Friday Free-for-All # 19

Ones that got away: Albums that didn't get reviewed but should have!!

Lamar Holley, Classroom Pop, Volume 1

Imagine Brian Wilson teaching your fifth grade class, backed by The Ben Folds Five ... that's pretty much whatcha got with Lamar Holley's Classroom Pop! Un-bee-leeee-vably catchy tunes about plants, explorers, religions, the Colonies, clouds, state capitals, and the Pythagorian Theorem. Hey, if you're not in the mood for learnin', skip to the music-only tracks. An amazingly good CD that's perfect for classrooms or the budding songwriter in your home.

Ninny Cow Tea, 58 Really Short Songs with Lyrics by 3 to 5 Year Old Children

The brainchild of Brett Ellerton, Music Specialist at Seattle's New Discovery School. As a songwriting exercise, Ellerton had his preschoolers come up with a short phrase which was put to music by the students and Ellerton. After practicing the tunes as a class, the songs were recorded, and voila, Ninny Cow Tea! A fascinating look into the minds of little kids. as the song subjects range from family trips to super heroes to personal fears to playing hopscotch with a ghost. And don't miss the kids' song illustrations in the CD layout!

Introducing..... Salt and Pepper

Just wanted to introduce you to the latest additions to the farm. These twin boys were just a couple of days old in this picture. They are the first of many more kids expected to come in the next month or so on our farm. They were also featured in this month's "What in the world". Congratulations Kandee! You guessed it.

New York, New York, It's a Helluva Town...

...even for kids' music! That line from On the Town sez it all when you look at the number of children's music acts slated for appearances in the Big Apple in September alone. Dig:

  • Sept. 6 - The Terrible Twos @ The Bowery Poetry Club
  • Sept. 7 - Robbi K and Friends @ Howl Festival in Tompkins Square Park
  • Sept. 7 - Uncle Rock @ The Bowery Poetry Club
  • Sept. 14 - Dan Zanes @ The New York Botanical Garden
  • Sept. 14 - Hayes Greenfield @ The Jewish Museum
  • Sept. 14 - Tom Chapin, Lisa Loeb, and Brady Rymer @ Harmony on the Hudson
  • Sept. 20 - Astrograss @ National Estuaries Day Celebration at Battery Park
  • Sept. 20 - The Sippy Cups @ South Street Seaport
  • Sept. 20 - The Dirty Sock Funtime Band @ NYU's Skirball Center
  • Sept. 21 - Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band @ The Brooklyn Children's Museum
  • Sept. 21 - Laurie Berkner @ Lincoln Center
  • Sept. 28 - Funkey Monkeys @ The Jewish Museum
  • Sept. 27 - The Bari Koral Family Band @ Brooklyn's Best Family Fest
  • Sept. 28 - Astrograss @ The Jewish Community Center

...not to mention Morgan Taylor's ongoing Off Broadway production of Gustafer Yellowgold's Mellow Sensation at the DR2 Theatre. Come for a visit, hear and see some great music!

Mid-Week Madness # 927

Sandbox, Are We There Yet?

This Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, NC, quintet keeps it rural without going overboard on the hokeyness. In fact, Sandbox's mix of country, early '80s new wave, roadhouse honky tonk, doo-wop, and rock & roll will entertain the whole family. From the cowbell rock of "I Like to Win" to the country/new wave hybrid "Pajama Party," from the sweet country pop of "Dream Song" to the educational powerpop of "Chromosome," from the radio-ready "PB Jam" to the twangy doo-wop of "Car Rides," there's something here for everybody. And don't miss "Jump Jump!", the band's ready-made live show participation tune. A fun, funny, sweet and silly album!

Zev Haber, Chicken Scratch

Chicken Scratch, the third kids' album from Mount Vernon, NY, musician Zev Haber, is a great collection of simple but eclectic tunes that almost defy categorization. Dig the Steely Dan vibe of "Pasta Pete," the down-and-out blues of "Garbage Truck," and the Sesame Street-ready "What is Good in My Neighborhood." The title track introduces the world to the hottest preschool dance in the land, while the cumulative samba "Three Little Muffins" and the really silly "Family Band" round out the musical fun. This is pretty much a solo effort by Zev, except for various guitar tracks by John Kelly. For fans of Duke Puddintown or Mr. David!

