Review Two-Fer: Charlie Hope / Laura Doherty

LetsGoPlay.jpgLaurie Berkner is without a doubt the brightest female star in kids music (and quite possibly the biggest star, period), so I've been surprised that there haven't been more artists who've attempted to follow in her footsteps. There are obviously lots of successful female artists, for the most part, however, artists like Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England, Molly Ledford, and Ashley Albert have taken different paths than Berkner's taken, that of melding bright pop takes on traditonal kids' music with catchy new melodies. But if your family enjoys Berkner and would like to know if there's more where that came from, the answer is, yes, indeed, as Charlie Hope and Laura Doherty are two of the best artists making music for the preschoolers in your life. Songs, Stories and Friends: Let's Go Play!, Hope's third album for families, mixes traditional tunes ("Wheels on the Bus," "Ants Go Marching," "Robin in the Rain") with some of the shiniest pop tunes you'll hear this year. "Best Friends" and "One That I Love" are sparkly and joyful, with Hope's bright, clear voice carrying the tune. Caspar Babypants repays the favor of Hope dueting on his recent album by helping out with "Alouette," while Hope's mom tells the story of "The Bear Family." Perhaps the best track might be the kicky "What I Like To Do," which uses kids' voices to great effect as individual kids sing about what they like to do, punctuated at the end with Hope singing "What I like to do / is sing songs for kids." There's little to dislike about the album, though it sounds to me like Hope's voice gets auto-tuned a bit, not like Cher in "Believe," but just slightly more than I like to hear (and Hope probably needs). Aside from that personal bugaboo, I like the album a lot. It's 45 minutes long, targeted at kids ages 2 through 5. ShiningLikeAStar.jpgOn her second album Shining Like a Star, Laura Doherty plumbs a slightly less traditional, slightly less pop-py line than Hope, with such as with the wurlitzer-like keyboard on "Rocket Ship," the country/western-dusted "Quiet as a Mouse," or the circus organ on "Ferris Wheel." Like Hope, Doherty's blessed with a clear voice that elevates the material -- her samba take on the Joe Raposo classic "Sing" is excellent. Targeted at kids ages 2 through 6, the songs on 33-minute album are very preschool-subject-focused ("Hula Hoop" is about, you guessed it, hula hooping), which may eventually limit the number of times you can handle hearing Shining Like a Star with your kids, but it'll take you longer than with most albums to reach that point. That even happens with Laurie Berkner albums eventually. Even though they remind me (in a good way) somewhat of Laurie Berkner, Charlie Hope and Laura Doherty are charting their own course in the kids music world. Even if they never reach the heights of popular success Berkner has, on their latest albums, both artists show off their talents in a way suggesting they, too, may be around for years to come. Recommended.

The Ketchup Report, Vol. 8

Time once again for all the news that didn't fit into a separate post due to time, interest, contractual, or legal obligations -- it's your favorite pun-titled file folder of a blog post, the Ketchup Report! Yaaay! (Cue Kermit the Frog wild arm-flailing here...) WorldOfHappiness.jpgThe World of Happiness single, the "We Are the World" of the kids' biz, "A World of Happiness," is here. Except your kids might actually want to listen to this new song when they become parents themselves. Sales of the single, produced by Tor Hyams and Joanie Leeds, benefit Autism Speaks. The single includes a whole host of folks besides Leeds and Hyams -- Molly Ledford (who gets the honor of leading off the track), Frances England, Ralph Covert... it just goes on and on. A bunch of the participants will be recording a concert later this month for broadcast on Sirius/XM Radio later on. Anyway, it's $1.29 well-spent right here. I could probably start a whole separate post listing all the recent crowdfunding projects in the kids music world. Heck, it's almost getting to the point where I could start a blog listing all the recent crowdfunding projects in the kids music world. I've been partial to Kickstarter, of course. The two most recent projects have been a Professor Banjo and his successful second-album project and Ryan SanAngelo and his not-one-but-two-Kickstarter-projects. But other sites do the same basic thing. Van Oodles didn't quite succeed in making a video for a song of his, but LA indie-rockers Ellen and Matt and Chicago's Laura Doherty are both looking for funds for their next disks. Should you feel so inclined, help out Ellen and Matt here and Laura for her new album Shining Like a Star in the widget there to the side. -- For a limited time, Doctor Noize's "Bananas" iWhatever app is free. Download the ever-so-slightly-educational app here. (Note: may no longer be free.) -- Finally, with Earth Day coming up, a it's time for Earth Day-related tunes. Dan Zanes has a new, original tune, "Hail the Creatures" written by Zanes for a new exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo. You don't need to be near Philly to enjoy the track, just near an iTunes-enabled gadget that can download this, with proceeds benefiting the Zoo. (More details on the tune and the Zoo's new exhibit here.)... Bill Harley is offering a free download of "Keep It Green" from his 1996 album Big Big World -- you can get it here... And finally, DARIA is offering a mini-CD of 6 "earth friendly" songs, free just for the price of an e-mail address (and an earth-friendly suggestion).

Video: "Hello Hippopotamus" - Laura Doherty

I know that Gwyneth just posted this too, but just because she's more efficient with her to do list doesn't mean I should be prevented from posting on this video from yesterday myself... This is a simple but effective song from Laura Doherty's Kids in the City disk. The animations in her new video for the song aren't the most polished (albeit better than what I could do), but convey the lyrics with humor. Challenge: come up with matching lyrics for the following animals or bugs: three-toed sloth, cougar, praying mantis. Laura Doherty - "Hello Hippopotamus" [YouTube]