Review in Brief: American History + Rock 'N' Roll = Deedle Deedle Dees

AmericanHistory+RNR_DDD.jpgI think the world of Brooklyn's Deedle Deedle Dees for many reasons. Some of them are obvious -- catchy tunes, they RAWK -- and some are less so. One of those "less-so" reasons is that the band is so clearly following their muse, writing and playing songs that interest them.

I mean, I can't think of any other kids musician or band who would record a song about, say, Eleanor Roosevelt, as the Dees have done on their latest album American History + Rock 'N' Roll = Deedle Deedle Dees. But there it is, a dreamy song about Eleanor Roosevelt, getting advice about what to do as she was becoming First Lady -- it's a nice character sketch.

"Nice character sketch" is a good description for the Dees' history-based music -- rather than trying to sing about the big, important historical events, they're more apt to sing about the smaller historical moments or non-Presidents -- the saucy, horn-assisted strut of "Bring 'Em In" (a possibly true story about the pitcher Satchel Paige) or the party of "Tres Muralistas" (about the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco, and David Siqueiros). And when they do hit the people you're more likely to read about in a fifth grade history book, it's more about just trying to give the audience a little hook to remember the person by; in "Tub-Tub-Ma-Ma-Ga-Ga," it's remembering that Harriet Tubman led people by walking, rather than trying to explain (in song) what the Underground Railroad was.

Musically, the album moves from shuffling rock ("Little Red Airplane") to horn-aided Mexican-tinged folk ("Tres Muralistas") to punk ("Put on the Dress," based on a true story of -- and featuring on the record -- Bill Childs). The musicianship is solid throughout and I especially enjoyed some of instrumental flourishes (the guitar on "John Muir" or the piano on "Si Se Puede!")

Though the Dees have songs for younger kids (primarily from chief Dee songwriter Lloyd Miller/Ulysses Dee), this album is entirely history-based. As a result, while younger kids will probably enjoy dancing around to the music, kids ages 7 and up will most appreciate the songs and stories told here. You can hear some samples here and I highly recommend the song notes the band's been posting here.

These are not the catchy, big-picture pop tunes of Schoolhouse Rock; instead, this album is more interested in the nooks and crannies of history. I hope the Dees continue to follow their personal muses -- their music isn't necessarily for every listener, but it's vibrant. The fact that it's an excellent historical survey is just a bonus. Definitely recommended.

[Disclosure notice: The band provided a copy for possible review.]