The Snacktime Curse

What is it with The Barenaked Ladies these days? First, Steven Page gets busted for being pharmaceutically naughty, now Ed Robertson barely makes it out of a plane crash up in Ontario. Bless their hearts, I hope this doesn't swear them off making another kids' album...

Buckle up!

Car seats.... We know we need them, but choosing the right one can lead you down a maze of designs, features, and price ranges that leave you confused and overwhelmed. How do you know which one is the right seat for your child's size and your car's design. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a new system called Ease-of-Use ratings to help us out. All car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards & strict crash performance standards. While all rated seats are safe, they do differ in their ease of use. You can read more about their rating system here. You can also find local car seat inspection sites there, where they will inspect the installation of the seat for free. Remember to buckle up for safety; it could save your life!

Friday Free-for-All # 18

Wow! Two of the best kids' albums of 2008 in one post! Convenient!!

Joel Caithamer, The Biggest Everything in the World

Northern Kentucky's most rockin' librarian delivers the rock and roll goods again with his third CD for kids, The Biggest Everything in the World. Caithamer and band will make you laugh and want to turn up the stereo to 11, as Jason Erickson's guitar, Kenny Cowden's harmonica, Jim Morris' organ, and Brian Baverman's drums blast from the speakers on songs about the school custodian, a metal-eating kid, a Mekong giant catfish, farmer tans, and guitar cars. Dig the searing rocker (and really weird song) "Hug Tight Sticky Glue," and the awesome cover of Geoff Mack's "I've Been Everywhere," complete with ACDC coda.

Matt Clark, Funny Little Fella

New daddy Matt Clark decided to chronicle his son's first year through song. The result, Funny Little Fella, is a cross between Mr. David and They Might Be Giants, a musically and lyrically adventurous collection of tender, brief, but sometimes hilarious tunes. Definitely appropriate for naptime, but, Parents, watch out for giggle-inducing songs like "Crumple, Tear," "Drop, Drop," and "I Think I'm Gonna Put It in My Mouth." Favorite fact: Clark wanted the cover of Funny Little Fella to look like my beloved Meat Puppets' Huevos album, and artist Kelli Caldwell does a swell job.

***Danielle Sansone***

A new kids' music genre needs to be created: Naptime Music. Songs you play when you or your little ones don't necessarily need to fall deeply to sleep, but maybe just need some down time, a few quiet moments to think about the universe or watch the sunlight play on the curtains. Danielle Sansone's Two Flowers falls perfectly into that genre.

This is not "Country Music", which today is too bombastic and relies too heavily on hokey, self-perpetuating stereotypes; this is rural music ... lots of spaces between the notes, room for the lyrics to breathe, the sound of twilight. Danielle's vocals take cues from Emmylou Harris' songbird sound and the note-bending style of Natalie Merchant.

On an album of what are essentially love songs from Danielle to her two daughters, Danielle enlists her brother Pat Sansone (of the wonderfully melodic band The Autumn Defense, and recently a Wilco live sit-in) and Atlanta-based producer/musician Will Robertson both to contribute their multi-instrumental talents. Also appearing are Minneapolis fiddler Peter Ostroushko, Autumn Defense collaborator and pedal steel aficionado John Pirruccello, and banjomeister David Stephens. Mandolins twinkle, pedal steel guitars weep, far-away pianos echo, all surrounded by harmonies galore. The title track sounds like nothing less than an ancient Americana folk song, while most of the tunes on Two Flowers could easily be hits on country radio.

Pair Two Flowers with Dean Jones' Napper's Delight (another nomination for the Naptime Music genre) and you've got yerself an afternoon of mellow gold. Those of us with families are fortunate that Sansone decided to share her music with children and their grownups. And dig the great album art by Jen Singh.

Are you breathing yet?

The other day the unthinkable happened--we got to church and realized we had forgotten our two-year-old's blanket, her lovey, the tool we used to keep her pacified whenever she gets fussy. Ever since we'd started bringing her to weekly mass we had depended on blanket to distract her from her desire to scream, or shout, or incessantly walk around. How was I going to get through the hour without it?

