It's time for another roundup of all things ketchup related... OK, not really, it's just a variety of stuff that caught my eye (and ear) since, well, the last Ketchup Report. This one is an all-video edition. Except for these words right here. And the ones below. First off, this is how you do a promo for a kindie album. A very effective teaser for Alastair Moock's forthcoming album These Are My Friends featuring Moock and Annad Nyack. If there was a tagline for the teaser, it might be "It's just crazy enough to work!"
Opera singer to string band fiddler is not, as best I can tell, a common musical path, but that's exactly the path that Rhiannon Giddens has taken. The North Carolina native trained to sing opera, but also found herself drawn to learning the fiddle. One thing led to another, and by 2005, she was one of three musicians founding the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The band, now a quartet, has brought the centuries-old African-American string band tradition to a new century and new audiences. Including kids, as can be shown by their performance at the Green River Festival's Meltdown Stage earlier this month. I was intrigued as to what motivated Giddens and her bandmates to play for kids in addition to adults, as well as finding out more about the challenges (and benefits) of playing for a family audience. Giddens kindly agreed to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule (the band plays the Newport Folk Festival this weekend) to talk about just that... Zooglobble: What are some of your musical memories growing up? Rhiannon Giddens: Singing with my dad, mom, and sister (all the time!) and seeing amazing people like Sweet Honey in the Rock, Sapphire the Uppity Blues Women, and the North Carolina Symphony. What do you think your daughter will remember musically from her childhood? That's a big question, I'm eager to know myself! I hope she takes away the variety that she's being exposed to, and that music is a necessary part of life, even if she doesn't go into music professionally. What made you interested in playing the Meltdown (family) stage at the Green River Festival?
I spilled the beans about this last week, but it turns out that the new Dan Zanes album I stumbled onto shouldn't have been on Spotify just yet. It's so easy to flip that digital switch these days. But now it's officially here. It's called Contradance: Music from the Pilobolus Dance Performance, and it's, well, exactly that. Zanes had worked with the dance group Pilobolus to create a new show. It premiered last year. And now you can listen to (and buy) the eight tracks of the EP at Zanes' store. The album leans toward his American Songbag work, but if your family is a fan of Zanes' work in general, Contradance will be right up your alley. (Give extended samples a spin using the player on the right-hand side of the page here. Or use Spotify to listen to the whole darn thing.)
Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band played their first concert at the Children's Museum of Phoenix this past weekend, and we had fun indeed. It was a wonderful little concert targeted to the mostly preschool-aged crowd in attendance, with Swedberg occasionally pulling out a silly voice, while the Phoenix version of the Sukey Jump Band (Daniel Ward on bass uke and Doug Nottingham on everything percussive) held down the low end. (I think the kids particularly liked Nottingham's Boomwhacker solo.) Swedberg and her band also played a few songs she picked up in her recent trip to Haiti. I've embedded a couple of the songs below -- "Tonton Bouki," the Creole version of "Frere Jacques," along with a Haitian lullaby. They also did a Haitian call-and-response. I'm really only appreciating now how lucky we were to catch the gig in such a small space. While Swedberg didn't pull out her crate of ukes for kiddos at the show (though Little Boy Blue brought his new uke, as did another one or two kids), she did have lots of them for use at a workshop she hosted for 12-15 folks on Sunday afternoon in downtown Phoenix. While you can give ukes to preschoolers, kids have to be a little bit older to grasp the bare rudiments of musical theory you need to play the uke (or to have the patience to sit through the tiny little lessons). A lot was second nature to me, but Miss Mary Mack joined me, and it was definitely right at her skill level. (And while the notes/chords part wasn't new to me, getting guidance on strumming and finger-picking was a big help.) Swedberg's not the only ukulele evangelist, but she's doing the one-on-one work that'll make this resurgence more than a fad. She's coming back to town in January, and I think it'll be a big deal. (Also, attention Austin City Limits Festival 2011: -- if you don't have ukes for sale during her performances, you people are nuts.) Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band - "Tonton Bouki (Frere Jacques)" (Live at the Children's Museum of Phoenix) [YouTube]
The annoyance some parents feel upon hearing the classics of kids' music isn't due to the melodies themselves. The melodies, in fact, because they've survived for centuries in some cases, are some of the best ever. Parents' anger, rather, is a result of repetition and, sometimes, poor execution. The littlest things, like providing the barest minimum of interesting accompaniment and slightly different (but real) instrumention, can push the date of the inevitable "I can't take this anymore!" way out into the future. So it is with The Littlest Star, the debut album from Meadows. The band is a side project from musician and composer Keith Kenniff and his wife Hollie (who also perform together in their indie-rock band Mint Julep). Most of the tracks are renditions of standard wiggleworm-y classics like "Shoofly Don't Bother Me," "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O," and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The arrangements are muted and tasteful, lots of acoustic guitar and piano. Hollie Kenniff gets the majority of vocals here; her relaxed voice induces calm and fits the simple tunes perfectly. Their banjo-assisted take on "You Are My Sunshine" is particularly lovely. The originals (e.g., "Flutter Like a Butterfly," "Three Kangaroos") are pleasant enough, but tend toward the cute end of the spectrum and I found myself preferring the standards to these. The 33-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 0 through 5. You can hear samples at their homepage, but to listen to fill tracks, check out the Unseen Music YouTube channel. You'll probably find Meadows' sound as reminiscent of Elizabeth Mitchell's (minus the inspired cover song choices). I'd go with Mitchell's CDs over The Littlest Star, but the fact that I'm even bothering to compare the two speaks highly of the Meadows' ability to make childhood classics listenable for a long time. Recommended. Disclosure: I received a (digital) copy of the album for possible review.
Southern kindie rockers The Baby Grands have decided to give away their 2010 album The Baby Grands II (I'll let you figure out where it fits in their discography) for the price of an e-mail address. It's worth the price, but if you're not convinced by my pithy comment, I encourage you to stream the album at their website.