The Disney Music Block Party Tour took for. freakin'. ever. to get their site up and running. I mean, news of the tour has been floating around for at least a couple months now, and it became almost amusing to see the "Full Site Launches May [insert date here]" change every couple days, but midday today they finally came through on their promise. Dan Zanes, They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Imagination Movers, and Choo Choo Soul is a pretty sweet lineup, though they won't all be appearing at each concert. $36 a person is a bit steep, though kids under the age of 3 are free, and some of the other activities (the PLAYSKOOL play areas, NAMM-sponsored areas with musical instruments for the kiddos) look nice. (I'm a little dubious about having a tent with nothing but Playhouse Disney TV -- just stay at home if you're gonna do that -- but, hey, don't tell me that place won't be packed after the kids have been there an hour or two.) No, They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies will not be playing at the same show. Value for money, the last show in the Nassau Coliseum is your best bet. As for you Canadians, the good news is that you get a show. The bad news? The Toronto show gets one less act than everyone else. Aaaand, of course Phoenix (not to mention the entire country west of the Mississippi) doesn't get a single show. Full details (dates, locations, hours) after the jump.
A number of months ago, someone e-mailed me and suggested I check out the kids music of Boston-area musician Wayne Potash. She said that he was (and I'm quoting here), "completely lacking in hip-ness... His band is called 'The Music Fun Band' which is one of the stupidest names I’ve ever heard of, and Wayne looks like a hippie freak wearing a fish hat. However, if you can get past that, he’s an amazing musician for little kids." Well, those of you who have read me for any length of time know that those are exactly the kinds of things I can get past. (I don't think I ever had a fish hat, but did have a bag that looked like a trout, so there you go.) And if you can get past those things (and the not-terribly-inspiring album cover, too), his 2005 album Don't Forget the Donut! might just be up your alley. From goofy little songs like "Stunt Car" and "Wiggly Tooth" to breezy reworkings of classics like "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along" and "The Frim Fram Sauce," Potash has a relaxed attitude that serves the music well. He's not trying to remake children's music, he's just having some fun. Not that the music isn't well-played. Potash mixes some jazz (the classic tracks above) with some bluegrass ("Hot Corn, Cold Corn", "Cindy") along with some poppier originals like the groovy "Lobster Dance." His duet with Suzanne Clark on "Down in the Valley" is -- dare I say it? -- better than Dan Zanes. I liked Potash most in his quieter, folkier moments, such as on "Street Sweeper," as opposed to the more '70s guitar-oriented stuff at the end of the album (it's about 8-10 minutes too long), but it's all done without pretension. (Proof of that is the ended-by-laughter version of "Haul Away Joe.") Kids ages 3 through 7 will enjoy these songs the most. You can hear samples of all the tracks at the 48-minute album's CDBaby page. Yes, the album is 3 years old at this point, but he's also working on a new CD. Wayne Potash isn't trying to set the kids music world on fire, he's just covering some good traditional and classic songs and writing decent original music. Don't Forget the Donut! might not become your family's most favorite album, but I can see it lasting in the CD player long after other CDs have worn out their welcome. As my original e-mail tipster said, "he doesn’t rock, exactly. He’s extremely uncool. And yet, he’s pretty amazing, either despite those things or perhaps because of them." I think those of you out there know if that applies to your family. Recommended.
It's been awhile since I've talked about Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine, but that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to the debut kids' CD from Apples in Stereo head honcho Robert Schneider. According to Little Monster Records, the Robbert Bobbert CD will drop in "fall 2008." But we're into instant gratification here, so I'm here to show you how to instantly, er, gratify yourself. First, the quality -- you can listen to another album track at Little Monster's home page. "I Am A Clock" is a sing-songy sing-along ("Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong!") with some fun electronic squiggles thrown in for good measure. There's not much to the song, but those "Ding! Dong!"s are kinda catchy. And for those of you who are a little more into quantity than quality...