In the end, we did fine. There was a moment where I thought she'd scream the walls down but it lasted only a few seconds (which, in mortified-mom time is like three hours, but, still). I managed to distract her with books, giggles, jiggles and oh, the songs were a lifeline. Every time the cantor sang, Christa paid rapt attention and tried to sing along.
On my way out of church that day, having weathered the mass-without-blanket experience, I felt this surge of energy. It wasn't triumphant or exultant; it was momentarily indescribable. And then I realized where the energy was coming from. I was BREATHING.

In much the same way as you don't know what you have until it's gone, I didn't realize that, over the past two years, I had been regaining something I'd lost with the birth of each of my children--my regular breathing. Babies, after all, truly leave us breathless. Mostly with joy. Often with laughter. But just as often with discomfort, embarassment and fear.

In the beginning parents hold their breath as they put their sleeping baby in the bassinet, wondering if this will be the night they will get more than two consecutive hours of sleep. Then, even after the baby sleeps six hours a night (even if it is in fits and starts) they get their first illness, and parents hold our breath as we wonder how long we should just monitor their fever before we call the pediatrician (FYI--with baby #1, 2 hours. With baby #2, 2 days).

After we've weathered sleeplessness and a few illnesses, we hold our breath as we bring them into a new social situation: That child took the ball. Is my child going to retaliate? Oh, no, that child just hit my child, should I intervene? My child just ran full-steam into that barely-walking baby--what should I do? The discomfort, the outright fear, made me hold my breath til the play mats swam in swirls of reds, blues and yellow.
Breathe, breathe, breathe. For the first two to three years I would often need to remind myself to take in some air. To stop holding my breath. And do you know what I turned to, almost automatically? Music.

In one of Mrs. Aimee's classes I've heard the song, "Sing Your Way Through the Week." With my first child, singing through my day was one of the only things that kept me sane. And now I realize it's because it regulated my breath. To sing, we need to breathe. And trust me, in those early days, weeks, months, I sang everything. "Good morning! Good morning! It's time to start the day!" "Hello, baby! Hello, baby! Hello baby, it's time to eat your food!" "This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands, this is the way we wash our hands to get the syrup off." "Toys away, toys away, time to put our toys away, thank you very much." My husband often commented that I had a song for everything. And you know what, I did. I had to. It's the only way I remembered to breathe.
My childrens' entire lives have a soundtrack. Most of them are Kindermusik songs that either stand as written or that have been modified to encourage eating, cleaning up, using the potty, brushing teeth, sharing, loving, being nice to sister, and going to bed. They are wonderful ways to communicate with my children, but they are also amazing at bringing my life the order and calmness that breathing brings. So, anytime you're feeling stressed nowadays, my advice is to add a song. It will work wonders for everyone involved.

Let's Play

We will be finishing our Let's Play summer camp this week at Delightful Sounds. My goal with this class was to encourage parents and make them more aware of the learning that occurs during their play-time with their children. Too often I think we get bogged down with guilt that our time spent with our children is somehow not educational enough, and we forget that children learn by playing. It's how they explore and learn about their world.

"Play may be as old as the existence of humankind. Playthings have been discovered in the artifacts of ancient civilizations and many believe that the earliest chess pieces date back to 6,000 B.C. Though the link between play and learning was more fully investigated in the 20th century by theorists such as Jean Piaget, the connection was made as early as the first century B.C. by Plato, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

What is now undeniably clear in the 21st century is that play is essential, vital, critical, and fundamental to a child’s social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. Without adequate, healthy play, children run the risk of entering school unprepared, growing into teens and adults without needed skills, and failing to meet their potential. Experts at the Institute for Play believe that healthy play in childhood can even prevent violence.

Through joyful, healthy play, children begin a love of learning and prepare for life itself." (excerpt from Learning Through Play by Shelley Butler)

Nighty Night!

This was too cute not to share. Thanks Nancy!

You Say It's Yer Birthday...

We celebrated Steamboat's 2nd birthday a couple days ago, and everybody had a great time. Festivities concluded with a one-person parade through our town. And thanks, Mr. Leebot, for the special birthday song. We all dug it.

Happy Birthday, Steamboat!

