Talk about double lives -- Los Angeles-area-based Gwendolyn Sanford spends some of her time scoring the second season of the Showtime series Weeds, while simultaneously performing music for preschoolers as the uni-monikered Gwendolyn in Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang.
It is very much to Gwendolyn's credit that her second album for kids, Get Up and Dance!, released late last month, is entirely irony-free. Somehow, though, the songs are eager without turning off the parents. For example, kids will enjoy her exhortation to "bounce and bounce and bounce" (ad nauseam) "around" on the leadoff title track, while parents will smile wanly at the recognition of the fact that this, yes, is exactly how their child moves. But somewhere in the course of the song, the music opens up, adding handclaps and becoming sonically interesting (without losing the kids). The rest of the album is like that, too -- the super funky "Eensy Weensy Spider," the disco freeze-dance of "Red Means Stop," and the best song never recorded for Grammar Rock!, "I Can Read." The listing of vegetables "Out in My Garden" is reminiscent -- in a good way -- of their debut album's "My Anatomy." I also appreciate the fact that the album doesn't end with a typical kids-album-closer slow song, but instead with the peppy "Sunny Day." It fits perfectly here.
She's having fun performing her songs, which are targeted right at 3- and 4-year-olds, and it shows here (you can almost hear the laughter on a couple of tracks). The band's sound has expanded since their self-titled debut album, and, like their Northern California counterparts The Sippy Cups, are especially mining the sounds of 30 to 40 years ago for inspiration. The band (which includes her Weeds scoring partner Brandon Jay) sounds great. Nowhere to be found are the "characters" from the first CD (which is A-OK by me), though Gwendolyn's high-pitched voice and occasional spoken-word intros may turn off a few exceedingly finicky listeners.
Save for a track or two, this is probably not an album you would listen to by yourself. But Get Up & Dance! will be one of those albums you'll be happy to pull out at your kids' request. They'll think it's great, and the energy and enthusiasm on the album will pull you in, too. Definitely recommended.