Review: Turn It Up Mommy! - The RTTs

Straight-ahead rock-and-roll is somewhat of a rarity in children's music. More common is a more pop- or folk-based approach. Sounds more appropriate, perhaps, for the playroom or coffeeshop.

Turn It Up Mommy!, released in late 2003, is the first children's album from the Washington, DC-based RTTs, who lead a double life as the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, an "adult" rock and roll band. I'm not sure if that makes them a bar band (it seems a bit pejorative for a band with considerable musical talent), but whatever you call them, they've produced a fine little kids' music album.

Musically, the album gives no indication that it's geared towards kids. If you could turn the lyrics off and just listen to the music, you wouldn't know it was a children's music album. It's rock-and-roll that will be familiar to listeners of American rock dating back to the '50s. Of particular note is the guitar work, with a wide variety of styles, from the "surf guitar" heard on the ode to lifeguards "My New Hero" to the Chuck Berry stylings on "Turn It Up Mommy" to the roots-rock Jayhawks/Tom Petty "Rainy Day." The band sounds really good together and shines under the fine production.

The lyrics are geared for the most part to the kids and subjects near and dear to their heart -- learning the alphabet ("Learning My Letters"), pets ("Boofa"), and on the peppy opening cut, "Snack Time," which includes some classic lines -- "Well, who made juice in a box / Who made cheese in a stick / Who made little tiny crackers / That look just like goldfish / I want to shake their hand / Pat them on the back / 'Cuz they made all my favorite snacks." A couple songs are targeted at the parents -- I doubt that any kid really has ever complained about their parents doing taxes as in "April 14th" -- but even in those cases, singer-songwriter Jake Flack tries to write about the subjects from a kid's point of view.

I think the album's probably best for kids aged 4 through 8. You can listen to samples and order the album from the band's page at CD Baby. All in all, this is a solid little 27-minute album, of particular interest to fans of blues- and roots-rock like the artists mentioned above, or perhaps John Hiatt or the Fabulous Thunderbirds. But even if you lean toward more pop- or folk-oriented artists, you'll certainly find a few tracks worth your time here. Recommended.