It's hard to review an album when in one sense you've been reviewing it for a couple years now. From the very beginning, the songs from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke were so wonderful, so fun that I couldn't stop telling people when they'd added another one to their collection. And now, many many moons later, the final product is here, Rise and Shine, the duo's debut kids' album, and familiarity has not breeded contempt, but rather continued and even heightened endearment.
The album kicks off with the earthy title track -- never did eating one's worms sound so appealing outside of the avian world -- and pulls you in with each successive track. "I Had a Little Dog" is a shambling country melody that notes almost as an afterthought one of the album's few attempts at a standard moral lesson ("can't be what you're not / so be proud of what you've got"), followed by the hardest rocking kids tune of the year, the awesome "Favorite Names". If you're not in love with this album by the fourth track ("Big Pet Pig," with Wilde's shouted counterpoints -- "Well he can take all the garbage you've got (WHAT YOU GOT?)" -- to Clarke's sung verses), then there's not much I can do for you. That track's followed by two subversions of traditional kids' tunes -- "John the Rabbit" adds a whole cast of mischievious supporting characters while "Rattling Can" is a nuclear (literally) re-envisioning of "Rattlin' Bog." If the rest of the album doesn't quite reach the heights of those first 6 tracks, well, it comes close, and who can blame them when he bar was set so high? (I do particularly like "18 Wheeler" and the dreamy formal album closer "Peekepoo.")
The album's probably most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7, though the sly humor underpinning the entire album broadens the age-appropriateness considerably. In its physical form, the album also comes with a lovely book/CD case drawn by Wilde, who's also an illustrator. You can hear the album here.
So, yeah, the album's great -- a mix of Johnny Cash, Johnny Rotten, and Johnny Appleseed. Targeted at the kids, but with enough musical gifts to keep the parents happy through repeated listenings, Rise and Shine is already one of the year's best albums. I hope the follow-up comes out much, much faster. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the record for possible review, not to mention the opportunity to stream the album for readers. Clearly I'm a big fan.