Story Pirates Set for World Domination!

Story Pirates logo from Gimlet

Story Pirates logo from Gimlet

Let's get it out of the way: I think the Story Pirates are great.  Just as we all have our kids' music artists we listen to without the kids around -- don't front, you know you do it -- there are some podcasts whose primary audience is kids but adults can (and do) listen to it unreservedly, regardless of whether their kids are in earshot.

The Story Pirates podcast, for me, is definitely in that camp.  The concept of the podcast is fairly simple -- kids write stories and send them into the group.  The group creates a play/musical out of the story, filled with a lot enthusiasm, no small amount of heart, and a good week's worth of humor.  I reviewed the show about 18 months ago, and my appreciation of the weekly podcast has only grown since then.

And I'm not the only one whose appreciation of the Story Pirates has grown, because Season 2 of the podcast started yesterday, and it's being presented by Gimlet Media, the podcasting powerhouse home to a variety of shows for adults including one of my faves, Reply All, another one of my faves, Heavyweight, along with The Nod, the late great Mystery Show (pours one out), and many more.  The fact that Story Pirates, the show, which got its recorded audio start on Sirius-XM's Kids Place Live, is now the first kids show on a major podcasting network, says a lot about both the Story Pirates and Gimlet.  (Though, yo, Gimlet, get the Story Pirates up on your Shows drop-down menu!)

Anyway, I encourage you to subscribe to Story Pirates on your favorite podcatcher and head over to their podcast page, where you can also sign up to receive cool stuff (like coloring pages tied to the episodes).

The Story Pirates in studio

The Story Pirates in studio

A Loog Guitar For Every Hand

We've been fans of Loog Guitars here at Zooglobble HQ from the beginning.  I interviewed Rafael Atijas, the founder of the company, in 2011 as he was in the midst of his first (eventually successful) Kickstarter to manufacture his very first set of acoustic 3-string guitars.  I dug that first guitar, and so in 2013 when Atijas had his second Kickstarter to manufacture his first set of electric (again, 3-string) guitars, I interviewed him once more.  That project succeeded, too -- raising $70,000, just a bit more than his first go-round.

And really, if you can do an acoustic and an electric guitar well, why bother creating something new?  Which is why you shouldn't listen to me for business advice, because something happened with his third Kickstarter.  As successful as his first two were, that didn't come close to this one, as he raised almost $360,000 to manufacture 3 new guitars: the Loog Pro Acoustic and Loog Pro Electric, along with a new Loog Mini.

While the Loog Pro models looked nice, I basically already had those two guitars, albeit earlier versions of them.  (Also, I'm not really a guitar player, so the Loog Pro would be wasted on me.)   But the Loog Mini -- a 3-string guitar the basic size of a soprano ukulele -- that was definitely the most intriguing one to me.  So I plunked down my $59 (they're $79 post-Kickstarter) and earlier this year it arrived at the home.

Video: "New Accordions" - Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could (World Premiere!)

While I can't agree with Disneyland and Target, who start decorating for Christmas, Hanukkah, and the rest of the December holidays while Halloween is barely in the rear view mirror (if at all), I'm willing to occasionally make an exception here to my "no celebrating Christmas 'til after Thanksgiving" rule if the song or video is fun enough.

Consider this an exception.  It's the world-premiere of a brand new song from Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could.  The song's called "New Accordions," and it's from Revvin' Up the Reindeer, Rymer's first holiday album, and in particular the song features a whole bunch of accordion work from not one but two of the Little Band That Could, Claudia Mussen and Seth Farber.  

The video is every bit as energetic as the song, bright colors, fast movement, and the briefest of holiday medleys.  (Side note: accordions are guaranteed party generators.  I still remember an Oktoberfest party many years ago where a coworker brought her accordion and played, much to the delight of the youngsters and oldsters in attendance.)  It's a holiday song that won't make you tired of holiday songs, and I'm happy to be world-premiering it.

AAAAANNNDDDD make sure to scroll past the video itself for some comments about life with an accordion from Claudia Mussen herself!

Halloween 2017 Music for Kids

Prepping to trick or treat tonight?  Gathering up the candy to hand out and trying not to dig in early?  Kids and parents having last-minute costume emergencies?  Here are a handful of (like, literally, five) new Halloween tunes from kindie artists to spin in the background, plus a couple videos to air before or after screening It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!  (If you need more, like, waaaaay more, be sure to check out my long list of kids songs for Halloween from 2016 -- no Spotify link, but plenty of suggestions.)

Halloween 2017 Kids Music Playlist [Spotify link, URL]

"Ghost in My House" - Jumpin' Jamie

"Scary Scary Halloween Party" - Rabbit!

"Snowstorm on Halloween" - Turkey Andersen

"Zombie Parade" - Smilin' Rylan

"My Mommy Is a Mummy" - Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats

I included this Turkey Andersen tune on the list even though it's about a year old because there's a Brand New Video!

Turkey Andersen - Snowstorm on Halloween [YouTube]

For the power-pop-loving Halloween fan (or ghoul) in your house, I'd recommend this new track from Jumpin' Jamie.

