***Frances England***

I love it, man! Kids' Music has gotten to the point where people are actually anticipating artists' upcoming releases, starting a buzz when even the rumor of a follow-up album is generated. A performer at the top of my list of "when's the next one comin' out?!?" has to be Frances England, and sure enough, Family Tree doesn't disappoint. Wait, I should say Family Tree "quietly destroys the competition", or "raises the bar to an almost impossible height". It's that good.

Here's the secret to Frances' success: these songs existed in her heart before they found their way onto this CD. Like several "kids' bands" I really dig ... Dog On Fleas, the Jellydots, Elizabeth Mitchell, Gustafer Yellowgold, Gunnar Madsen, Mr. David, ... Frances doesn't set out to record a children's album. She writes songs that she would have written anyway, tunes that have been floating around in the ether waiting to be channeled through her fingers, through the strings of her guitar, through our speakers.

Back in the early-to-mid '80s the indie rock scene was pretty closely knit: REM knew the Replacements knew Husker Du knew the Minutemen knew the Meat Puppets, etc., and all these bands learned from one another, listened to each other's albums, went to see each other's shows. It's no accident that Dean Jones from Dog On Fleas and Doug Snyder from the Jellydots make guest appearances on Family Tree. There's a movement goin' on here, people, and at the very least these fiercely independent bands and performers will be remembered years from now for the quality and vision of their work. At the very most, they will wrest control from corporate purveyors of obviously yet shamelessly crappy kids' music.

Now, on to Family Tree ... I probably can't do the album justice by typing a few words I looked up in a thesaurus, so here are a few gushing accolades from a blathering idiot: I love how she pronounces the word "baybeh", I love how the tempo speeds up in the middle of "Free to Be Me", I love the "ba dap ba" choruses on the title tune and "Animal Inside You", I love the perfectness of the oughta-be-a-hit-single "Spring Has Sprung" ... you just can't get more sincere than this, folks. Today is the release date for Family Tree, so find it, buy it, dig it, let Frances know how much you appreciate her presence in the children's music world.

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