Review: Campfire Sing-Along: Orange Sherbet & Hot Buttered Rum

Campfire Sing-Along.jpgTwo is better than one. Or, in this particular case, fifty-one is better than two.

Fifty-one is, as best as I can tell, the total number of people singing or playing on Campfire Sing-Along, the recently-released fourth album by the Bay Area duo Orange Sherbet. You might be thinking, last time I checked, "duo" meant, well, two people. And, yes, Jill Pierce and Tamsen Fynn are indeed a duo. But they've pulled in a whole host of family and friends to sing a collection of campfire sing-along favorites. Sometimes the friends are older (such as Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband, who makes an appearance on "Sippin' Cider"), sometimes they're younger (the chorus of kids who appear on old chestnuts like "Make New Friends" or "Down by the Bay"). Most are fun, or at least an excellent reminder of songs you can sing at your own campfire.

What turns this album into more than a very enjoyable version of a "Wee Sing" CD is the presence of the Northern California roots/bluegrass band Hot Buttered Rum, who join forces with Orange Sherbet and, occasionally, the rest of the 51 for great versions of traditional sing-alongs -- "Down By the Riverside," "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain," "Frog Went A Courtin'," among others. Making the CD stand out, however, are the originals, contributed by members of both bands -- "Bit By Bit" is an awesome song about how little things make a difference, while "Marshmallow" is a fun sing-along that could've been written 70 years ago. It's in the originals most especially that the combination sounds very much like a West Coast version of Dog on Fleas. It's a wholly winning sound.

(Oh, and I almost forgot. All this plus Dan Zanes. Yep -- Zanes makes an appearance on an original called "One Man Band," revealing a heretofore unknown skill in humorous spoken-word poetry. It's hardly a Zanes-ian essential, but it's amusing listening.)

The 48-minute album is appropriate for all ages, though kids able to sing along, ages 3 through 9, are probably more likely to enjoy the CD. You can listen to samples or at the album's CDBaby page (at which you can hear some of "Bit By Bit").

The best parts of Campfire Sing-Along are where Orange Sherbet and Hot Buttered Rum combine to make timeless songs sound fresh and new songs sound like they've been part of the canon forever. (Who would've thought orange sherbet and hot buttered rum would taste so good together?) There are enough such moments here to make this recommended, even if you don't plan to get any closer to the great outdoors than your local park.