Cover albums are, depending on one's perspective, the last refuge of scoundrels or a songwriter's tribute to classic songs.
Of course, that's an adult's perspective. Such debates are nowhere to be found in kids' music, mostly because preschoolers don't truck in adults' notions of hipness and because the history of the genre has been one of handing down songs from generation to generation. There's a reason why kids have been singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" for hundreds of years in dozens of languages -- it's because it's a damn good song.
And lullaby albums are especially susceptible to the cover treatment. It's hard work crafting loving songs that are memorable (but not too memorable, because, hey, the kids are supposed to go to sleep).
One of the bands that have worked the lullaby seam quite well in recent years are the LA duo Renee & Jeremy. Many of their chilled-out songs (especially on their debut It's a Big World) are mellow, modern gems of love. So it was with a little trepidation I gave their new album A Little Love -- a collection of ten covers given a mostly down-tempo burnish -- a spin. "They write a good song," I thought, "why would they want to record others'?"
Whatever their motivation, the resulting album highlights Renee & Jeremy's number one weapon in making parents weak at the knees and kids very relaxed -- their voices. Jeremy Toback and Renee Stahl are the best vocal duo in kids' music, bar none, and it's the interplay and harmonies between them that turn what could otherwise be a collection of "why bother?" covers of overly familiar tunes into something much bigger. "Daydream Believer," "Shiny Happy People," "Love" -- all songs I never needed to hear other than by their original artists, but which R&J give a sufficiently mellow spin and artfully draw out the lullaby-ish nature of the song to prove me wrong. And in some cases, like their take on Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" and Coldplay's "Yellow," they provide an entirely different perspective from the original, breathing new life into those songs. Some of that is due to the arrangements, but much of the credit must go to duo's voices, which seem perfectly matched.
It's mostly a lullaby album (ages 0 through 5), but besides the parents, the 25-minute album will probably translate well to the toddlers' older siblings as a mellow-afternoon spin. (You can listen to 90-second samples via the widget below.)
I expected to like A Little Love, but was surprised how much I ended up enjoying it. It has nothing to do with the fact that they're covering songs of my musical childhood and everything to do with the fact that they're turning those songs into music of our collective childhood. That, and the fact that I'm pretty sure I would buy an album of the duo singing anything, including the happy hour menu at TGI Friday's. I actually have a lot of love for A Little Love. Definitely recommended.