Share: "Aunt Rhody" - The Hollow Trees

nelson_thumb.jpgIt's been awhile since we've heard from Los Angeles' finest cartoon-based purveyors of kid-friendly folk and Americana The Hollow Trees, but word comes from Gregory Hollow Tree (AKA Gregory McIlvaine) that they've got a new album -- Wacky's Tackle -- coming out soon. And a free outtake from the album, "Aunt Rhody" for the free downloading. In the spirit of the season, it's slightly spooky, but tame enough for the most fraidy of cats. Download (or stream) it here, but only until the stroke of midnight on Hollow-er-, Halloween. (OK, I can't claim credit for that pun.)

Review: Piñata Party - Moona Luna

PinataParty.jpgOver the past couple years, I've received a number of Spanish-language kindie albums. I've wanted to like them, I really have, but found that very few were worth spinning for the music alone. Whatever pedagogical value they may have had -- and most of them were designed to teach Spanish -- most were musically unremarkable. Albums from Dan Zanes and Mariana Iranzi -- albums that incidentally weren't designed to teach Spanish -- were the exception. Of course there are classic albums from Suni Paz and José-Luis Orozco, but they are far more traditional in their sound. So I greeted the news of Moona Luna with anticipation -- the Latin-alternative band Pistolera led by Sandra Velásquez, daylighting as a family rock band? Yes, please (or, in the lingua franca of this review, si, por favor!) So while it's difficult to create music that entertains while teaching, on their debut Piñata Party, Moona Luna are up to the challenge with songs that feature bilingual lyrics and preschool-focused subjects. "Tomorrow's Another Day (Mañana Es Otro Día)" has an poppy, earwormy chorus and features the accordion (a staple of a lot of Norteño and Tejano music generally as well as this album). My favorite track on the album, "Hay Que Trabajar (We All Have To Work)," in addition to being a zippy Mexican pop song, is the first song I've heard which explains the difference between working and playing and why both are important. And the track "¿Queires Bailar?," about a cow (la vaca) looking for a friend to dance with, is just a fun bounce-along song that does also work in several other animals and their Spanish names. A couple other shout-outs: Dan Zanes makes an appearance on "Brinca, Jump!," a song encouraging jumping on the bed. Also, their take on the classic "De Colores" rocks a lot more than most versions I've heard. Even if you've grown tired of hearing the song -- I have at least a half-dozen versions in my library -- I think you'll appreciate their more energetic take on the album, which is probably the closest to "rock" the album gets. If there's any downside here, it's that I think it could easily be more Latin/Mexican in its sound and a little more complex lyrically. The weakest track, "Don't Ever Give Up," is the most English-based track on the album and doesn't get much beyond the titular platitude. I'm not suggesting that the next Moona Luna album should go all Los Tigres del Norte on us and features narcocorridos, and their songs are more designed for preschoolers/kindergartners, but there were points when I felt like they were playing it a little safe. (Perhaps that's just a function of trying to write lyrics that need to work in two languages.) The album is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 6. You can hear some of the songs using the widget below. The album, officially released next week, is an Amazon exclusive. I'm glad that Moona Luna's here, because I think they've got a chance to produce some really good songs and a little bit of cross-cultural understanding. In any language, Piñata Party is lots of fun. It's got bilingual pop-rock that stands up to repeated spins, and while the educational component isn't the focus, there's a fair amount of Spanish just waiting to be picked up. Yes, la vaca, I would like to dance! Recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided an advance copy for possible review -- a quote from me can be found on the album packaging.

Live Video: "Fruit Jar" - Justin Roberts with Robbie Fulks

Justin Roberts' "Fruit Jar" (from Pop Fly) is easily in my list of Top 5 Roberts songs. And while I love love love Nora O'Connor on the original, I gotta say that Robbie Fulks is not a bad substitute. Here he is singing with Roberts at a show he did with Fulks Monday night. Mostly Fulks-related, but Roberts got in a few of his songs, too... Justin Roberts with Robbie Fulks - "Fruit Jar" (Live at the Hideout) [YouTube] But wait, there's more!

The Flaming Lips. Yo Gabba Gabba. Well, Duh.

We've known for awhile now that the Flaming Lips would be appearing on this, the third season, of Yo Gabba Gabba. But one look at a clip from the upcoming episode "Fairytale" shows just how perfect the two are for each other. The Lips re-work "I Can Be a Frog" from their 2009 album Embryonic... and by re-work, I mean, change "I" to "You," and that's about it lyrically, it would appear based on the 1-minute clip Viacom shared. It's also a little sunnier in tone, but the video itself looks like, well, every other Flaming Lips concert clip I've seen. Utter chaos. (But in a good way.) Catch it all when "Fairytale" premieres on Nickelodeon on Friday, Nov. 5th at 11:30 AM. The Flaming Lips - "I Can Be a Frog" (from Yo Gabba Gabba!) [embedded with permission of Viacom] Oh, and if you want to hear the original...

Concert Review: Bill Harley (Phoenix, October 2010)

BillHarley_ThomLuce.gifReviewing the Grammy-winningBill Harley in concert seems a little bit like reviewing Bruce Springsteen. He's been playing shows for so long -- thirty-plus years, as he noted early on in his show this weekend at Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum -- that his proficiency at doing his thing live isn't questioned at all, and trying to find new things to say about songs your family may have heard dozens of times before can prove vexing. Better, then, for the reviewer, to try to find new things to appreciate, like Harley's nifty guitarwork on "Down in the Backpack." Or his commitment to being in the moment -- always a good thing as a parent to being reminded of -- such as his decision to turn his guitar into a mbira of sorts for the Ghanian song "Tuuweh" (poor spelling entirely my fault), rarely performed by Harley. Or even his ability, physicially, to make himself appear small when necessary so as to make himself more credible as a kid-sized narrator. The set list focused more on Harley's classics, such as his long story "Teachers' Lounge," "Pea on My Plate," and "Is Not Is Too." He wrapped up the show with "Somos El Barco," recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, among others. I would've been happy to have Harley extend his 75-minute set a little bit longer, but it's probably a good length for the younger folks in the crowd. As with any good storyteller, Harley's gift of being able to communicate -- listen and share -- with others is best experienced live. A fun time. By the way, here's my recap of Harley at Kindiefest. And while I don't have any video from the MIM, here's Harley at Kindiefest performing "Pea on My Plate," which he also did here in Phoenix. Disclosure: I was provided tickets for the show. Photo of Bill Harley at Cincinnati Playhouse by Thom Luce.