Deciding to record an album inspired by spending time with students at a school for children with alternative learning styles, as Brady Rymer has done with his just-released album Love Me For Who I Am could have resulted in an album stickily sweet and boring to most listeners. But on this often rollicking album, Rymer successfully avoids both traps.
Rymer's strength here is his ability to craft in song the feelings of children who have autism or Asperger's. He moves way beyond sympathy and into empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of others. That's because many of the emotional characteristics particularly felt by those children are shared in varying degrees by the rest of the population. There isn't that much of a gap between the child resisting getting dressed (in "Who Wants To Wear Shoes?") and the naked child running around in Rymer's "Dilly Dally Daisy" from a few years back. "Picky Eater," "I Don't Like Change," "Tune Out" -- from the album titles alone, you probably know a kid who would identify, even if they don't register anywhere on the autism spectrum. I think a child who isn't autistic might not want to listen repeatedly because it's not written from their perspective, but I think few kids wouldn't identify with at least a couple tracks. In any case, it's the most empathetic kids album I can think of in quite some time.
Rymer marries those sentiments to his typical roots-rock sound. Once again he gets great support from his backing band, the Little Band That Could, producing a full-bodied sound with echoes of Mellencamp and Springsteen. I particularly liked "Squish Me Squeeze Me," which uses backing horns to great effect (and rhymes the word "anaconda" with "back of a Honda" in a completely non-gratuitous way). Rymer's duet with Laurie Berkner on the tender "Soft Things" is also worth repeated listenings.
The album is most appropriate for all kids ages 3 through 7, though that may be different for kids who actually have autism or Asperger's Syndrome. You can here the whole album at Rymer's website. That Love Me For Who I Am is highly recommended for families (or classrooms) affected by autism or Asperger's isn't terribly surprising. What is more surprising, perhaps, is that other kids and families would probably enjoy listening to the album (or at least a fair number of the songs) on a regular basis. Recommended.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this album for possible review.]