Seriously, doesn't that look great? I'd think it was pretty cool even if my website's name wasn't on there. Remember, the Family Music Meltdown will be Saturday, Sept. 15th, starting at 6 PM, at Ruta Maya in Austin, Texas. Great lineup (Deedle Deedle Dees, Joe McDermott, Laura Freeman, Telephone Company), cheap tickets, it will be lots of fun. And many, many thanks to Jay from Lunch Money for designing the poster.
A brief note about an interesting-sounding show tonight in New Jersey. Danny Adlerman and Yosi are appearing at the same show tonight in Metuchen, New Jersey, opening up for Mr. Ray. That by itself wouldn't necessarily lead to a mention here, but what I love about it is that Danny and Yosi are going to play each other's songs. It's kind of like a kids' music hoot night except that it's two artists, not the more typical one, and the hooted artists are actually on stage together, and other people aren't singing. So, really, nothing like a hoot night at all. But still kinda cool.
Ella Jenkins is a legend. There are rising stars, stars, and superstars in the kids' music world, but Ella Jenkins is a flat-out legend, even though she might demur at the use of such a word. Three weeks ago, just after her birthday, I talked with her about her start in the field of kids' music, her approach, and her long career recording for Folkways Recordings (now Smithsonian Folkways). Read on for her thoughts on all those things, plus find out one of her nicknames, how she chose the ukelele as an instrument, and be amazed by exactly how many languages she can use in one conversation. ********* Zooglobble: The first thing I wanted to say is Happy Belated Birthday. Ella Jenkins: Oh, thank you! I feel honored. I never tire of people saying it. So you had a concert on Monday? Yes. One of the branch libraries were celebrating their tenth anniversary. The person who had introduced me to that library, his name is Scott Draw. I had worked with him at another library, and he knew my birthday was on August 6th and he said, "That's when we're having our anniversary party, it would be nice if we could coordinate it. The Friends of the Library said they'd be happy to engage you if you could do a mini-concert." And everybody sang Happy Birthday to you, I hope? Oh, yes, they did that. We were trying to save it for the end, but somebody jumped the gun, I think [Laughs]. This is the fiftieth anniversary of your first album's release on Smithsonian Folkways [in 1957]... I went to New York City in 1956 and met Moses Asch, who had faith in me and felt there was a possibility [of releasing an album]. He said, send me some material. I had actually brought him a demo disk with about four different songs. He said, you can probably do a recording, but you need to expand a bit, add a little instrumentation, and maybe we can do an album with you. But in the meantime, let's sign a contract, which let me know he was really serious. That was in 1956, but in 1957 is when he released the album. It was a 10-inch [LP] and it was called Call and Response: Rhythmic Group Singing. That was my focus on how I would teach music, the call and response approach. How did you settle on call and response as the primary way you wanted to teach music and lead and sing music?
I play the violin and not the fiddle, so my bluegrass bona fides are slim. But I'm familiar with Del McCoury, who's been making bluegrass music for a long time, and making music with his sons for a couple decades or more. No, Del does not have a son named "Little Mo'" -- that's just a fancy moniker for one of his sons, Ronnie McCoury, who essentially leads the Del McCoury Band through a kid-friendly bluegrass album. They're billing this self-titled Little Mo' McCoury album, released this week, as the first all-bluegrass album for kids, which it pretty much is, though there are other albums that come close to the mark (Phil Rosenthal's Folksongs & Bluegrass For Children collection, Grisman and Garcia's Not For Kids Only, which McCoury cites as an inspiration). The album could have been an excuse to run through traditional kids' songs in a bluegrass style -- think something like Pickin' On Raffi -- but thankfully McCoury and his band avoid the cliches and provide a nice introduction to bluegrass. In fact, the strongest tracks here are the ones most kids and many listeners, including this one, will be unfamiliar with. "Barefoot Nellie" is an instrumental showpiece, guaranteed to get all but the most somnolent kids hopping. "Mama's Blues" features some great banjo picking from Ronnie's brother Rob in which the instrument takes the place -- and the voice -- of a young child. Most of the rest of the album also works well. There are solid renditions of old standbys "The Fox" and "Teddy Bears' Picnic," which will be familiar to a number of listeners, and McCoury's original "My Friend, My Guitar," co-written with his wife Allison, is a decent song which also illustrates how to play a G-run guitar lick. I can't say that their takes on Randy Newman's Toy Story song "You've Got a Friend in Me" or the traditional "Big Rock Candy Newman" were revelatory -- I'm too used to other versions, perhaps -- and a few other songs left me with a similar "that's nice, what's next" feeling, but the playing throughout is expert. Given the songs covered here, kids ages 2 through 7 are most likely to enjoy the CD, though this is more of an all-ages set than many. You can hear clips from the 49-minute CD all over the internet, but you might want to check out their Myspace page for four cuts, or my most recent NPR appearance to play the energetic "Barefoot Nellie." There is nothing revolutionary about Little Mo' McCoury, it's simply a nice mixture of well-played kid-focused and kid-friendly bluegrass tunes that will serve as a decent introduction to the bluegrass genre. It's another sign that hopefully the kids music genre is maturing a little bit and expanding beyond the folk and pop-rock that has been its bread and butter up to now. Recommended.
I'm at home this week, doing some spring cleaning (yes, it's a summer thing), finishing the last Harry Potter book, and spending some quality time with my family. Oh, I'm also going to Texas for the first-annual Austin Kid's Day. Yes, on Sunday, Sept. 2nd, I'll be at the event, which features a fun kids and family music lineup, with Joe McDermott, the Biscuit Brothers, Trout Fishing in America, and headlining the show, Aunty E. There will also be a bouncy castle, which I may or may not be allowed to jump in. I'll be at the show thanks to Aunty E. (Thanks, Aunty E!) I'm looking forward to hearing her live, along with the rest of the lineup. Look for pictures of, interviews from, and other thoughts about the show next week. (Also, I promise to reduce my prepositions.) The show will take place at the Glenn at the Backyard. Doors will open at 1 PM on the 2nd, with music starting at 1:30 PM. Tickets are $17 for adults, $12 for kids, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than Schlitterbahn. (More details at the website.) If any readers out there are planning on going, drop me a line -- I'd love to say hey.
Well, I can't explain it, because it's been out-of-print due to contract disputes (see director Cory Edwards' explanation here). It's certainly not cheap on Amazon ($30+) or eBay ($50+). But I ordered (and received) this week a brand-new, sealed copy of the awesome Hoodwinked soundtrack (Top 10 of 2006 for me, here's my review) for about $15 delivered. I don't know how long this will last, but my guess is, not long. Where is it?