Chip Taylor is a name that might not be immediately familiar to you, but some of the songs he wrote -- "Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning" -- probably are. On his new Smithsonian Folkways album Golden Kids Rules, Taylor is joined by 3 granddaughters -- the "Grandkids" -- to sing some songs which trade in the urgency of "Wild Thing" for the experienced perspective of a grandparent.
Which, yeah, I know sounds dull, but it's really not. On "I'm Just Thinkin' About What I'm Thinkin' About," Taylor sounds like John Prine channeling a daydreaming kid. "Quarter Moon Shining" might be the most beautiful song I've heard all year, filled with questions all kids ask -- "what's beyond the sky?," "how high do birds fly?," "when old dogs die, where do they go?" -- and (some) answers from Taylor, in a soaring chorus. The grandkids are not an afterthought -- they sing on every track. I don't think you'll tire of their voices -- they sound like real kids singing (in tune), rather than KidzBop shouters.
The project started when Taylor wrote some songs for the wedding of his son Kristian. He wrote three songs for he and his grandkids to perform the wedding, included here at the end of the album. Despite the very personal nature of the project, it's to Taylor's credit that the three songs have enough universality to them to make me, someone who's never met Kristian and his wife Anna, understand the songs anyway. (With just a little bit of lyrical tweaking, "Happy Wedding" could easily become a joyful reception staple for any wedding.) With the exception of "Kids to Save the Planet," which is the only overt "do this!" song and therefore the least interesting one on the album, Taylor's guidance is offered gently and obliquely.
The 38-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 9. You can download the title track and listen to samples from the rest here. As with all Smithsonian Folkways disks, the liner notes are excellent. Golden Kids Rules would be a perfect "from the grandparents" gift to your kids, but even if you're not receiving the AARP magazine just yet, you (and your kids), you'll probably enjoy the warmth and good humor in these folk-rock melodies. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this album for possible review.