Review: The Family Hootenanny - Various Artists


Detroit is not afraid of you and will beat your... OK, this is a family website, but it's true. The Detroit Tigers are back in the World Series and if The Family Hootenanny is any indication, they can turn out kid-rock with the best of 'em. (Well, they can turn out Kid Rock, too, but that's for another set of music blogs altogether.)

Released earlier this year, the album is inspired by years of occasional Family Hootenanny concerts in which Detroit rockers let their hair down (or, as the promo materials put it, "pulled it from their faces") for family-oriented shows. While the word "hootenanny" implies a folk-centric approach, the CD collects artists from across the musical spectrum, from the punk of all-mom bands The Mydols ("Run Crazy Baby") and CandyBand (the previously released but totally awesome "Get Up Already") to the faithful cover of Schoolhouse Rock's "Interjections" by the Katzenjammer Kids.

I wouldn't have expected it, but the crazy melding of styles works, mostly because the songs are each great in their own way. The Go! (Jack White's old band) puts together the closest thing to a lead single with "Knock Knock Banana," which sounds like an incredibly skewed Saturday morning theme song from 1975. That song is followed by "Stuck in the Playpen (Again)" by Old Man Miller (Dan John Miller of Blanche), a country-blues with the lines "I wonder if my momma even loves me / In the pen you don't get nothin' to eat / Just some plastic blocks / Some dirty old socks / A bunch of books that I'm too young to read." (As Homer Simpson would say, it's funny 'cause it's true.) The two songs have no business being on the same disk except they're both fabulous songs.

And so on through punk, country, pop, Americana. For the most part, the songs are originals, but even the traditional songs are given vigorous new readings. Loretta Lucas (and the Larkspurs) turn in some great harmonies on "Down By the Bay" while the Saltminers' uptempo (and whoo-whoo-enhanced) "Freight Train" is energetic and, well, fun.

Kids between the ages of 3 and 9 will most appreciate the album. (Heck, Chloe Crawford -- age 5 -- sings on "A Peacock Day" with her two younger sisters.) You can hear 4 full tracks at the compilation's Myspace page or samples of every track at CDBaby.

Most of the tracks here will engage the kids (and on a few tracks, if not the kids, their parents). If you particularly liked the Bloodshot classic The Bottle Let Me Down, you will certainly like this. But I think the album's appeal is broad and will reach many families. The Family Hootenanny is the kids and family music compilation of the year. Highly recommended.