I swooned over Sing With Me, the kids' EP from Haley Bonar, but a downside of that particular review is that there aren't any sound clips. So I thought I'd close out this Friday by sharing this video of "Beautiful You," recorded by a Duluth radio station when Bonar stopped by to play a few of her tunes. Aside from the inability of Bonar to sing harmony with herself live (as she does on record), it sounds a lot like the album version. That is to say, beautiful. Haley Bonar - "Beautiful You" (Live) [Vimeo]
Well, the Grammys are almost upon us, and once again the Grammy Museum is hosting a Children's Recording concert. It's tomorrow, Saturday, at noon, and for $10 a pop, you'll get to hear music from all six kids' music Grammy nominees -- Ziggy Marley, Buck Howdy, Milkshake, Jonathan Sprout, Greg & Steve, and Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer with Christylez Bacon. That's a pretty good lineup for $10, plus Dean Pitchford and Buck Howdy will do some readings from their Best Spoken Word-nominated albums. Grammy weekend has always had a bit of a convention-week feel for folks in the industry, and the kids music folks are capitalizing on it, having another breakfast on Saturday that'll bring together musicians and other folks in the industry. For a variety of reasons, I won't be able to make it this year, but I will soon... Now, as for the actual awards, the Best Children's Musical Recording and Spoken Word awards will be handed out on Sunday at 1 PM Los Angeles time. As they were last year, these not-ready-for-prime-time (or at least, not shown-on-prime time) will be streamed live GRAMMY.com. You'll be able to follow folks like Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer on the interwebs throughout the weekend. As for who'll actually win, as I said right after the nominations were announced, I think Ziggy Marley has to be considered the favorite taking into account the long Grammy history he has, but Cathy & Marcy could pull off an upset. Maybe next year there'll be 10 nominees.
One of the most welcome trends of the past decade, kids music-wise, is that artists who spend most of their time making music for adults don't have a problem occasionally making music for kids, joining the lucky group of folks for whom making music for families is a full-time gig. Often these albums appear at the midpoint of an artist's career -- think of They Might Be Giants, or Barenaked Ladies, or The Verve Pipe -- well after they've established themselves. But I think we've gotten to the point where up-and-coming artists -- potential Next Big Things -- feel like recording family music is a perfectly acceptable detour along the way. Ten years ago, would Haley Bonar have released her 5-song EP Sing With Me? Probably not. Which would've been a shame, because this is a beautiful 16 minutes of music. Bonar, a singer-songwriter from the Upper Midwest who now calls Portland, Oregon her home, has a sweet voice ever so slightly ragged around the edges. On Sing With Me, she uses that voice to good effect on songs like the album "Beautiful You," which fairly aches with joy. Lyrics like "Beautiful / Everyone is beautiful / And I think you're beautiful, too" might sound trite in the hands of lesser artists, but in Bonar's sparse arrangement becomes a thing of beauty. It's basically a muted version of "What a Wonderful World." That's followed up by the title track, which in its brazen exhortation to sing and use of the major scale in the chorus is a 21st century version of "Do Re Mi." Those two songs, the album's best, are followed by "I Wanna Be Like You," of which Bonar's mellow take may not interest too many kids. The slow waltz "For Sister" is a little bit like Dar Williams' "The Babysitter's Here" in that it's a celebration of love for a little sister that may be best understood by the adults listening, but isn't outside the comprehension level of a kindergartner (who might be close to the experience). The EP finishes up with "If I Had A Rainbow," which features lines such as "If I had a rainbow / that'd follow me wherever I'd go / Everybody'd like me / Because I'd be so colorful." It's a cheery way to end the album. The 16-minute album will be most enjoyed by kids ages 3 through 7. For the moment, you can only purchase the album at Bonar's store. I know that Bonar's on the way up in the world, and we're not likely to get another family album from her anytime soon. That's a shame, because I'm really taken by Sing With Me and I think you'll be, too. Good songwriting is always appreciated, regardless of whether you're 3 or 33. Definitely recommended.
I actually learned violin in the fourth grade (in public school, no less) without the benefit of the Suzuki Method, which, though very popular and I'd guess has taught millions of folks how to play various instruments, is criticized by some folks for being too rote in its instruction. Because I didn't actually learn through the method, I have no idea if the criticisms are correct, but I love the fact that fiddler Mark O'Connor is making an attempt to bring his "O'Connor Violin Method" to a few more folks. I'm not going to speak on the pedagogical method -- because, you know, I'm not a teacher -- but I like the fact that O'Connor sought to include "musical literature that represents all of the Americas -Mexico, Canada and every region of the United States – and all musical styles – classical, folk, Latin, jazz, rock and ragtime." O'Connor goes on to say that
"The tune that I have arranged to provide the most rudimentary studies for a beginning violinist - Boil'em Cabbage Down - is the first fiddle tune I learned as a child."Who knows if "Ashokan Farewell" (a song which is barely 25 years old) is in the collection (I kinda doubt it), but it can't be a bad thing to have a fiddle/violin instructional method use some of those classic tunes, right? (And folks who want to learn from O'Connor -- or have their kids learn from O'Connor -- can go here to learn more about String Camps in Tennessee and New York City this summer. For once, being a viola player has its advantages -- cheaper registration.) Watch the ad here.
I know you've heard a little bit about Alastair Moock and his first album for kids, A Cow Says Moo, and I think you'll probably hear more as the album gets into more and more hands, but for the moment I just wanted to post this video, which spotlights the benefits of getting a chorus of kids to sing along with you in an appealingly raggedly manner. Can't overdo it, of course, but used sparingly, like crushed red pepper, it adds flavor. Also: I'm hypnotized by the drummer's twirling of the drumstick in the right hand. Alastair Moock - "A Cow Says Moo" (Live) [YouTube]