One of the most welcome trends of the past decade, kids music-wise, is that artists who spend most of their time making music for adults don't have a problem occasionally making music for kids, joining the lucky group of folks for whom making music for families is a full-time gig. Often these albums appear at the midpoint of an artist's career -- think of They Might Be Giants, or Barenaked Ladies, or The Verve Pipe -- well after they've established themselves. But I think we've gotten to the point where up-and-coming artists -- potential Next Big Things -- feel like recording family music is a perfectly acceptable detour along the way.
Ten years ago, would Haley Bonar have released her 5-song EP Sing With Me? Probably not.
Which would've been a shame, because this is a beautiful 16 minutes of music. Bonar, a singer-songwriter from the Upper Midwest who now calls Portland, Oregon her home, has a sweet voice ever so slightly ragged around the edges. On Sing With Me, she uses that voice to good effect on songs like the album "Beautiful You," which fairly aches with joy. Lyrics like "Beautiful / Everyone is beautiful / And I think you're beautiful, too" might sound trite in the hands of lesser artists, but in Bonar's sparse arrangement becomes a thing of beauty. It's basically a muted version of "What a Wonderful World." That's followed up by the title track, which in its brazen exhortation to sing and use of the major scale in the chorus is a 21st century version of "Do Re Mi."
Those two songs, the album's best, are followed by "I Wanna Be Like You," of which Bonar's mellow take may not interest too many kids. The slow waltz "For Sister" is a little bit like Dar Williams' "The Babysitter's Here" in that it's a celebration of love for a little sister that may be best understood by the adults listening, but isn't outside the comprehension level of a kindergartner (who might be close to the experience). The EP finishes up with "If I Had A Rainbow," which features lines such as "If I had a rainbow / that'd follow me wherever I'd go / Everybody'd like me / Because I'd be so colorful." It's a cheery way to end the album.
The 16-minute album will be most enjoyed by kids ages 3 through 7. For the moment, you can only purchase the album at Bonar's store. I know that Bonar's on the way up in the world, and we're not likely to get another family album from her anytime soon. That's a shame, because I'm really taken by Sing With Me and I think you'll be, too. Good songwriting is always appreciated, regardless of whether you're 3 or 33. Definitely recommended.