Review: Astrograss For Kids - Astrograss

AstrograssForKids.jpgThis is not your father's bluegrass.

I mean, I don't know whether or not your father listened to bluegrass -- mine didn't -- but I know for sure that this wasn't it.

On its Astrograss For Kids EP (2006), the New York-based band Astrograss takes bluegrass as a jumping-off point for jazz-like improvisation. (It's safe to say that were they to record "Wabash Cannonball" it wouldn't sound like many versions committed to record.) Add to that the fact that they've decided to set their tunes to the lyrics of Shel Silverstein, and the EP is one of the more unusual kids' CDs released this year.

I think the adventurous nature of the songs fits Silverstein's slightly skewed sensibilities, with poems about "Hungry Mungry," who's so hungry he ends up eating the entire universe, or "The Dirtiest Man in the World," about, well, you can figure it out. Probably the easiest song for kids to grasp is "Hurk," with a motley (in the best way) kids' chorus shouting lines such as "I'd rather play tennis than go to the dentist" -- it's a simple melody, with not-so-complex improvisation. I actually thought "Hungry Mungry" might be too long or too complex, but I can see the band live possibly keeping kids' attention throughout the entire story song. "The Generals" is gorgeously arranged, though perhaps a bit too slow to keep the kiddos' attention. (Again, live, it might be a different story.)

I think Silverstein's poetry is targeted mostly at kids ages 5 and up, so that's what I'll peg the age range of the music. You can listen to "Hungry Mungry," which I should note might actually be my least favorite track, as well as their sprightly version of "Jump Up!" with Dan Zanes here.

Astrograss For Kids is probably not the first album you'd think of to start a kids' music collection -- it's not quite as accessible, perhaps, as other albums. But if you're looking for something different for your family's collection, for acoustic music with a definite modern sensibility, this album may be up your alley.