San Francisco's Frances England was a Zooglobble first -- the first-ever artist interview on this site. Since that time, England's debut Fascinating Creatures continued to win universal acclaim and England herself added a second child to her family. Two years later, her even-stronger follow-up Family Tree (review) seems certain to attract even more acclaim. England recently answered some questions about what she's been doing the past couple years, how life has changed for her, and how it hasn't. Read on for Frances' trick to overcoming stage nervousness, the inspiration for "Animal Friends," and her plans for live shows. Zooglobble: When we last talked 2 years ago, Fascinating Creatures was just beginning to get noticed in the world at large. Can you pinpoint a certain moment at which you said to yourself, "Oh, my, something really big is going on here"? Frances England: Well, in the wide world of music I don’t know how big this all really is but definitely for me, what happened with Fascinating Creatures was shocking - probably because I had no expectations. Not too long after I began selling the CD online, I remember getting these emails saying that random people in Hong Kong were buying it, then it was Australia, and New Zealand and all these far away places. And it was just really weird to think about how far this little homespun CD had gone, especially considering where it all got started – in our bathroom. (I wrote all of the songs for FC while my first son, Liam, was taking baths). I was also really blown away to be named the sole winner of the 2007 Oppenheim Award. As a mom, I’ve used that very recognizable seal of theirs to scout out quality products for years, so I was really honored by that. How did life change for you as a result of Fascinating Creatures' success?
It's Memorial Day here in the United States, so I thought this review might be appropriate. Maine's Josephine Cameron is not an artist that typically would get much coverage on a kids' music website. That's because even though Cameron spends some of her time teaching songwriting to kids, she doesn't spend her time recording songs for kids. But just as her last album, Close Your Eyes (review) was a mellow CD that could pull double-duty as a lullaby album, so too her latest album, American Songs Vol. 2, could be a good folk song primer for slightly older kids. The album, released in late 2007 and a sequel to the first volume, released in 2002, consists of a number of traditional American folk songs mixed in with a few originals. Cameron puts just enough of her own spin on the more familiar songs to make them fresh without depriving them of the strengths that have made them classics. "Oh Susanna" is dialed-down a notch, emphasizing more of the sadness of the distance between the returning soldier and his love. "This Land Is Your Land" gets all the verses, with Cameron's ebullience at the end showing through. There is pleasure in the discovery of less-familiar songs, such as the waltz of "Gum Tree Canoe." And on "Evangeline" (co-written by Cameron and co-producer Anthony Walton), Cameron retells Longfellow's tale of Evangeline and Gabriel. I also really liked Cameron's, Walton's and arranger Carter Little's bluesy setting of Sterling A. Brown's poem "Long Track Blues." Cameron's slightly high-pitched voice (think Susanna Hoffs) is set off nicely against the understated guitar and mandolin work. I would be surprised if young kids enjoy this album much, but older kids, say those 8 and older, might enjoy listening to these songs. You can hear samples and download tracks here or at the 42-minute album's CDBaby page. Also, I highly recommend Cameron's notes on the songs, which are incredibly detailed. It's always nice to hear musicians thinking about how to record traditional folk music in a way that preserves what makes the song a classic but also brings the musician's own sensibilities to the song, thereby making it new once more. With American Songs Vol. 2, Cameron's done that. It's not necessarily a kids' album, but it's a good album.
I have written multiple times (OK, twice thus far) about the band Central Services Board of Education, the kids' music offshoot of Seattle indie-pop band Central Services. Count myself as a CSBOE fan, though one of just a few because, you know, they haven't actually released an album. Well, soon enough that group will expand, because this afternoon the band said that they've finished the album and will have pre-release copies at their first-ever full-band performance Sunday along with Recess Monkey at Northwest Folklife. The band says they're targeting a release right around "back to school" time. Can't make it to Seattle to pick up a pre-release copy to tide your family over this long summer? Well, then get yourself over to their Myspace page, where they've posted a zippy new track, "8 Is A Number" ('cause everyone's doing number songs this spring, dontcha know?). It's available for download in handy mp3 format, along with a "director's cut" version of the totally awesome "The Lonely Tomato." Both now with added horns!