All This, and Some Authors, Too

I don't typically mention single concerts around the country (unless, you know, I'm helping to put on the show), but occasionally a lineup stands out. Like next weekend's Target Children's Book Festival in Bloomington, Minnesota. On Saturday, Sept. 13th, at Hyland Lake Park Reserve, the Festival's hosting a great lineup of kids musicians to enjoy for free. And, yeah, I guess since it's a book festival, there might be a few authors hanging around. Books, music, it's all good. Set times for musicians (there are authors scattered in between there) are... 10:00 The Jimmies 11:25 Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players 1:10 Nick Jr.'s The Wonder Pets! 12:35 Lisa Loeb 1:55 The Jimmies 3:05 They Might Be Giants 4:25 Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players

Review: Camp Lisa - Lisa Loeb

CampLisa.jpgIt's not like we weren't prepared for the possibility of a Lisa Loeb kids' music album -- after all, she (relatively) famously joined with her old Brown University singing partner Elizabeth Mitchell to produce Catch the Moon in 2004. But it certainly took Loeb a while to get around to a kids' album of her own, and it's not quite what we might have expected. Loeb released her new album, Camp Lisa, last week, and it's a considerably different album from Catch the Moon. Whereas that album was definitely targeted to the preschool set (it was packaged with a small picture book, after all), Loeb's album is a concept album that celebrates summer camps. I mean this in the best possible way -- Camp Lisa is an winningly dorky album. By that I mean it expertly blends earnest and original "camp life" songs with earnestly sung renditions of traditional songs and chants. I mean, the album leads off with the cheeky "Ready For The Summer," the theme from the movie Meatballs. While perhaps there's a small wink and nudge in Loeb's and Letters to Cleo's Kay Hanley's vocals, the group of kids singing along do so with gusto and without any irony. It's summer camp -- the more you through yourself into it, the more fun you'll have. The original tunes here, including "Best Friend," "When It Rains," and "It's Not Goodbye" (which features a nifty segue into the camp chestnut "Make New Friends"), have an appealingly laid-back, '70s AM-radio vibe whose sounds will appeal to the parents of kids going off to summer camp and whose lyrics, should the kids settle down long enough to pay attention, might actually frame their camp experience. (The whole album is well-sequenced, working from heading off to camp to leaving it.) The traditionals -- "Woodchuck," "Peanut Butter & Jelly," and "Father Abraham" -- wouldn't be strong enough to merit a whole album on their own, but integrated into the other songs, they provide a nice contrast. Loeb pulls in a whole bunch of help here, from Jill Sobule (on the dreamy "Cookie Jar Song") to Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon on the ukulele-accompanied "Linger." Kudos, too, to Loeb for a) getting Steve Martin to appear on her album, and b) asking him just to play banjo (which he does well on "The Disappointing Pancake"). Given that these are songs about going to camp, I'll put the age range here at ages 7 and up, though certainly a lot of the traditional tunes will appeal to the younger set, too. For the moment, the 39-minute album is only available at Barnes & Noble -- you can hear samples and buy the album here. (I should also note that in conjunction with the album's release, Loeb has also launched the Camp Lisa Foundation, a non-profit that will raise funds to help send underprivileged kids to summer camp.) Camp Lisa does a very good job of evoking -- both prosaically as well as emotionally -- the summer camp experience, and I think that any family who's gone through that (or is going to go through that) will find this a very worthy album. But even if you're doing the summer camp thing, there are enough good songs here that you'll probably linger a little while with it. Recommended.

The National Mall Has The World's Largest Kiddie Pool...

... so why wouldn't you host a kids' music concert there? OK, that probably wasn't the thinking of XMKids when they set up a concert for Saturday, May 24, but, hey, why not? The XMKids' Traveling Roadshow will broadcast from 11 Children's Miracle Network hospitals across the country starting May 12 as part of an effort to raise $10 million for the non-profit group. And at the end of the trip they'll host a live, free show from noon to 4 PM at the Sylvan Theatre on the National Mall. Musicians playing at the show include Lisa Loeb, Meredith Brooks, and the ubiquitous Jimmies, who are well on their way to becoming the Jack Johnson of this year's summer concert circuit, appearing seemingly everywhere. Nice lineup for a good cause.