***Pete Seeger***

Here's a blast from the past: an indispensable album by the master of folk music. With nothing but his warm voice and his 5-string banjo, Pete Seeger breathes joy and life into these old Americana tunes.

Pete Seeger recorded two albums of children's songs back in 1955 for the Folkways label. This CD reissue combines Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Big Fishes and Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Little Fishes into one collection. Seeger's passion as a folk song collector and dedication to quality performances make this CD a timeless treasure.

Seeger presents familiar tunes like "Frog Went A-Courting," "Teency Weency Spider," "Skip to My Lou," and "I Know an Old Lady (Who Swallowed a Fly)," as well as lesser-known gems like "Fly Through My Window," "The Darby Ram," and "Old Gray Mule." The album also includes the best performance ever of the song/story "The Foolish Frog." A great family sing-along CD!

It can't be emphasized enough how important Seeger's contributions were to the field of children's music. Albums like Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Fishes, Little and Big brought old Americana tunes back into the lives of families, and children today still sing these songs thanks to Pete Seeger and his banjo.

Olympic lip-synch

I was very disappointed today when I read that Chinese officials used the voice of a 7-year-old girl in the Olympic opening ceremony while another girl lip-synched. Calling it a simple casting choice, Chinese officials opted to allow a child model to lip-synch for a child they dubbed "not cute enough" to be on the stage. You can read more about it here. I didn't realize that synchronized singing had become an Olympic sport!

Can you guess?

Can you guess this month's "What in the World"?

***Brian Biehle***

Sacramento, California's Brian Biehle delivers what could best be described as a feel-good, jam band album for kids with his second children's CD, Opus Soup. An easy-going vibe, sunshiney lyrics, and acoustic/electric instrumentation give Opus Soup the sound of, say, Jack Johnson playing for one of the bands on the H.O.R.D.E. Tour. Fun!

Songs about cameraderie, self-determination, counting backwards, individuality, taking care of the Earth, and dancing like a frog are performed and produced entirely by Biehle himself. Dig his cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba," and the rockin' two-part tune "Hold On Tight/Livin'." And "Same As Me" would make a great summertime radio hit. Check it out!


Interesting things are on the horizon, folks, so I'm gonna return to my regular KidsMusicThatRocks schedule of reviews and news. If you've mailed CDs, don't worry ... they WILL be reviewed! I just didn't want to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity, plus, I'm holding back on a bunch of reviews until I can give you more news about a new outlet for children's music information. Until then, send all calls to my Quality Control Engineer, Steamboat.

Inching along

I heard about a new shoe today that is being produced by Inchworm Shoes. They are expandable in length, so that they will be able to grow along with your child's foot up to one full shoe size. What a clever idea!

***The Mighty Buzzniks***

The Mighty Buzzniks blast out of Melbourne, Australia, with their full-length debut, The Great Space Circus, a theatrical mix of characters, stories, and music. Jamie Saxe and crew cover a wide range of styles as The Buzzniks, including hip hop, western, tango, punky rock and roll, country, and folk.

Songs like the spooky "Giant Squids," the clippity-clop of "Cowboy Dan," and the spicy "To Be a Bug" would best work in a live setting, say, in the style of California's The Sippy Cups or New York's The Dirty Sock Fun Time Band, or even as the soundtrack to an animated TV show. And I really dig the X-like multi-part "Katie and the Spider," and the Zen sentiments of "Nighttime is the Daytime (With the Lights Turned Out)."

Cool tunes from Down Under for your early elementary kids. Oh, and it's fun to listen for linguistic differences in the songs: zero is "zed," and the spider in the famous nursery rhyme is described as "ipsy wipsy."

Yummy in my tummy!

The Role of ParentsResearch has found that parents’ food preferences are linked to their children's food preferences (Borah-Giddens & Falciglia, 1993). This is not a big surprise to me. Not only are we more likely to prepare the foods we like, but your children are closely watching your reaction to eating these foods. If you are having trouble with a picky eater, don't be discouraged. Your child may need to be exposed to new foods more than 10 times before they try it. Here are a few suggestions to help your child enjoy a range of foods.

  • Eat a range of healthy foods yourself. Remember that you are setting the example that your child is likely to imitate.

