With their latest album, Massachusetts' The Nields joins the company of the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam.
That's right, because on their new 2-CD family album, Rock All Day, Rock All Night, the Nields sisters join those two alternative rock heavyweights in putting out an album with both an uptempo and a downtempo disk. (Those two albums, in case you're wondering -- the Foo Fighters' In Your Honor and Pearl Jam's best-of rearviewmirror.) Now, I can't say that the Nields rock quite as hard as those bands do, but I'm also not sure there's anything quite as giddy on those disks as on the sisters' banter on the brass-band-accented "Muffin Man." (Did you know there was a whole neighborhood on Drury Lane? Well, you do now.)
The first disk is a mixture of folk songs and originals (some old, some new). The sisters have run a HooteNanny program for families with young kids, and many of the songs sound like they are come from that program. Unlike a lot of CD collections from kids and family music programs, however, the collection actually holds together as a decent listening experience even if you've never taken a class with them. It's probably mostly due to the fact that there are some really good songs here. The traditional "Going To Boston" kicks off the disk, and like many of the tracks, there's a life to the recording that encourages you to sing along. The brass band sounds great on "When The Saints Go Marching In," as it does on "Muffin Man" (as noted above). The new tracks are no slouches either, with "Who Are You Not To Shine" -- a shimmery folk-rock song and worthy successor to "Anna Kick A Hole in the Sky" from the last disk -- and "Superhero Soup," actually one of the oldest songs in the Nields' songbook, but re-purposed here. Not all of the tracks are great, but, like I said, as a whole, it holds together well.
The second, slower disk is, unsurprisingly, less focused on singalongs and more focused on great, slower songs. I hesitate to call it a classic lullaby disk as there isn't quite a hush-ness that I associate with lullaby disks. Instead, it's more like a warm nook on a cold day, encouraging you to stay put and contemplate the day and maybe drift off for a tiny nap. (Or, if you're a kid, play with your Legos or read a book.) One of my all-time favorite ballads, "Wild Mountain Thyme," makes an appearance, with the Nields' dad, John Nields singing along (as on the first album, he sings on several tracks). The Nields also engage in some re-purposing here, as "Easy People," one of their most famous songs, gets a simple treatment. I think I like this disk slightly better than the "day" disk, but that's just a personal preference for the more classic songs.
The first disk is probably most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7; the second disk is essentially all-ages. Right now, the disk only available through the Nields themselves (go here to order), though national distribution will start shortly). For samples, you're best off checking out the YouTube clips I've compiled here.
The Nields continue to make vital family folk music with humor and tenderness. Rock All Day, Rock All Night is an all-purpose collection of songs that will serve your family well in times both of play and rest. Definitely recommended.