Review: Under A Shady Tree - Laurie Berkner

UnderAShadyTree.jpgYears from now, when there are sections in amusement parks called LaurieWorld, in which you can ride the "Buzz Buzz" bumblebee ride (you must not be any taller than 48" to ride) and eat a "We Are The Dino-Chicken Nuggets Family-Pack," younger families might wonder when exactly it was that Laurie Berkner became a kids' music superstar.

The answer, of course, is her appearances on Jack's Big Music Show, the Noggin televison show centered around some music-loving puppets, which first aired in September 2005. The more logical (or obsessed) of the families might then try to figure out what CD might have led the producers to think that Berkner would be such a good fit for the show. Those families' searches would lead them to Berkner's 2002 album Under A Shady Tree.

One of the ways in which kids' music is different from most other genres is that its primary audience -- the kids -- don't really care about artistic progression or the order of album releases. Your kids probably can't tell you what order Berkner's CDs were released. But you can tell that Berkner's stretching out musically a bit here. She adds horns to the mix on "This Hat." "Mahalo" has Hawaiian influences, natch, while "Boody Boody Ya Ya Ya" has a pensive, non-major-chord sound. In short, the songs and arrangements here might be the most intriguing Berkner has written.

They are not, however, instantaneously catchy, or at least compared to the high bar Berkner had previously set. There is no lightning-bolt of a classic like "We Are the Dinosaurs" or "Victor Vito" here. "Rhubarb Pie (Hot Commodity)" has some sweet harmony, but it's no "Doodlebugs." "I'm Gonna Catch You," "Who's That?," and "Running Down the Hill" are fine enough, but the title track is one of those too-simple songs that parents will tire of quickly. The album's 52-minute runtime doesn't help matters -- there are too many songs here that are interesting but not necessarily must-hears.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7 and you can find it pretty much anywhere CDs are sold.

If I sound negative here, it's because I think Berkner set such a high standard for the genre with her earlier CDs, particularly her first two CDs. There are still a number of good songs here, and if your family liked Laurie Berkner's earlier work, you'll probably enjoy this. Under A Shady Tree is not where I'd start out exploring Berkner's music, however. It's recommended, but not essential. (But your kids will probably love the "Running Down the Hill" play area of LaurieWorld.)