Review: Bullfrog Jumped (Children's Folksongs from the Byron Arnold Collection) - Various Artists

BullfrogJumped.jpgIt's Alan Lomax for the kiddos.

Released last year by the Alabama Folklife Association and given a new release this upcoming Tuesday, Bullfrog Jumped is a collection of folksongs sung by mothers, grandmothers, and other women in the summer of 1947, when they were recorded on front porchaes and in kitchens by Byron Arnold, a Professor of Music at the University of Alabama. There are some standards -- "Frog Went A-Counrting" and "Skip To My Lou," for example -- but many of these folksongs were new to me, or at least the melody or lyrics were. There are, for example, three different versions of "All The Pretty Little Horses," none of which quite sound like the wistful lullaby has become more than 50 years later. "Skip To My Lou" has about 10 verses, only 3 or 4 of which I'd heard before.

There are some stellar voices on the disk. Vera Hall, whose recording of "Troubled So Hard" was sampled by Moby on Play (and who was definitely familiar to Alan Lomax), has a great song, "Little Lap Dog," here. The voice that made me snap to attention every time I heard it was that of 17-year-old Mozella Longmire, who has 4 tracks on the disk, including "Little Sally Walker" and "Two Little Gentlemen From the Spring." Sixty years later, Mrs. Longmire is still singing in the choir at Mt. Triumph Baptist Church, and it seems to me someone needs to record an album of her singing folksongs. I'd buy it.

The songs are most appropriate for kids ages 0 through 6. You can hear four tracks here, two more here, and samples of all the tracks here.

With 42 tracks in about 36 minutes, sometimes the snippets of songs are just to short to be of much listening interest heard straight through. The a cappella nature of the album can also become a bit repetitive for an entire disk. But as a sampler and recording of songs familiar and much less so, the recording (which sounds great for a recording 60 years old) and the liner notes (of Smithsonian Folkways quality), should be in every library and preschool.