Jumpin' Jamie - "Ghost In My House" [YouTube]

Josh Lovelace Sings a Song For His Kids, With Sharon & Bram

Josh Lovelace

Josh Lovelace

Doing something meaningful for your kids, that makes you feel good.

Doing something with longtime heroes of yours, that makes you feel good.

Josh Lovelace got to do both at the same time.

As a member of the band Needtobreathe, the Tennessee-based Lovelace is no stranger to the big rockstar life, but even big rock stars sometimes just want to hang with their kids.  With his new album Young Folk, out next month, he sings songs of, well, singing songs.  And family, and silliness, and love.  It's a heartfelt, organic, celebration of those things -- think Dan Zanes if he'd tried to make a more directly preschool-focused album, or the Okee Dokee Brothers if they'd ever stop touring the entire United States and just spend a few weeks in the living room.

Lovelace also recruited a bunch of friends to sing along on some of the tracks, including Canadian kids' superstars Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison -- aka two-thirds of Sharon Lois & Bram.  Lovelace grew up listening to the trio, met them several years ago, and now Sharon and Bram sing on one of the album's most heartfelt tracks, "Sing a Song For Me."  It's a very come-full-circle moment for Lovelace, and I'm glad to be able to premiere the track today.

But that's not all.  I caught up with Lovelace in Wyoming while he was in the midst of a tour with Needtobreathe, and talked to him about memories, making music with Sharon and Bram, and what it's like to make music with your heroes.  So give "Sing a Song For Me" a spin, then read on!

Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?

Josh Lovelace: I grew up in a musical family... my mom played the piano, my dad the trumpet.  My mom's parents were singers, and my dad's father was a songwriter... They would teach folk songs -- Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie.  I was drawn to storytelling songs -- I was inspired by someone who could stand at the front of the stage and lead people in song.  It got to the point that I wanted to be up there.  [I remember] my mom would set me on top of copy paper boxes to perform for office coworkers.

Young Folk album cover

Young Folk album cover

How did your collaboration with Sharon and Bram come about?

I grew up listening to their Elephant Show Record, their show was on in Canada, then aired on Nick a few years after... The love and joy in their face was mesmerizing.  I continued collecting their albums [as I got older].

[In 2011] Needtobreathe was touring with Taylor Swift and played in Toronto for the first time.  I wanted to reach out to them and invite them or their grandkids to the Taylor Swift concert.  Sharon couldn't make it, but we met for coffee the next morning, and we talked for 3 hours.  My son is named Henry Bram, so they're important to me.

When I started working on this project, it was kind of accidental.  I knew what I liked, and I'd think [about a song], "Would this work on a Sharon, Lois & Bram record? A Raffi record?"  This song "Sing a Song For Me" has a line that references Woody and Pete, and I thought "That's so Bram."

They are legends in their market, but they're also very kind people.  They're very aware of how they're perceived by kids, or by parents.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity, and we're planning on doing some events together for the album release.

What's it like to do things with your heroes?  Not just random things, but the very thing that those heroes did and inspired you to do those same types of things.

It's insane.  I've been doing this for so long, and when you meet a legendary person, [it's nice to be able to] talk to them as a peer, find a common thread.

With this album, I got to do things with friends, who said, we can do something for you.

A song can change someone's life... and I want to live moments that are going to outlive me.

What do you hope families get out of the album?

The album started as a conversation with my kids, and introduces genres.

This music can be enjoyed together -- these days, people have iPhone or iPod personal playlist.  But it's a human experience, being together, and as a parent, [I know] that parents all want something they can do together.

Sharon would say that the biggest compliment they'd get [for their music] is when somebody would put on [their music] when dropping the kids off at school, then leave it on afterwards.

We're doing an album release show in Knoxville, and I plan to do some shows, not a lot.  I want to sing, hear the crowd singing back.

Josh Lovelace in field with guitar

Josh Lovelace in field with guitar

Photos by Mary Caroline Russell

Top Kids and Family Podcasts (October 2017)

It's been couple months since the last time I looked at ranking podcasts for kids, and things continue to look positive for the world of kids' podcasting.  (For those of you interested, here is August's list of top-ranked kids and family podcasts.)

If you're looking for a podcast for kids, you could -- and should! -- of course look at my list of podcasts for kids (now above 120!), but if that's a bit overwhelming, try the podcasts listed below.   Popularity isn't always synonymous with quality, but you could do much worse than dipping into the shows ranked below to start out.

At 18 ranked shows, October is just shy of June's all-time high of 19 ranked shows.  (That means 18 shows that appeared in the top 100 of both the iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts when I checked it.)  The total number of podcasts listed below is 38, however, up 2 from August and another new record.  While only one podcast hit the overall iTunes Top 200 (down from 4 in July and August), and the Top 200 Kids & Family chart featured 40 shows, down from August's 45-show record, the Stitcher total of 27 was up 6 from August and matched its record.

There's lots of general excitement, too -- the arrival of Pinna, Panoply's "walled-garden" podcast app (and which has its own podcast which lets non-subscribers get a taste of the exclusive content), and of course the official Kids Listen app, featuring shows from Kids Listen members.  There are also a couple of brand new shows below -- Circle Round and Mick Munter Monster Hunter.