Itty-Bitty Review: Acoustic Dreamland (Putumayo) - Various Artists

AcousticDreamland.jpgThe sight of Nicola Heindl's illustration immediately brands it as a Putumayo disk. But take off the animated cover of Acoustic Dreamland, the latest collection from Putumayo Kids, replace it with some tastefully sepia-tinged photograph of, I don't know, a moon rising over a barn, and you could totally sell this collection at Pottery Barn, perhaps. Which is to say that this isn't so much a kids music album as it is just a kid-friendly album. But oh what a nicely curated album it is. I never would have pegged Wilco as a source for lullabies, but Mark Erelli's version of "My Darling" outshines the original, methinks. Ditto for Elizabeth Mitchell's cover of the Allman Brothers' "Blue Sky." Kids musicians aren't totally shut out here -- Frances England records a new song, "Here With Me," for the collection, and Kesang Marstrand lends a song from her excellent lullaby collection as well. As with many Putumayo disks, however, the value in the collection isn't so much the individual songs as much as it is the fact that someone has spent the time finding the tracks and saving the listener the effort. The album is appropriate for all ages, though the lullaby nature of means that you're more likely to spin it with kids ages 5 and less. You can sample some of the tracks here. I can totally see Acoustic Dreamland being used at nap time or quiet time or during a nighttime feeding. And, buried on a hard drive and stripped of its album art, long past your kids nap, eat at night, or are ever quiet, listened by you and you alone. Recommended.

Video: "Carry On Crickets" - Kesang Marstrand

They should put this on every portable kid-friendly media player with a button that says, "Three Minute Timeout." The overexuberant kid watches this video from Kesang Marstrand's lullaby album Hello Night disk (review), and three minutes later, presto, totally centered! (OK, perhaps actually being out in nature would be better, but can't do that all the time, right?) Kesang Marstrand - "Carry On Crickets" [YouTube] And if you liked that, here's a bonus fan video...

Itty-Bitty Review: Hello Night - Kesang Marstrand

HelloNight.jpgUnlike any other lullaby album you'll hear this year, Hello Night is the creation of New York-based singer-songwriter Kesang Marstrand. It's buoyed by Marstrand's simple songs, spare accompaniment, and her delicate, beautiful voice. Especially her voice, which is clear and just about perfect for an album like this. Many of the songs -- all original -- on the album take inspiration from the natural world, from the opening tracks "Dandelion" and "Carry On Crickets" to songs like "Cocooned In My Blanket," in which the snuggled child thinks of becoming a butterfly. (I also particularly liked the placement of "All the Little Children," about all the adventures the not-yet-sleeping child could have with the singer, at the end of the album.) If you listen to the 37-minute album repeatedly in the light of day (an occupational hazard of reviewing music), you may tire of the relatively narrow range of song styling and guitar accompaniment. (One of the most welcome tracks is "Rest," which unlike the other songs, features Marstrand accompanying herself on kalimba instead of guitar.) But that's not a huge concern with lullaby albums, designed as they are to be listened to in the background (or subconsciously after falling asleep), for which radical changes in style are not to be wished for. The album is obviously most appropriate for kids age 0 through 4 and their weary caregivers. You can listen to samples here and here. Families who have found a spot in their record collection for the mellow music of Frances England and Renee & Jeremy should give Hello Night a spin. It's an album you could spend many nights with. Recommended.

Video: "Among the Green Leaves" - Kesang Marstrand

I'll have more to say about Kesang Marstrand's lullaby album Hello Night shortly, but for now I'll leave you with this video for the album's "Among the Green Leaves." After you watch for twenty seconds or so, you ask yourself, "Is anything going to happen here?" SPOILER ALERT! (The answer is no.) But it's a calming lullaby song -- who's to say that anything should happen? Kesang Marstrand - "Among the Green Leaves" [YouTube]