Review: DVDs for Road Trips

I saw "for road trips" not because these are travel-themed but because there are seven of them. Seven seems like enough to get through at least a day or two of your drive across or through the country. Let's get to it, then.

FieldTripsWithRecessMonkey5-8.jpgI don't think the guys in Seattle's Recess Monkey actually sleep. They already release more CDs than just about anybody else, and now they're cranking out a DVD a year, too. Like their first volume, Field Trips with Recess Monkey Episodes 5-8 features a combination of band "field trips" (Sirius-XM studios, Ella Childs at Spare the Rock, illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka), live shows, and their stellar videos. The videos are the highlight of the DVD ("The Teens" and "Sack Lunch" in particular) -- should episodes 9 through 12 be in the works (knowing the trio, they probably are), the band should consider creating a menu that'll allow viewers to just access the videos. Recommended.

OrganicFarm.jpgThe Nields' Organic Farm DVD is, as you'd expect, an appealingly low-fi (dare I say "organic") affair. It's mostly a collection of tunes recorded in front of a live audience, and features the Nields singing a number of hits from their two family albums. As they were on record, the Nields sisters are joined by their father on a few songs. Among the non-live tracks are a couple songs showing how a parent or teacher might use a song as a simple teaching tool. It's a nice little bonus treat. Recommended.
SnacksTheDVD.jpgIf this strikes you as a potential TV show, it's because it is. Snacks, the concept, is the creation of Pennsyvania-based singer-songwriter Kevin Wiggins and New Jersey-based John Hulme. The concept of Snacks The DVD (2009) is... well, I'm not really sure what it is except that it involves sock puppets stealing cookies (I think they're called "The Munchies"), some fun pop-rock, and a mysterious creature called the "Norgle." It's all very low-budget, but not without charm and imagination. If you like the music (and I think a fair number of you will), many of the tunes are on the Feed Your Mind CD (though some predate it). Recommended.

BigBirdLittle Bird.jpgSara Hickman's Big Bird, Little Bird is basically her Newborn CD in DVD form. From a purely production standpoint, this is probably the highest quality disk reviewed here. Simply (and stylishly) animated in form, the videos are a good match for Hickman's warm and loving songs. The DVD also features parenting tips from Hickman, a certified parenting instructor. The tips will have a short shelf life, but the videos themselves may get views into preschool. Recommended, especially so for new parents.

ClapAndTap.jpgMeet the Instruments: Clap and Tap is, as you may have guessed, one of a series from Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. This particular DVD focuses on rhythm instruments from the simple (hand clapping and marching feet) to the more obscure (washboard, the limber jack). It's a pretty simple presentation -- Fink and Marxer sit on chairs in front of a plain background as they go through the various percussion explorations. It's geared pretty directly at toddlers and preschoolers and has the most pedagogical approach, so this isn't something you'd probably enjoy watching with your kids. But it's recommended for teachers and others who might want to share some early musical education concepts.

LiveInConcert.jpgFinally, if you've read this site for any length of time, you know how much we adore Texas' Biscuit Brothers, whose PBS show is the best show about music for kids on TV. The Brothers' 2009 Live in Concert disk is, as you might guess, a live show. Our family actually prefers the TV episodes to the live shows, so I'd probably recommend starting with one of the Go Make Music! collections for newcomers to the show. Still, longtime fans of the show will probably appreciate this collection of folk songs. (And for those Tiny Scarecrow fans out there [raises hand], there's a couple of bonus clip episodes, including "Tiny Scarecrow, This Is Your Life," featuring some of his greatest hits.)

GoMakeMusicVol3.jpgAnd, hey, here's the latest episode-based DVD! This late-2008 collection (Go Make Music Volume 3) includes 3 full episodes. At this point, they've had to move away from narrow concepts (tempo, dynamics) to broader ones on this disk (folk songs, music from around the world). Longtime listeners might think they've heard some of these songs before (and they have), but both newcomers current fans will appreciate the continued thoughtfulness and care put into the music and episodes themselves (e.g., stealing the "Daytripper" guitar riff for a Beatlesesque take on "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain"). And any show that gives Sarah Jarosz five minutes to go through various musical styles on the mandolin is worth more than just five minutes. Recommended.

(Disclosure: I was provided with copies of all DVDs here for possible review, with the exception of Go Make Music Volume 3.)