I'll go ahead and say straight out that since I wrote some liner notes for Take It Outside, the second family album from Minnesota's Okee Dokee Brothers, I think you can guess that I like the album. I do, indeed.
It's a big step forward for Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander, who are neither brothers nor from Oklahoma, but who do share a big ol' grin behind their band's genial name. Their first album Kids With Beards was pretty good, but this one is stronger in every way -- musically, lyrically, and sonically. "Neighbors" sounds like they've packed everybody in their neighborhood into the studio for parts of the chorus. "Hero" features a soaring chorus and guitar work from the Honeydogs'/Bunny Clogs' Adam Levy. And midway through the bouncy "Antidisestablishmentarianism," they decide that "now we're going to spell for you / 'Cause that's what kids musicians do" and proceed to do just that. (Their joy mounts as they continue to sing as they provide a frequency distribution, for example, of the letters in the word, capped by the definition and a gleeful "what's that supposed to mean?" followed by "Who caaaaares".) They do reflective OK, as on "What We Got" and "Sweet Dreams," but their strength is silly and/or goofy.
Kids ages 5 through 10 will most appreciate the lyrical themes and humor, while their Americana/bluegrass take on pop-rock, polished to a nice sheen by producer Tor Hyams will have a fairly broad appeal. You can listen to samples at the album's CD Baby page. Take It Outside has an outdoorsy theme, but even more so it speaks to an engagement with the rest of the world. With good humor and heart, the Okee Dokee Brothers have produced a CD for even the most curmudgeonly recluse and the kids who just want them to play a little bit. Definitely recommended.
[Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the album for possible review. Though that's pretty obvious, I think, given this particular album.]