It is probably accurate, though way too simple, to characterize Peter Himmelman as a "singer-songwriter." Meaning, I've always thought of "person with a guitar singing very personal songs" when I think of "singer-songwriter," and while Himmelman does sing some very personal songs, "person with a guitar" is not at all a fair description of what Himmelman does musically.
One listen to My Green Kite, Himmelman's fourth album for kids and families, and his first for Rounder Records, will make that abundantly clear. The album, released tomorrow, continues Himmelman's wildly creative approach to both music and lyrics. But unlike, say, My Fabulous Plum, which had some strong songs, but was so all over the map that it was hard to get into the album, on Kite Himmelman has dialed back that anything-goes approach just enough to create an album of slightly-more-accessible songs. The result is fabulous.
More so than most kids' lyricists, Himmelman has a gift for putting a new frame on an old picture. On the opening track "Feet", for example, Himmelman creates a Sgt. Pepper's-like ode to, well, feet, encouraging the listener to consider their own feet. (In the liner notes, Himmelman says, "Sometimes people forget about their feet. They are so used to thinking about their eyes, or their ears, or their hair.") Himmelman asks the '80s-synth-pop question "Have You Every Really Looked At An Egg?" and, well, I probably haven't. (So thank you, Peter.)
Himmelman also tells fantastical and imaginative stories, such as on the great pop-rocker title track, about a kite that just keeps flying higher and higher. "Another Bite of Hay" is the best kids' song about that didn't make it on to Bruce Springsteen's early albums. (That it happens to feature a bull, a cow, and a mule seems incidental in nature.) But Himmelman doesn't ignore realistic lyrics either, nailing parental indecisiveness on the Van Morrison-like "Maybe Is A Bad Word" and penning a sweet tribute to his father on "My Father's An Accountant." (And the slow rap "Nothin' To Say" is just fun wordplay.)
I think kids ages 5-9 are most likely to respond to the song subjects and lyrics here. You can hear samples at any major internet retailer (it's good to have Rounder's distribution network!)
This is a fantastic album, chock-full of great tunes and production, with lyrics that sometimes speak directly to kids' daily lives and other times fire their imaginations. It'll make you smile and make you think. I know it's early in the year, but with My Green Kite Peter Himmelman has recorded an album on my short list of favorite albums for 2007. Highly recommended.