Review: Accidentally (on purpose) - Keith Munslow

Accidentally.gifThe Rhode Island School of Design may be known for many things, but musically it may be most known nationally for being the incubator of the Talking Heads. On a smaller scale, however, perhaps it should also be known for Keith Munslow. Munslow, who has taught in RISD's Young Artist Program, released his third album for kids, Accidentally (on purpose), in 2005, and while there's nothing remotely resembling, say, "I Zimbra" on the disk, it's still a well-crafted album of children's music.

Munslow employs a wide variety of musical styles on the disk. Perhaps the best track is "Bad Robot," a swampy, bluesy stomp about a robot rampaging through the neighborhood (sort of). With a winning melody and a horn section (not to mention great lyrics and), the song works for both the 7-year-old and the adults in the car. (The dryly witty sound effects at the very end show the care taken to put this album together.) Beyond the blues, Munslow employs the polka ("Absentee Polka"), swing ("Dancin' in the Kitchen"), and even a touch of Randy Newman-esque pop, but without the cynical view of the world ("Cardboard Box"), among other styles. Munslow and his large cast of backup musicians give his lyrics a fine, well-played setting.

Lyrically, Munslow likes to tell stories. If you're reminded a little bit of Bill Harley (I was), it's not surprising to find out that Munslow and Harley have collaborated on a number of projects in the past. The title track, which leads off the album, includes some amusing couplets ("I accidentally tracked that mud in/ accidentally pushed my cousin / accidentally clogged the drain /accidentally called up Spain") but also crafts a small comeuppance for the narrator. A number of songs deal with imagination, both positively ("Cardboard Box" and "I Just Wanna Be a Frog") and, er, less so ("Bad Robot").

Kids ages 4 through 9 will most appreciate the overall package of the songs (the music is appropriate for a broader audience, it's the lyrics that won't interest the youngest ones very much). You can hear samples and read the lyrics from the 29-minute album here. The album is available through Munslow's store, CDBaby, and the iTunes Music Store.

While the album isn't perfect throughout, that's probably just because the first three or four songs are so strong that the merely good songs on the rest of the disk just don't quite compare. But overall Accidentally (on purpose) is a fine, well-crafted album of creative children's pop. Recommended.