music holiday album of the year comes courtesy of The Hipwaders, whose A Kindie Christmas isn't so much an album of Christmas music as much as it is a Christmas concept album, covering the emotions and anticipation of the season. It's a collection of all-original tunes, done in the Hipwaders power-pop/rock style. "It's Wintertime" is a great dance tune, and "Santa's Train" sounds like an outtake to a Johnny Cash Christmas album, but my favorite track here, maybe of the season, is "There's Too Much Good," a very affirming sentiment at this time of year. AndAHappyNewYear.jpgTo say that the collaboration of Danny Adlerman, Kevin Kameraad, and Yosi finally bridges the divide between Christian and Jewish holiday traditions makes ...And a Happy New Year sound a lot duller than it really is. In reality, the three kids rockers mostly take turns in providing songs, alternately deeply sincere ("Starlight" and "Two Sets of Footprints") and goofy (the "12 Days of Christmas" reworking "A Pickle for my Christmas Tree" and a cover of Tom Lehrer's "I'm Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica"). Featuring the season's hardest-rocking tune, the trio's cover of "Frosty the Snowman," it's an interfaith collection worth exploring regardless of whether you light menorah or advent candles. ExpressYourElf.jpgRobert Burke Warren, AKA Uncle Rock, spent time in London's West End performing a Broadway show but also rocked in far earthier terms. On Express Your Elf, Warren taps into both of those performing personalities. On the one hand, he offers a crooning take on "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and a peaceful "My Favorite Things" (a perfect holiday song, when you think about it). Those tracks share space with the rootsy original long-lost nugget "Santa's Coming in a Whirlybird" and a cover of "Feliz Navidad" that neatly weaves "La Bamba" into the mix. It's a tough (and close) call, but it's my favorite kids music holiday disk of the year. There are others for your listening pleasure. Read on for more...