  • Prepare meals together. Your child can help stir or pur in ingrediants. They are moe likely to try something they have helped "create"

  • Avoid showing disgust or disinterest when trying new foods. A study found that mothers who showed (with their facial expressions, body language or words) that they didn’t want to try a new food had children who also tended to refuse new foods (Carruth & Skinner, 2000).

  • If your child seems sensitive to certain textures of food, try adapting how you prepare it. For example, offer apple slices instead of applesauce or combine it with a crunchy food that she does like.

  • Make sure you have a realistic expectation for the amount of food your child should be eating. A toddler's stomach is about the size of their fist.

You can find more great information by visiting

***The Conductors***

L.A. rocker and dad Joe Hutchinson has created a project dear to his heart: Navigating the Spectrum is Joe's way of musically reaching out to fellow parents of children with Autism. Besides leading his powerpop band HUTCH, Joe is the proud father of a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, or Autism. His hope is that through his kids' band, The Conductors, he can use the power of music, especially live music, to strengthen bonds between parents and children, and between like-minded adults, as well.

Now, this isn't some disposable vanity project: Hutchinson put as much time and love into Navigating the Spectrum as he would a HUTCH album, and you can hear it. The rockin' "Twelve (12 Kisses for My Baby)" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" take their cues from classic powerpop bands like Off Broadway, 20/20, and the Paul Collins Beat, while the chug of a steam engine rolls through "Great Freight Train" and I've Been Working On the Railroad." Equally as nifty are the Buddy Holly-inspired "Won't You Be My Friend?" and the a cappela rhyme "The Sun Comes Up, The Moon Goes Down," perfect for audience participation. And dig "Hush-a-bye Darling," a lullaby that's as good as any ballad Oasis ever wrote.

A great short album of short songs, perfect for The Conductors' target audience. Still want more proof that Hutchinson's heart is in the right place? Check out this link about a recent kids' show in L.A. that seemed to put families with children at a disadvantage.

***Lisa Loeb***

Camp songs? Nifty pop tunes? And the theme to Meatballs?!? Hot dawg, I'm there! Lisa Loeb's latest contribution to the kids' music world is a unique work of art, indeed. Camp Lisa is a departure from the quiet folk tunes of Catch the Moon, her 2004 collaboration with Elizabeth Mitchell. This time 'round, Loeb's songs are aimed squarely at an 8 to 12 year old audience, and resemble more her previous releases for grownups.

Camp Lisa is more or less a concept album about arriving at summer camp, making friends, singing songs, and having to say goodbye to those friends at the end of the season. Songs like "Best Friend," "When It Rains," and "It's Not Goodbye" are great pop tunes, worthy of Top 40 radio play, while the folky "Going Away" and a cover of Neil Young's country rock classic "Love Is a Rose" add to the quality of the collection.

Kids will get a kick out of camp favorites like "Peanut Butter and Jelly," " Wake Up Song," "Father Abraham," and "Cookie Jar Song," while parents will appreciate Loeb letting them in on the fun with the inclusion of funnyman Steve Martin's banjo work on "The Disappointing Pancake," and a totally rockin' cover of "Are You Ready for the Summer?", the theme song to the 1979 camp flick Meatballs. Great project from an alternative pop hero for your tweens.

***They Might Be Giants***

Another oldie worth spotlighting again is They Might Be Giants' 2002 kids' debut, No! Over the course of listening to No!, we find out that "The Edison Museum" is useful as both an historical site and a creepy place to be sent if you're naughty, and that "John Lee Supertaster"'s diet has to be extra bland to accommodate his sensitive tastebuds. The Appalachian acapella story-song is updated with "I Am Not Your Broom", and "Clap Your Hands" is probably the greatest Toddler Time singalong song that Wilson Pickett never made.

The most awesome thing about this album is that the songs can pretty much be interchanged with songs from their best TMBG "adult" albums. A world controlled by kid-created robots, the mystery of balloon manufacturing, making sure to cross the street at the corner: yes, TMBG explore the imagination of a child without insulting the kid or annoying the parent. What other children's album ends with a fist-pumping anthem to the pros of beddybyetime?

