Review: Tabletop People Vol. 1 & 2 - Session Americana

TableTopPeopleVol1and2.jpgLost amid all the talk of hootenannies lately is this crucial point: They're not always all that interesting for the audience. Sure, it can be a blast playing music with friends, challenging one another, exploring new music. Sometimes magic happens for musician and listener alike. But sometimes all you're left with is "Jazz Odyssey," of little interest to the people listening. Tabletop People Vol. 1 & 2 (2005) is an album that grew out of a hootenanny and became a CD that many readers and families out there will absolutely love. The core of Session Americana consists of six Boston-area musicians with many other gigs; the band itself is known for their roots-rock jams in increasingly large local venues. They recorded the album in the same way they play their shows -- gathered in a circle, with guests joining in. The band's long experience playing live shines through on the CD -- the music is accomplished but with a looseness that makes the joy (and, occasionally, sadness) stand out. The album starts off with with an invigorating bluegrass take on "Boats Up the River," so propulsive that one of the band members shouts "Don't stop now!" midway through. And they don't, from a rootsy take on Jonathan Richman's "Party in the Woods" (led by former Richman bandmate Asa Brebner) to a gently swinging "Merzidotes" to the best version of "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" on record (emphasizing the "uh-HUH" part gives it a great singalong feel). And that's just the first CD. Yes, in the spirit of Wilco's great Being There album, this 59-minute album is split into two CDs. The second CD is listed as more introspective, a distinction that is somewhat hard to hear (there are introspective tracks on the first CD, too), but the split does make it easier to take just a 30-minute CD break. The second CD includes the languid indie-pop "Floppy Tulips," a rockin' alt-country' "Mr. Rabbit" (which, well, would have fit perfectly on Being There or A.M., musically at least), and the final two songs "Point of No Return" and "Trouble Wheel." These last two are not kids' songs by any stretch of the imagination -- they're the songs you hear at the end of the night when the kids, exhausted from dancing and playing around, are asleep in your lap just before you head home. The album's appropriate for listeners age 2 and up, although there are going to be certain songs that the youngsters won't get -- not inappropriate, just not really geared for 'em. You can hear samples of all the tracks at the album's CD Baby page, but I'd recommend going to both their Myspace page as well as their own album page. Each have the same three (full tracks), but the former also includes "Mr. Rabbit" and the latter also includes "Boats in the River." Fans of Dan Zanes, Dog on Fleas, and Elizabeth Mitchell will especially hold this album dear, but so will a bunch of other listeners. Sometimes hootenannies leave the listener a little flat, but at times they can be graced by magic. Tabletop People Vol. 1 & 2 falls in the latter category. Highly recommended.

Seattle, San Francisco... Anyone Else Want To Host (or Play In) a Kids Music Festival?

Well, spurred in part by my challenge to the West Coast to come up with some hootenannies and kids' music festivals of our own, at least two people have offered to organize something: Eric Herman doesn't even live in Seattle and is offering to organize something for Northwest-area artists. (Live in Vancouver? Portland? If Eric can drive 4 hours, so can you!) If interested, drop Eric a line at ericATbutter-dogDOTcom (you'll obviously have to unSPAMify that e-mail address). Loyal reader Deb in SF has also offered to organize an event in the Bay Area. If you're in the area, contact Deb at debraunATsbcglobalDOTnet (again, unSPAMify that). Are any of you interested in traveling out to Phoenix? You know how to reach me...

