True confession time: I almost never listen to Woody Guthrie's kids' music records. Oh, sure, I liked them, but if you check out that link, you'll note that while I think Guthrie's a great and prolific songwriter, I'm not a big fan of Guthrie's voice or his production. (Note: neither is Robert Christgau, it would seem.)
Which brings us to Massachusetts musician Alastair Moock and his new album These Are My Friends. On this, his second album for kids, Moock dives even deeper into the wordplay and preschool-friendly songs that were Guthrie's strengths. Guthrie would be proud to call many of these songs his own (heck, he already has, at least in the case of "Mail Myself To You," which Moock covers appealingly). "CBAs and a Twinkle Baa" is a stone-cold mixed-up kindie classic, guaranteed to leave a group of 4-year-olds laughing. (Or hopelessly confused, if the inscrutable "From Me To You" hasn't already.)
And unlike Guthrie's lo-fi productions and voice, Moock's got an appealing (if gravelly) voice and a relaxed but clean sound on the album. Moock also draws on a wide variety of guest artists, including Rani Arbo (the chipper "Feets Up"), Anand Nayak (who helped produce the album and joins Mook and "Born to Dance"), Mark Erelli (a bluesy "Ladybugs' Picnic"), and Kris Delmhorst (a lovely "Green Green Rocky Road"). And none of the guests feel out of place, tacked on just to impress -- "These Are My Friends," indeed.
The 37-minute album will be most appreciated by kids ages 3 through 7. You can listen to samples here. On These Are My Friends, Alastair Moock provides fresh folk for fresh folk, a worthy 21st-century spiritual successor to Guthrie's music. It's a solid album Woody would dig. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review.