Colorado-based musician Steve Weeks takes a decidedly different approach on his third kids' album, Rabbit Run, as he retells the classic 1960 novel by John Updike... for kids!
Released earlier this month, Alphabet Songs Vol. 3 (Rabbit Run) is actually the final in Weeks' series of CDs drawing inspiration from the alphabet as its lyrical source. With 9 songs, one each for letters R through Z, Weeks adheres to the theme to varying degrees. The opening title track features Weeks' nifty bluegrass playing accompanying a story of how water flows from the smallest of tributaries (the "Rabbit Run") all the way to the ocean. The theme of interconnectedness is one that Weeks comes back to on other songs on the disk, such as Barenaked Ladies-styled-rap on "Someday" or the sweet mid-tempo folker "Yellowjacket," which had darn well better be on the next Putumayo Folk Playground collection, should one be in the works. (I also need to mention "Up!," another favorite of mind, a very positive slice of kids' folk-pop.)
Not every song works well. At 6 1/2 minutes long, "Take the Tinkertown Trolley" goes on too long, which wouldn't be bad if the musical accompaniment didn't sound a little cheesy. (Weeks plays every instrument by himself on the disk -- this song shows the potential limitations of such an approach. I tended to prefer his slightly simpler, more bluegrass-y tunes.) And while I give Weeks credit for going whole hog on "Xavier Xerxes Xenophane X," and certainly setting a record for most words starting with the "x" sound on a single song, it doesn't really hold up to repeated listenings. It's as if he decided that was it for the alphabet theme, as "Yellowjacket" and the African-accented "Zed and Zoey" have very few "Y's" and "Z's" in them.
The length and story-telling nature of many of the songs (what better way to get words starting with a desired letter than to create names?) makes the 42-minute CD most appropriate for kids ages 6 through 10. You can samples at the album's CD Baby page.
With a few less-than-perfect tracks, I don't think this will be quite the classic Rabbit, Run was as a novel. Still, there are enough strong tracks on Alphabet Songs Vol. 3 to make it a CD worth your investigation. And now that Weeks has completed his alpha-odyssey, he's hopefully figured what works best for him and is free to go wherever his muse leads. As the narrator sings at the end of "Zed and Zoey," "this is not the end." I hope not. Recommended.