Let's think about the kids music artists who have released three easy-to-recommend CDs in the past five years. Hmmm.... Dan Zanes, Recess Monkey, Justin Roberts, Ralph's World, and... who? I mean, if you expand that time frame out a bit, you could add They Might Be Giants, Elizabeth Mitchell, maybe Laurie Berkner. But to be that consistent over that amount of time says something -- that's an all-star list of kids musicians right there.
So it means something to me when I say that with the release of his third album Dragonfly, I'd add Seattle's Johnny Bregar to that list.
On his first album Stomp Yer Feet!, Bregar was basically a slightly funkier and rootsier Raffi (a compliment in my book), giving old toddler standards a new spin. Bregar is still funky and rootsy, but with his second album Hootenanny and now with Dragonfly he's been gradually moving up in age and away from standards and towards originals. He's now given a song about feelings ("What Do You Do?") a funky spin with an infectious horn and piano line (and even a gratuitous They Might Be Giants reference). "Two Thumbs Up" is a rootsy song about, well, feeling good (and opening a roadside art stand). And sometimes, as on "Shoo Fly Pie" or his cover of the boogie-woogie "Ice Cream Man," he still recalls the traditional standards with which he started his kids' music career.
If there are perhaps a few less-than-perfect tracks -- I can't say I have much love for the reggae tune "Salt and Pepper" -- they're few and far between. Bregar tends toward the sweet (the midtempo "Dragonfly" and the wonderful and tender ukulele-laced "Blue Canoe") and a little towards the gently instructional ("Fireman With a Rocket Ship" or "Honey Bees"), so there's little "edge," if that's your style. But the musical arrangements and melodies are once more top-notch. Kids are used as leavener to the production, lending a slightly ragged (and appealing) chorus to some of the songs (or, on the album closer, "Una Sardina," the sole voice).
The songs here are targeted mostly at kids ages 4 through 9. The album's for sale right now only at Bregar's website, but will be available more broadly starting next week. You can hear samples of the tracks here.
Johnny Bregar hasn't made a bad kids' album yet, and Dragonfly is another fine outing, filled with songs whose lyrics will capture kids and melodies will capture parents. (And possibly vice versa.) Bregar might not be as well-known as those other artists who are turning out a high number of quality albums, but he should be. Here's hoping Dragonfly helps things along in that regard. Highly recommended.