Review: Yellow Bus - Justin Roberts

What is it with Chicago and the abundance of good music for children out of that city? OK, it's probably the incredibly dense and relatively affluent population in the Loop that makes it possible to create a niche (and living) for yourself by performing kids' music.

See, for example, Justin Roberts. Roberts, like Ralph's World's Ralph Covert, tried for a few years to make music for adults, except Roberts did so in Minneapolis. Somewhere along the line, however, Roberts moved to Chicago and eventually turned his attention to making children's music. Kids and their parents are the luckier for it.

His third album, Yellow Bus, has a lot of rollicking tunes and some sweet slower songs (at the end of the CD -- I think this must be required by some sort of international children's music CD protocol). If you find Ralph's World just a little too saccharine for your tastes, Roberts is less so. Roberts' voice reminds me a lot of James Taylor's, but his songs are definitely more upbeat and uptempo than "Sweet Baby James." There are enough gently humorous twists in the lyrics to amuse adults. Some songs, like "One Little Cookie" (my favorite song on the CD) almost seem like they written to amuse the parents, not the kids. Roberts' songs have definite narratives and as a result violate my two-minute maximum rule. But I can definitely see how older kids (4 to 9) would enjoy listening to the songs. You can get the CD at Hear Diagonally (Roberts' label), or the usual suspects (Amazon and CDBaby).