Let us begin this review by noting the long history of Trout Fishing in America. Formed in 1979 out of the ashes of another band, Keith Grimwood (bass, AKA the short one) and Ezra Idlet (guitar and banjo, AKA the tall one) have made folk-rock together as a duo for nearly 35 years, including more than 20 years of family music releases. Not to mention many hours (weeks? months?) of between-song banter That, friends, is a long career, one that the duo shows no signs of wrapping up.
Their new album Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers is in many respects similar to prior releases of theirs. Goofy wordplay and joy in rhyme? The title track is for you, as is their version of Emily Kaitz's "To Be a Wood Bee." Songs from songwriting workshops done with kids? Please check out "Zoo Wacky Zoo" and "It's Not Mud" (the latter featuring Chris Wiser and Rob Martin from the Sugar Free Allstars). Just plain odd? "Meow, Meow, Meow" serves as your English-Feline dictionary.
While I've always appreciated kid-centric narrative approach that TFIA takes, I've never been a big fan of most of the songs that have come out of their songwriting workshops with youth -- I think the two such songs here are the album's weakest tracks. Far stronger, at least from a narrative perspective, is "The Late, Great, Nate McTate," featuring a strutting bass line and a perfectly captured character study of a timeliness-challenged person. It's a song that makes me very much want to hear the full 2009 musical the band wrote the songs for (P's and Q's: The ABCs of Manners) on which it first appeared.
I can't finish this review without a special shout-out to "Don't Touch My Stuff!" The song was inspired (if that's the right word) by the burglary of the band's van in 2012. The not-at-all concealed anger and frustration (albeit leavened with humor - "Hey! what's wrong with our CDs?!") makes me feel it's not quite a kids song, but then again, it's the sort of raw emotion that's rare in music for families, and in that regard I like it.
The 36-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9. You can hear three of the songs at the band's homepage.
Any band with as long a career as Trout Fishing in America has had clearly understands what their audience wants, and the band is comfortable in what they're offering musically, occasionally wandering down paths just because they're amused by doing so. Longtime TFIA fans won't be disappointed by Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers and newcomers will find the album a good introduction to the band, its music, and its sense of humor, not to mention a number of songs worth putting into your family music rotation. Recommended.