It's Memorial Day here in the United States, so I thought this review might be appropriate.
Maine's Josephine Cameron is not an artist that typically would get much coverage on a kids' music website. That's because even though Cameron spends some of her time teaching songwriting to kids, she doesn't spend her time recording songs for kids.
But just as her last album, Close Your Eyes (review) was a mellow CD that could pull double-duty as a lullaby album, so too her latest album, American Songs Vol. 2, could be a good folk song primer for slightly older kids. The album, released in late 2007 and a sequel to the first volume, released in 2002, consists of a number of traditional American folk songs mixed in with a few originals. Cameron puts just enough of her own spin on the more familiar songs to make them fresh without depriving them of the strengths that have made them classics. "Oh Susanna" is dialed-down a notch, emphasizing more of the sadness of the distance between the returning soldier and his love. "This Land Is Your Land" gets all the verses, with Cameron's ebullience at the end showing through.
There is pleasure in the discovery of less-familiar songs, such as the waltz of "Gum Tree Canoe." And on "Evangeline" (co-written by Cameron and co-producer Anthony Walton), Cameron retells Longfellow's tale of Evangeline and Gabriel. I also really liked Cameron's, Walton's and arranger Carter Little's bluesy setting of Sterling A. Brown's poem "Long Track Blues." Cameron's slightly high-pitched voice (think Susanna Hoffs) is set off nicely against the understated guitar and mandolin work.
I would be surprised if young kids enjoy this album much, but older kids, say those 8 and older, might enjoy listening to these songs. You can hear samples and download tracks here or at the 42-minute album's CDBaby page. Also, I highly recommend Cameron's notes on the songs, which are incredibly detailed. It's always nice to hear musicians thinking about how to record traditional folk music in a way that preserves what makes the song a classic but also brings the musician's own sensibilities to the song, thereby making it new once more. With American Songs Vol. 2, Cameron's done that. It's not necessarily a kids' album, but it's a good album.