There are many types of kids' music albums, but one genre that's been mostly avoided is the very personal kids' music album. Now, there are a number of musicians who feel compelled to record intensely personal lullabye albums upon the arrival of a child into their family, but those generally end in, if not disaster, at least a goopy mess. Is it possible to make an album that draws upon a particular artist's life but speaks to many families?
All Together Singing in the Kitchen, from the Massachusetts based Nields sisters Nerissa and Katryna, shows one way that can be done. In the Nields' case, they've drawn upon their lives growing up listening to and singing these songs, yes, all together in the kitchen. The album is a collection of primarily folk tunes that the Nields learned singing with their father John Nields along with their mother. John has a clear voice with a bit of a warm warble; it reminds me of Dan Zanes compatriot David Jones. His voice makes a nice contrast with the more distinct voice of the Nields sisters. When they sing together, such as on their soulful rendition of "Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep," it's a sweet, joyful noise. An even more joyful noise comes when the Nields sing with a local group of kids on three of the tracks -- the way the kids shout back "YES MA'AM!" in the call-and-response of "John, the Rabbit" makes me smile every time I hear it.
To some extent, I couldn't listen to the album without thinking of other versions of particular songs that I liked slightly better -- say, Dan Zanes' and Father Goose's version of "Hi Ho the Rattlin' Bog." And there are times when the personal nature of the album -- three generations singing "All Together Singing in the Kitchen" is more inspiring perhaps than truly compelling upon repeated listenings. But that's as much me bringing my own personal singing experiences to the table -- there's no reason why someone who wasn't as familiar with some of the tracks here wouldn't latch on to these versions. And the Nields do give back a modern folk classic of their own -- "Anna Kick a Hole in the Sky" is a great song about resilience and life.
In true Dan Zanes age-desegregated style, the album is appropriate for all ages, but let's say you've got to be at least 2 to get a lot out of it. The 43-minute album, which has been available regionally since last year, but is getting a national release next week, is available here or here. No samples available yet, but Bill and Ella had them on last week.
Like many hootenannies, All Together Singing in the Kitchen was probably most fun for the people making the record. It is a credit, however, to the Nields family that they've put together an album that is not only inspiring but also lots of fun to listen to. Definitely recommended.
Note: I'm cooking up something related (in part) to this CD which I hope is ready for prime-time by next week. Stay tuned...