I'm the Ted Williams of Live, Kid-Friendly Music

Ted Williams was the last person to hit .400 for a baseball season, and now I'm duplicating the feat (using my own, very narrow, self-selected definition). 5 shows, 2 with our family's attendance... -- Trout Fishing in America: They played here the weekend before last. I know that Trout's music appeals to all ages, but the fact that they played at the auditorium smack-dab in the community of Sun City -- which prohibits kids from living there -- amused me slightly. In any case, it's a long drive out there from our house, and since we were co-hosting a Chinese New Year's party that night, we took a pass. Hopefully next time... -- Baby Loves Disco: All four of us attended the soiree in Scottsdale this weekend and had a fun time (again). I'll have more on this maybe next week. -- The Terrible Twos: Argh. This show was schedule at the very last minute, so late that there was zero confirmation of the show except on the band's myspace page. We had guests visiting that afternoon, and shooing them out the door a little early so we could see a show that no human had actually confirmed seemed, well, my wife drew the line at that. And, yeah, that would have been bush-league. (So needless to say, I was a little disappointed when the venue's owner called up later that night and said that, yes, the show did indeed go on.) Hopefully next time... -- Dan Zanes: Sunday, April 22nd, Tucson. We are there. I can't wait. I'm bringin' the uke. -- Finally, some radio show's hootenanny in Brooklyn on March 24: Either that or the Park Slope Parents CD-release party on March 25th would be a lot of fun. It would also be terribly inconvenient, geographically (not to mention I'm already out of town that weekend). So are you listening, West Coast? San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland -- I'm talking to you -- each of you have enough kids' artists that you could put together a pretty good hootenanny yourself. (Or if you all want to come out to Phoenix, let me know...) Don't let the East Coast Bias win!

Mr. David A Bit 'Jumpy' About His New Album

Yes, it's all about making punny headlines that don't really make sense in the context of the article around here. Anyway, for those of you wondering what's next on the plate of San Jose-based Mr. David, he notes on his show page that his next album, Jump in the Jumpy House, will be released in June 2007. And for those of you wanting to hear songs off the new album, get on over to Technology Credit Union in San Jose next Tuesday, March 6th to see Mr. David in concert. So... I'm wondering... is it "jumpy house" on the West Coast? Because we call 'em "bouncy houses" 'round these parts... Is this like a "cola"/"soda pop" thing here?

Review: LMNO Music (Green) - Enzo Garcia

EnzoGarciaGreen.jpgOver the course of just a few years, San Francisco-based Enzo Garcia has released nine albums of original and occasionally quirky folk reworkings of traditional and original kids' songs. The recently re-released Green is a good example of Garcia's work. One of the primary things I find so appealing about the series is the fact that electronic keyboards, which in many artists' hands is the great bane of children's music, are long absent. Instead, on tracks such as "What Do You Do?," Garcia employs a toy piano. I'm not necessarily a huge toy piano fan, but Garcia's fondness for using instruments you don't typically hear (on albums of any kind) means getting to hear familiar songs in unfamiliar ways. And so on "This Old Man," Garcia is joined by Tom Waits' occasional side man (and budding kids' musician in his own right) Ralph Carney on slide clarinet. Garcia and Carney also team up on a rousing "Drunken Sailor," which spares no lyrics in the tale of the punishments for the inebriated crewmate, Garcia's rolling of the "r's" on "rusty razor" echoing Carney's tenor sax. There's no track on here that's quite as engrossing as "Hold My Hand" on his Pink CD, but the round on the traditional "My Paddle's Keen and Bright" comes close. (I also liked Garcia's "Dee Dee.") Even more than Pink, Green will be most enjoyed if you participate along with the music. The disks were created to accompany Garcia's weekly music classes, and so if you move around (or accompany with shakers and tambourines) the music here, you'll get the most out of the album. The songs here are most appropriate for kids ages 1 through 6. You can hear samples at the album's CD Baby page. Enzo Garcia is right in the middle of the great folk music tradition that encourages music-makers to take traditional tunes and make them their own. On Green, Garcia continues to help families hear old tunes in new ways (and maybe even start to make them their own). It's as good as any Garcia album to introduce you to his music. Recommended. [Note: Bryan at The Pokey Pup notes that they're currently running a special offer where if you buy Green you can get LMNO (Red) for free. Easy-peasy. Click here for more...]

Multimedia Notes, Part Two

Updating last week's update, here were few more sites I wanted to highlight... First, I've been a fan of Josephine Cameron, so I wanted to make sure I pointed out her two new websites -- a cool website all about Songwriting For Kids and a more traditional blog entitled Please Come Flying. The latter isn't really kids-related, though I'm sure a lot of older kids would appreciate her links (she's been on a particularly big jazz-related kick this month). As I've said for a long time, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child is the Unofficial Radio Station of Zooglobble, and I'd say that even if I didn't have a guest DJ set on March 3rd. But variety is an important part of a healthy radio diet, so if you need more than one show, you'll probably also like The Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl. (But not live March 3rd. Then you want Spare the Rock.) Finally, Yosi's blog's been linked here for awhile now, but if you haven't checked out his recent series of interviews with Neal Pollack, Kevin Kameraad, and others, you really should.