Songs For Groundhog Day

A last-minute collection of songs for Groundhog Day, a short-but-sweet list: "I Hog the Ground (Groundhog Song)" - Steve Burns / Steven Drozd: view the YouTube video for this awesome song here "Oh Groundhog" - Elizabeth Mitchell / Lisa Loeb: Off their Catch the Moon album, this is a pleasant and mellow little ditty "How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?" - Danny Adlerman and Friends: It's not really a groundhog song, but this is a fun little ditty off their One Size Fits All disk that at least mentions groundhogs...

Spring Songs

Today was the first full day of spring. In most places, it's time for the onset of spring fever, but in the Arizona desert, it's a warning that the good times will soon come to an end. Temperate weather will soon be a distant memory. Our front flower bed can only go downhill from here. I tried to find some songs about spring in my collection, but pretty much came up empty. Winter has no shortage of songs, as snow and the [pick-your-religion-winter-celebration] lend themselves to songwriting. The other three seasons have fewer songs (I can only think of Laurie Berkner's "What Falls in the Fall?" from Whaddaya Think Of That? as a specifically autumn-related song), but spring I think is particularly deficient. What happens in the spring? Not much visibly, compared to autumn (falling leaves) or summer (general goofing off). Here, then, is a list of spring-ish songs. Flowers and bugs and a little rain. Rain isn't necessarily for spring alone, but we've gone without much rain this winter and spring and so it's a bit of wishful thinking. Raffi, "Robin in the Rain" (Singable Songs for the Very Young) Elizabeth Mitchell, "You Are My Flower" (You Are My Flower) Laurie Berkner, "In the Clouds" (Buzz Buzz) Elizabeth Mitchell, "Ladybug Picnic" (You Are My Sunshine) Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell, "Butterfly" (Catch the Moon) Ralph Covert, "The Ants Go Marching" (from Songs For Wiggleworms) Dan Zanes and Dar Williams, "Wild Mountain Thyme" (Night Time!) Dan Zanes, "On the Sunnyside of the Street" (Rocket Ship Beach) I suppose there's always XTC's "Grass" or the Talking Heads' "(Nothing But) Flowers," but those aren't really for kids for assorted reasons, now are they?

Review: Catch the Moon - Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell

An increasingly popular approach to recording kids' CDs is packaging the CD with a book. In some cases, like Philadelphia Chickens and Rhinoceros Tap from Sandra Boynton or Bed, Bed, Bed by They Might Be Giants, the hardcover book is pretty big, and doesn't necessarily lend itself to play with a preschooler. But the ubiquitous "board book" format is beginning to become popular with recording artists. Now, the first question with any of these book/CD combos is… "Where in the world do you file these things?" With the oversized hardcovers, it seems they get exiled to places far from the stereo or car CD player and just don't get much airplay. The board book versions (this CD, the Dan Zanes CDs) solve that problem by having books that are barely larger than the CD itself. Of course, filing them with the rest of the CDs means that they rarely get read. Oh, the waste! Maybe I'm just too hard to please. Well, not really. And this CD does have an advantage in that it is quite pleasing. Mitchell is known, of course, for her 2 children's CDs, You Are My Flower and You Are My Sunshine. Loeb is new to the children's music game, known best for, well, winsome pop. Together, they've made an album that isn't much different from Mitchell's two solo CDs, except that maybe it's a little more polished (but still somewhat winsome). It's also a little more international, as the album includes renditions of traditional Spanish, Japanese, and French songs. (They're pleasant enough, but don't have huge appeal to me.) That seems to be the Loeb influence; fans of Mitchell's out-of-left-field (though usually excellent) cover song selections for her kids' CDs will be pleased by the inclusion of Dylan's "New Morning." The best track on the album by far is the title track, an original by Mitchell, Loeb, and Mitchell's writing partners. "Catch the Moon" isn't just a great kids' song, it's a great song, period. It's a gentle pop song that would be a minor Billboard hit in a more eclectic radio world. The album is probably best for kids aged 2 years (or even younger) through maybe 5 years. The accompanying book is a nice addition. I would recommend the album to fans of Mitchell's other work, as well as to parents looking for a mellow, poppy, multi-cultural kids' CD.