Upon first report, Keller Williams' eagerly anticipated debut album for kids seems to reveal a paucity of imagination. A kids album titled Kids. Really? Can't we get something with a little more creativity from someone dipping their toes into the family music pond?
But then you inspect the thing, and listen to it, and those frustrations melt away. The cover is a good indication of the humor tucked away inside. The "Kids," of course, are those cute-as-a-button... goats, a theme carried through to Williams' kids' website. That sly humor carries through to the music itself, such as on "Mama Tooted." ("It was one of [us] three," sings the narrator to his child, "I'm going to tell you who / It was Mama / Mama tooted / She may say that she did not and she is probably right / but I am going to blame it on Mama.") I particularly liked the gleeful way Williams leads a chorus in singing parts of "Good Advice" in Chinese. Many of the song lyrics include a somewhat exasperated parental narrator, which should definitely help rope in the adults in the audience. And animal husbandry isn't generally a kindie topic, but there it is (obliquely) in "My Neighbor is Happy Again."
As for the music itself, Williams noted in an interview here that Jerry Garcia and David Grisman's Not For Kids Only, an album of folk and bluegrass tunes for families, was a particular inspiration. You can definitely hear that on songs like "Grandma's Feather Bed" (written by Jim Connor a number of years ago) and Williams' own "Lucy Lawcy" and "Taking a Bath." But whereas that earlier album has a gentle vibe almost to the point of dozing off, Williams' mixture of more modern sounds, such as with the tape-looping on "Hula Hoop to da Loop" and "Soakie Von Soakerman," keeps the listener more engaged.
Kids ages 3 through 7 will most enjoy the album, which you can hear samples of here. Kids is an album that could've been made for all the wrong reasons, but was definitely made for all the right ones -- music-making with family, retaining a sense of playfulness, not giving up the musical skills that drew fans to Keller Williams in the first place. It's a solid album, and families with a sense of humor will find much to groove to here. Recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the album for possible review. I also world-premiered a track off the album.