Without a doubt, Randy Kaplan is a raconteur, good at telling stories. He tells them through song rather than spoken word or on paper, but his characters and offbeat humor sometimes bordering on the absurd might remind you (in a very kid-friendly way) of, say, David Sedaris.
That storytelling drive is back in full effect on his fifth family album Jam on Rye. I say that because his last album, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, featured bowdlerized versions of classic blues tunes. I liked the album quite a bit, but in retrospect, the parody/homage format meant that it was less character- and quirk-driven. In other words, less Randy.
Not so on the new album. From a memorable shower door ("Ode to a Shower Door," which features a guest appearance from a past Kaplan character), to parental frustrations with a visit to a Mexican restaurant ("Don't Fill Up on Chips"), the new songs let Kaplan play with voices and characters to good effect. One of my favorite tracks here is "Crew Cut," which wistfully recounts a series of different hairstyles. His songs range from scatalogical humor ("Burpity Burp Burp Burp") to tender ("Not Too Young for a Song") to tender scatalogical humor ("Everybody Farts") -- you can tell that Kaplan's new status as a parent has given him a brand new well of material to work with. Longtime Kaplan producer Mike West once again helps fill out Kaplan's guitar work with a full range of instruments.
The 46-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 8. You'll laugh, you'll cry -- OK, your kids won't cry, but you'll at least take a minute to appreciate the whirlwind of parenting. Definitely recommended.