Review: Napper's Delight - Dean Jones

NappersDelight.jpgThough this is the best kids music album title (or at least most amusing to parents) since the Sippy Cups' "Electric Storyland," people who expect Dean Jones' Napper's Delight to be a traditional lullaby album or a goofy riff on a traditional lullaby album will be disappointed.

Surprise and, not infrequently, delight are more likely feelings here.

Jones is one of the ringleaders of the fabulous New York band Dog on Fleas. While it sells both this album and the band short, to call Napper's Delight a Dog on Fleas lullaby album is a good place to start in describing the CD. One of the chief attributes of a Dog on Fleas CD is its spirit of adventurousness, of lack of calculation in song selection and instrumentation. Such is the case here as well. There probably aren't many CDs that include both drum machines and traditional African instruments such as mbiras or the balafon, but they all appear here and neither of them really sound out of place.

I think it takes a few tracks to get into the CD -- the drum machine on the third track "Wheelin' and Dealin'" might not be everyone's cup of tea -- but by the time fellow New York musician Elizabeth Mitchell takes over the vocals on the fifth track, "Grow Little Flower," the CD has really started to establish a relaxed but not sleepy mood. The next track, "Bygones," struck me as a long-lost Vince Guaraldi Trio track, while the reworked 18th century folk song "Turtle Dove" gets a nice assist from fellow Dog on Fleas bandmate Debbie Lan and a couple fiddlers. By the time you get to "Hush Little Baby," which sounds like it's got a tiny calliope helping to provide musical accompaniment, you're sold. (I also adore "Filly and Dilly," a duet with Amy Poux which is a reworking of the traditional "Lavender's Blue.") The overall effect is definitely not one of a lullaby album, if only because many of the songs don't deal with unconditional love as many lullabies do. Rather, the CD creates a mellow mood that will work well as the soundtrack to many a lazy afternoon reading with the kids.

The 42-minute CD is fine for all ages, of course, but I think kids ages 2 through 8 will respond to it more. You can hear samples at the album's CDBaby page.

Napper's Delight isn't a traditional lullaby album -- it sounds nothing like it. Although it has echoes of Dog on Fleas, Elizabeth Mitchell, and the Innocence Mission, it doesn't really sound much like those, either. It is, as I said above, filled with surprises and delights. I'm not sure kids will necessarily run to pull this off the shelves. But I think a lot of parents (especially those who are regular readers here) will find this a soothing balm for family listening and, given five or six spins, will find this working its way into their brain. It did mine. Definitely recommended.