Over the course of four albums, New York's Brady Rymer has gradually moved away from the more standard fare of kids' music into something a little more complex -- music celebrating family life. On his latest CD, Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, his fifth, Rymer continues this evolution with an album full of tracks that explore what families do.
Rymer is not like Dan Zanes in that I think it's totally possible that someone without kids could completely enjoy Zanes' "age-desegregated" music -- I think someone who's not tied in some way to a child on a very regular basis wouldn't be that compelled by Rymer's music here. But in some ways, Rymer's trying to walk that fine line of creating music that speaks to both generations equally.
Lyrically, Rymer tackles such topics as piling in the car for a family road trip ("Road Trip," natch, with the catchy chorus singing of visiting "Shoofly, Sleepy Eye, Kalamazoo") or a visit from far-flung family members ("The Relatives Came"). Rymer's never been known to work the more uncomfortable parts of family life, and that doesn't change here -- the most uncomfortable Rymer's narrators get is the "Grown-ups gone wild!" of adults dancing like kids on "It Was a Saturday Night." So if you're looking for a warts-and-all description of family life, Rymer ain't your guy.
Of course, Rymer's strength has always been his music, and this album is no exception. His melodies are in fine form, and the Little Band That Could sounds as good as they've ever been. Listen to the backing band on "The Little Band That Could" or "Road Trip," and it's easy to move your head in some way. Rymer's songs are straight in the folk/rock/roots-rock tradition, and so it's not difficult to picture a little Bruce Springsteen, a little John Mellencamp, maybe even a touch of Dan Zanes as you're listening.
I'll admit, sometimes it's almost a little overwhelming. I wondered if there was a tad too much bling in their (admittedly fine-sounding) cover of "Bling Blang." "Pie" is a great song about a kid who just wants to eat pie all day, but I was uncertain if the midtempo track, which features slide guitar work from Larry Campbell (who's appeared with Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Emmylou Harris, among others), would really interest the 7-year-old kid the song is being sung to.
I found myself gravitating to the last two tracks, which after the full-band treatment on the first 11 tracks, sound spare in their simplicity. Brady's "Good Night, Daisy," is a lovely lullaby waltz to his daughter that just features Rymer singing with Claudia Mussen (one of his backup singers), along with bass and Larry Campbell providing some nice dobro. That and an excellent solo rendition by Brady of Pete Seeger's "Well May the World Go" are almost worth the album's price alone. In retrospect, I think the band's effectiveness on the album would have been enhanced even more had it appeared just a little bit less.
Fans of Brady Rymer won't be disappointed by the new album, and I think Here Come Brady Rymer... is a fine introduction to families who aren't yet fans. Rymer's crafted his best album yet as he continues to be one of the best practitioners of family music about families. Definitely recommended.