Review in Brief: Dog Train - Sandra Boynton

DogTrain.jpgFor those of you who adore Sandra Boynton's comically plaintive drawings of pets and her whimsical sense of humor, but found the Broadway show stylings of Philadelphia Chickens a little too, well, Broadway show-stylish, her 2005 album/book Dog Train really brings the rock. Or, well, as much as any album that features three separate episodes entitled "Cow Planet" can bring said rock. Boynton and her musical collaborator Michael Ford have recruited a... diverse collection of musical performers to perform their (mostly) humorous songs -- Alison Krauss, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Blues Traveler, among others. As is often the case with albums where a collection of performers tackle the work of another artist, the best work is done by the least expected -- the Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan bringing his Tom Waits-esque voice to "Sneakers," or the energetic "Pots and Pans" built up to a percussive crescendo by the Bacon Brothers and Mickey Hart. The best song on the CD may be the most familiar -- the wonderful "I Need A Nap," which pairs "Weird Al" Yankovic with Kate Winslet ("this is Ms. Winslet and Mr. Yankovic's first duet together," the liner notes wryly comment). It takes a Titanic-worthy overwrought ballad and applies it to the overwrought words of a cranky kid. It's very meta, and very funny. Less successful, though, are the fairly straight songs (Alison Krauss sounds wonderful on "Evermore," but she'd sound wonderful singing the "Weekly Clipper") and the "Cow Planet" interludes. The album will probably be most appreciated by kids ages 4 through 8 and people of a certain age remembering the soundtrack to their high school and/or college years. (Hey, I liked the Hooters. And the Spin Doctors CD. And the Hootie CD. I'm just sayin'.) You can hear clips from all of Boynton's CDs here. Oh, and if you don't want the book/CD compilation, the CD by itself is scheduled to be released on August 8. Fans of Boynton's work won't be disappointed by Dog Train; newcomers may be surprised at the breadth of collaborators here and amused by the whimsy.