Review: Wiggleworms Love You - Old Town School of Folk Music

In the mid-80s, the writer/director John Hughes produced Pretty in Pink, in which the less-than-upper-middle-class main character (played by Molly Ringwald, natch) has to decide romantically between her best friend Ducky and a boy from the "right side of the tracks." To many viewers' great chagrin -- how could you not pick Ducky! -- she picks the golden boy. A few years later, Hughes basically rewrote Pink as Some Kind of Wonderful and reversed the ending, with the main character picking his from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks best friend as his romantic partner. It's a much more satisfying ending.

What does this have to do with Wiggleworms Love You, the 2005 album from the Old Town School of Folk Music. OK, aside from the fact that both Hughes and the Old Town School are associated with Chicago. Well, this new album is sort of like the "golden boy" character with all the advantages compared to the poor original, Songs For Wiggleworms. The first album sounded like it was recorded in an actual Old Town classroom, with time constraints reminiscent of parent-teacher conferences. ("I'm sorry, it's 6:45, it's time for the Sweeneys.") Very few of the songs had anything more than voice and acoustic guitar.

This new album is greatly expanded sonically. It sounds much better, and the instrumentation is, on some tracks, surprisingly full. Percussion, bass, stringed instruments of all kinds (banjo, mandolin, fiddle) -- heck, there's an accordion on seven tracks. It sounds much more like a "folk music" album. (All of this may be the result of the fact that an honest-to-goodness record company, Bloodshot Records, released the CD.)

So why wouldn't you want this CD? Well, you would... if you already had Songs For Wiggleworms. The problem is that they already got most of the great tunes on the first CD. There are fewer of the great "oh, I'm gonna sing that to my young'uns" songs. There are maybe 12-15 songs that meet that criteria on the CD, or about 1/3 of the 42 songs on the album. The other songs are obscure to varying degrees, usually dependent on how familiar you are with the early Raffi oeuvre. (I can't believe I just used the phrase "Raffi oeuvre.") That's not to say that there aren't some great tracks on the album -- "If I Was a Bird," the meta-rave-up "Mama Don't Allow," and the tailfeather-shaking "Looby Loo" are three standouts. But unlike the first CD, on which the listener could sing virtually every song, many without the CD, this CD may be great to listen to but isn't necessarily as user-friendly for taking that out into the daily world with your child.

This sounds like a mixed review, but it's really not. It's just that I think the first album's ragged charm is just so perfect for its intended use that this more polished sequel slightly disappoints. If you already have Songs, I recommend Wiggleworms Love You wholeheartedly. If you don't, I think the first album is the better starting point. The CD is for children aged 0 through 6 and is available through the links above, plus the usual online suspects.