As kindie music families go, the Littletons are talented. There's Daniel Littleton, an integral part of You Are My Flower, AKA Elizabeth Mitchell (Littleton's wife), not to mention their daughter Storey, who also appears on their albums. There's also Daniel's brother Miggy, an integral part of The Good Ms. Padgett along with Anna Padgett (Littleton's partner) and 7-year-old daughter Penelope Littleton.
Of course, in both cases, the women are the ones in front singing and writing the songs. And on The Good Ms. Padgett's third album If We Must We Must, Padgett takes a page out her sister-in-law's playbook by mixing in some choice covers amidst her originals. Compared to the folksier and often hushed Mitchell, however, Padgett cranks up the volume, if not to 11, at least to 8 or 9 on a few tracks. It's hard to go wrong with Jonathan Richman, and her take on his "Hey There Little Insect" is nicely crunchy. "Mommy's Lips," a reimagined version of the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips" (made famous via a Nirvana cover), is sweet and swirly and indie-poppy. Padgett's originals can be roughly divided into two camps -- rocking songs like the title track and "Tattle to the Turtle" that tend to have a lesson to share, and mellower songs like "Beach House" and "I Love Your Heart" that tend toward the more atmospheric and simple. I tend to prefer the latter, but the energetic and organic sound of the band (which also includes Daniel Littleton on a number of instruments, Elizabeth Mitchell on vocals and "poncho coordination," Jean Cook on violin, and Tara Jane O'Neil on "ecstatic tambourine") makes those tracks listenable for far longer than those types of "teaching" songs usually are. (Side note: LOVE the cover, designed by Tae Won Yu.)
You can stream the 33-minute album, most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 6, here. If I had to choose between the two bands, I'd still pick You Are My Flower (hey, we've been listening for more than a decade), but If We Must We Must is The Good Ms. Padgett's best album yet, and it stands up entirely on its own. Recommended.