I love being surprised by new music I hadn't expected. It doesn't happen as much as it used to -- the kindie scene has matured -- but it still happens.
I hadn't heard that the Watson Twins were recording an album of family-friendly folk-pop until Pioneer Lane was released this week. I still remember one of their sets at SXSW a few years back as being fun, and, in the dimmed lights of a church sanctuary, somewhat mysterious. On the basis of that set, I thought that the prospect of a kids music album from them could be promising.
This new album moves their folk/rock/alt-country sound out of the sanctuary and into a barn somewhere for a late-afternoon picnic that stretches into a moonlight night. The whole effect is mesmerizing, the sisters' harmonies reverberating on both the slow and uptempo tracks. The songs stay away from narratives that would restrict themselves to kids -- these are love songs, if in language more geared toward the kindergartener in your life. Highlights include the uplifting "Stay True," the sun-drenched pop of "Hello Hello," the hypnotic "Sun Drips on Leaves," and the paddycake-based album closer "My Family."
The album is brief, clocking in at just over 22 minutes. It's most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7, but this is definitely one of those albums that the parents will mix into their own playlists. Pioneer Lane is a tiny jewel of an album that will give the listener a warm, fuzzy glow, proof that kids music can still surprise and delight. Definitely recommended.