There is lots of interest in musicians who create new worlds and new songs for the youth of today (and tomorrow). But there is something to be said for making old songs sound new with verve and joy, and so I'm glad Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band is there to take this path slightly-less traveled (at least traveled well) with their debut disk Play!. The Los Angeles-based Swedberg and her band run through a mostly familiar set of tunes -- at least to anyone who knows their Raffi from their Yanni -- but between Swedberg's ukulele and and her band's wide set of instruments (e.g., saw, glockenspiel, slide whistle) they provide new arrangements. (It's supposed to facilitate teaching ukulele, but the end result is something much more fulfilling.) The presence of a few kids (and kids at heart) singing along to songs like "Muffin Man or "Skip 2 My Shoo" make the album accessible for all, but the slightly ethereal takes on "Buckeye Jim" and the "Japanese Umbrella Song" put this in a league above your typical "20 Classic Children's Songs" collection.
For the most part, this album is targeted at kids ages 2 through 7. To Swedberg's credit, though, she actively encourages families to sing along and helpfully provides ukulele chords (as an amateur ukulele player, this was super cool) and lyrics to help that cause along. (Listen to song clips here.)
If Play! doesn't quite scale the heights of the original-old-songs-in-new-bottles-master Raffi, it comes a lot closer than most. More, please. Recommended.