Review: Snow Day! - Eric Herman and the Invisible Band

obj940geo483pg28p3.jpgLongtime FOZ (Friend of Zooglobble) Eric Herman released his third kids' music album, Snow Day! (2006), a couple weeks ago. It's taken me awhile -- three albums' worth -- to put my finger on how to describe his music, but I think I've got it -- it's a mixture of Shel Silverstein and the Beatles. Now, before Eric uses that as the pull-quote to end all pull-quotes, I should explain further.

Herman typically includes a few songs with lyrics by the poet Kenn Nesbitt on his CDs, and Snow Day! is no exception. Four songs include lyrics by Nesbitt, and those songs, like many of Silverstein's poems, take a skewed and occasionally dark view of life. "Snow Day," written in two- and four-word lines, is a quick, punky song about a kid who runs into a tree on his sled. "I Can't Wait For Summer" is a nifty, Beach Boys-inflected song about how wonderful summer will come when it gets here which ends with a cruel (for a kid, anyway) punchline. Indeed, five of the album's twelve tracks have a final-line punchline. And, punchline of not, many of the lyrics are humorous, like in "Cowboy Bergaleoukaleopaleous," about a sheriff whose less-than-catchy name leads to folks attributing his fabulous deeds to others like Annie Oakley whose names were less than a mouthful. It's something that would fit in perfectly on Where The Sidewalk Ends. (The book, at least, if not the album.)

Musically, Herman uses a wide variety of styles, employing country, disco, a Beatles reference (or a very Beatlesque guitar riff) on the opener, "Melody Ring." The best songs are those where Herman's just trying to write a song without getting too humorous or add over-the-top storytelling stylings. "My Lucky Day" is a darkly humorous pop tune about one kid's increasingly lucky day. The penultimate track, "Hide and Go Seek With the Moon," is a fabulous, gentle pop song about a kid's perspective on looking for the moon throughout the day (and night). One of the problems with the album, however, is that some of those gentler songs feel out of place on the disk. The best tracks also don't show the limitations of not working with a real band.

The album (with the exception of the final two tracks) is probably best for kids age 6 through 10. You can hear samples from all of Herman's albums here; the album is available from his website and the usual online suspects (both in physical and electronic form).

I liked individual tracks on the CD, but for me, the whole was less than the sum of its parts. The inconsistent tone between the darkly humorous tracks and the sweeter, more positive tracks was hard for me to negotiate. Kids (and parents) with more flexible minds, however, may find the album a worthwhile spin. And if you're a big Shel Silverstein fan, definitely check this out.