Itty-Bitty Review: Creepy Crawly Love - Duke Otherwise

It's been awhile since I've heard a good off-kilter kids music album, an album with a distinct perspective on song subjects and a musical approach to match.

If your family collection is similarly deficient, allow me to suggest Duke Otherwise, AKA Noah Riemer, whose debut album Creepy Crawly Love comes out of the Upper Midwest's House of Mercy Recordings to take up space on your family's CD shelf (or computer hard drive) next to John and Mark's Children's Record, The Great Adventures of Mr. David, or perhaps Zak Morgan (thanked in the album's liner notes).

Take "I Used to Think," a jazz-with-a-bit-of-klezmer tune with a hyperactive narrator sounding a bit like Sesame Street's Count declaiming that features the lyrics "I used to think the world was flat, not round / I used to think I weighed a thousand pounds / Can you believe I used to think that e=mcHammer?"  Or Tin-Pan-Alley-via-the-midway "Git Yer Fiddle Out," featuring (among other things) a dog toy, train whistle, trombone, and strummed fiddle, and lyrics like "Get your fiddle out and strum it / Get your trombone out and drum it / Get your xylophone and drive it / C'mon! Drive, drive, drive!" that only get odder from there.  Riemer obviously delights in wordplay, using nifty, brainy lyrics to sing about short-tailed dogs ("Dog Without a Tail"), the Spanish language interrupted by other languages ("How Do You Say 'No' in Español?"), and other eccentrics, all in a musical packaging that's like a slightly peppier Tom Waits.

While a few of the songs will amuse preschoolers, it's really kids ages 6 through 10 who will most appreciate the album.  You can hear clips of many tracks at the Duke Otherwise homepage, or stream a few full-length songs here. I would be surprised if Creepy Crawly Love became a massively popular hit -- it's a bit too off-center for that.  But these types of albums often become adored in some households, and if what you hear here tickles your fancy, then I think your household will give this album a happy home.  Definitely recommended.