Itty-Bitty Review: Planting Seeds - Maria Sangiolo

PlantingSeeds.jpgIt is hard to make an "Earth Day"-themed album.

Well, it's hard to make a good one, anyway, one whose musical enjoyment outweighs any "life lessons" the album hopes to teach (the teaching of which usually fails because the music fails.)

I'm happy to report, then, that Maria Sangiolo's new album Planting Seeds is one of the few earth-themed albums families will want to listen to in April or even the rest of the year. This is partially the result of choosing good songs that happen to be about the planet we live on, and the plants and animals (including us) who reside upon it. It's only in that broader sense that putting Mark Erelli's version of the traditional folk song "The Fox" on an album "celebrat[ing] agriculture and sustainability" (to quote the back cover) fits. (Or the frustration with the bug world on Sangiolo's bluesy "Flashlights and Flyswatters" and Anand Nayak and Sienna Jessurun's "Noisy Cricket.") But it thankfully keeps the album from sounding like a lecture.

The other thing that keeps it from sounding like a lecture is that the music is quite good. Sangiolo pulled in Nayak, who's part of Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, as producer, and like daisy mayhem's music, this album has a loose and relaxed feel, like a well-worn pair of jeans. Maybe the duet between Sangiolo and Nayak compatrior Steve Roslonek (aka SteveSongs) on Les Julian's participation song "Plant a Seed" took several tracks to record, but the genuinely humorous interplay between the two makes it sound like it was recorded live-to-tape in just one take. Sangiolo also is generous in sharing the album with many other artists beyond those already mentioned, include Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem on a couple tracks, Sally Rogers and Howie Bursen doing their best Pete Seeger on "Maple Sweet," and Alastair Moock and Lori McKenna on my favorite track on the album, "Didn't Know What I Was Missing." (Moock also co-wrote a number of the songs here.) The album is credited to "Maria and Friends," and the billing is apt.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 9. You can listen to samples here. Planting Seeds is a celebration of the earth on which we live, but it's also a celebration of community. Sangiolo's community of friends have put together a collection of songs worth listening to (and maybe, eventually, learning from). Recommended.