Review in Brief: Somersault Season - Laura Freeman

SomersaultSeason.jpgLaura Freeman's Somersault Season arrives a couple years after its demos were completed and a full four years after its excellent predecessor, Color Wheel Cartwheel (review), an album which I still play around the house, no small feat given the constant influx of material. Like Cartwheel, Season is a concept album, except instead of colors, it's about the passing of the seasons. (TMBG can now cross Here Comes Seasons off their future sequels list.) Each season gets its own foreign-language introduction (a la the colors on Cartwheel) and three season-appropriate songs. As opposed to its predecessor, the songs here are more interactive, meaning that your kids (and you) will enjoy it more if you move. Stomp along with "My Brother's a Monster," shake along to "Can You Shake It?," or dance along with the western swing of "1, 2, 3, 4." Generally, the music takes a folk/bluegrass approach, aided especially by producer Mike West's mandolin and banjo work. Freeman's sly sense of humor is more prevalent live, but occasionally breaks through here on songs like the droll "Look in a Book." The songs here are targeted very much at the kindergarten-and-under crowd (ages 2-5). You can hear samples at the album's CD Baby page. I'd also recommend Freeman's notes on the lyrics and activities. Clearly my appreciation of Somersault Season is hampered somewhat by my affinity for Color Wheel Cartwheel, and while I'd recommend Cartwheel for an introduction to Laura Freeman over this new album (particularly as a pure listening experience), I like Somersault Season quite a bit, too. It's an especially good music-and-movement CD, heads and shoulders above most in that particular subgenre. Recommended.

Video: "My Brother's A Monster" - Laura Freeman

I've waited quite a bit for the release of Somersault Season, the latest album from Laura Freeman, the indie Laurie Berkner. (I know, I know, Laurie's technically indie, but you get my point.) The album's predecessor, Color Wheel Cartwheel, is just fantabulous but it's been a few years since its release. Well, Somersault Season is finally getting a release in just a couple weeks - July 11. And there's a video for "My Brother's A Monster." It's a little more low-tech than Berkner's videos are these days, but Berkner's got nothing on those hand-drawn monsters. Laura Freeman - "My Brother's A Monster"

Review: Color Wheel Cartwheel - Laura Freeman

ColorWheelCartwheel.jpgI've been waiting a long time to review this album, longer than I should. I'd been waiting for Austin, Texas artist Laura Freeman to release the follow-up to her 2005 album Color Wheel Cartwheel, thinking I'd include that album in a review of the new album. Well, forget the new album (which will come out someday, just not today), because Color Wheel Cartwheel is pretty special; to wait any longer would just be wrong. The album is, as you'd expect from its title, a concept album, dealing with colors. Down through the rainbow the songs move, from "Red" to "Orange," on through "Yellow," "Green," "Blue," and "Indigo and Violet." ("Purple" is thrown in there for good measure.) It'd be pretty easy to make color songs just by listing things that are of that particular color, but the what makes this album so much better are the differing stylistic approaches for each song. "Red" is loud and brassy, "Orange" is sassy ("You take a little yellow / you take a little red / Mix 'em up together and voila! / Orange, oh orange / Orange makes me wanna cha-cha-cha"). "Yellow" is a mellow, bluesy little tune, while "Green" is set to classic country music. Certainly listing different items of particular colors help drive home the point for each song, but Freeman is also using the colors for jumping off into other stories (a philosophical discussion on blue jeans in "Indigo and Violet," for example). The differing approaches, the use of color to, well, color the songs, they give all the songs life. Interspersed between the songs are friends and musicians reciting the colors of the rainbow in various languages. I don't think there's any thought that kids will actually learn colors in a foreign language, they just subtly drive home the point about colors being all around us in the world. Freeman went to New Orleans to record the album, and she's pulled in contributions from a whole bunch of musicians. Kids ages 2 through 7 will most derive educational value from the songs. You can hear samples of the songs at the under-30-minute album's CDBaby page. I mentioned to Laura Freeman recently that Color Wheel Carthweel was a fun little album and she replied, "Well, we had a lot of fun making it." That fun is evident on this excellent little disk. I hesitate to call it an "educational" album, because every album is educational, but also because it unfairly narrows down the prospective audience. This is one of the rare "educational" CDs your family will listen to long after they've mastered the concepts inside. Definitely recommended.

Family Music Meltdown 2 Preview

I've written a lot about the Austin Kiddie Limits stage at this weekend's Austin City Limits Festival, but I'd be derelict if I didn't mention Family Music Meltdown 2, the show Bill and I are throwing early Saturday night at Ruta Maya Coffeehouse. Five great Austin bands for just five bucks. That's a great band per buck (or for free if you're an infant). Regardless of how you spell it, it will rock. The set order will be as follows: Super Pal Universe (acoustic) Mr. Leebot Telephone Company Laura Freeman Joe McDermott and the Smart Little Creatures There's no better excuse to keep your kiddos up late than to have 'em dancing 'til 9 PM. Heck, even if you can only stay for an hour or so, it's a heckuva deal. For more details on these fine Austin artists, read on...

Family Music Meltdown 2: Return of the Poster

FMM2.jpgEverybody loves cupcakes, blowing out the birthday candle, and most of all, great music. Jay from Lunch Money outdoes himself (last year's poster) with this, the poster for this year's Family Music Meltdown. (Though the type is sorta hard to read in this JPG version, it looks awesome in its 18 MB glory.) Saturday, Sept. 27th -- doors at 5, show at 6, and tickets just $5 (infants free). With Super Pal Universe, Joe McDermott and the Smart Little Creatures, Laura Freeman, Telephone Company, and Family Music Meltdown name-creator Mr. Leebot. (And who knows who else might show up?) Woo. Hoo.

Our Little Evening of Music Now Has a Name

Remember I told you that Bill and I would be hosting a really cool kids' and family music show on Saturday, Sept. 15th in Austin? Really, with the Deedle Deedle Dees, Joe McDermott, the Telephone Company, and Laura Freeman? How could you forget? Anyway, we have a name for the evening of music, seeing as how "Austin Kiddie Limits" and "Kidzapalooza" were already taken: the Family Music Meltdown. The title comes courtesy of Austin-area musician Mr. Leebot. (Thanks!) And if you're gonna be in Austin that weekend, you need to join us. Well, not "need" as in you "need" air to breathe, but, y'know, it'll be lots of fun.