Review: When the World Was New - Dean Jones


There are more than a handful of kids music artists who, in their attempt to anchor their sound in the minds of potential listeners, describe their music in terms of other kids' musicians -- "[Band X] sounds like [Artist Y]."  [Ed.: OK, I'm to blame for that at a reviewer's level, too.]

Dean Jones has never tried to do that, and even if he had, I have no idea who he'd compare himself to, kindie-wise.  As ringleader of the band Dog On Fleas and two solo albums, Jones folds in dozens of instruments modern and ancient, styles jazzy and electronic, into songs that are so far away from subjects that make up the vast majority of most music targeted at kids that we call it "family music" because we have failed to invent another, more descriptive name.

Jones' third solo album, the recently-released When the World Was New, for example, is 33 minutes of music "loosely looking at the evolution of us silly humans."  It features, among other things, the slow-jam waltz "Prehensile Grip," which wonders where we humans would have been without the ability to grasp things, and "Snail Mail," a funky ode to forgoing electronic mail for the purposes of interpersonal communication.  He's not afraid of tackling weightier subjects like war ("Peace in the Valley") and the meaning of an animal's life ("A Sparrow's Soul"), albeit obliquely.  This makes the album sound ponderous, which it's not -- it's jazzy and mysterious and generous and occasionally danceable.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 and up.  (Listen to a 5-song sampler here.)  When the World Was New is an intimate album inspired by big questions -- why are we here? what are we doing? where are we going to? -- but never feels like a boring textbook.  Instead, Jones' album is a series of (musical) essays that might prompt a few questions in the listeners' own minds, young and old.  Definitely recommended.

[Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review.]