A Good Beginning Never Ends

Last Friday, I had the privilege of a visit from Cindy Bousman, a representative from Kindermusik International and an experienced and intuitive Kindermusik educator. Cindy agreed to accompany me to Everyday Blessings, a residential foster facility that houses approximately 35 foster children. I have offered Kindermusik classes to the children there off and on for the last four years. Many of these children have faced unspeakable hardships in their young lives and desperately need someone to love and encourage them.

It had rained heavily for several days before our class, and the children were particularly in need of an outlet. It was one of those classes where you put on the music and hang on for dear life! Afterward Cindy and I reflected on the experience, and I have thought about our conversation several times since. One thing she said that has stuck with me, was how sad she felt for the children. It's true. There have been many times that something they will say or do almost haunts me, but that is what keeps me coming back. You see, if you look under the Kindermusik logo, you will see the tag line, "A good beginning never ends", and in this case it is especially true. If you were to have the pleasure of joining me in class, you would see the joy that comes over their faces when we walk in the room. They can leave other things behind and have the freedom to express their creativity and truly enjoy the music as only a child can. They find in a Kindermusik class, a place where all children are welcomed and valued. I know that I am playing a part in giving them a new beginning, one that will truly never end. This year, Kindermusik will celebrate its 30th birthday, and as we celebrate, my birthday wish goes out to these very special children.

***Jamie Barnett***

Jamie Barnett's 2004 album, Just Look At You, is full of tiny treasures: check out Jamie’s playful, inventive lyrics; his deep, ringing acoustic guitar; his beautifully arranged tunes – like Leo Kottke without the fretboard gymnastics, and John Prine without the piss and vinegar.

Murrieta, California, educator Jamie Barnett sings songs about sledding, eating pancakes, folding clothes, hanging out with Dad as he visits various members of the extended family, all under the umbrella philosophy of living life in the moment, appreciating even the smallest events and tiniest slices of time we have together.

Feeling down? A little blue? That’s ok, “My Laughter” reminds us that our smiles are always right under our noses, and that if we just “Step Outside” every once in a while, we will notice the beautiful world all around us. One of the best tunes is “Sun Shines”, a serene song on which Jamie’s niece Alyssa sings. You can’t even call this song a “lullabye”; it’s more like a mantra, a Zen way of looking at life.

Both the title track and “Big Brown Eyes” are great examples of Jamie’s living-life-in-the-now immediacy, while “381 Days” gives kids the facts about the Montgomery bus boycott and encourages them to ask questions about our history and the choices we made. Just Look At You is a very personal CD, from the family photos to the singing help to the philosophies of life. A beautiful album with a beautiful message.

***Rik Barron***

This, folks, is as close as yer gonna get to a Waylon Jennings kids' album. Newfoundland folk and roots music veteran Rik Barron uses his considerable talents to create Shine, a wonderfully rustic album for children. Barron's quavering baritone is very reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and his quiet, almost conversational delivery fits his material perfectly.

Barron's choice of cover songs adds to Shine's quality: Butch Hancock's "My Mind's Got a Mind of its Own," Iris DeMent's "Let the Mystery Be," Duncan Wells' "Shine," the Jimmie Davis classic "Nobody's Darlin but Mine," and a traditional tune made popular by Raffi, "To Everyone in All the World." Banjos, open-tuned guitars, and a strong collection of tunes make Shine a great CD for kids and their grownups. Like Barron's liner notes say, this isn't a party album: gather the family 'round and listen to this one around the fireplace or out on the front porch.

***Peter Rundquist***

As soon as I saw he covered Syd Barrett's "Effervescing Elephant," I knew I was gonna like Peter Rundquist's Bug Feathers: Songs for Folks Young and Old. Think a more electrified and funky version of David Grisman and Jerry Garcia's Not for Kids Only, especially on "Wake Up Mama." Bug Feathers' sound could also be compared to the folky eclecticism of Mr. David's Jump in the Jumpy House, or the rootsy New Orleans vibe of Johnny Bregar's Hootenanny.

But don't think Rundquist's style is derivitive or old hat: he brings a completely unique take to oldies like "The Fox," "Over in the Meadow," and "The Barnyard" (aka "Fiddle-I-Fee"), complete with animal and insect sounds. And the joy exuding from "Last Chance Dance" and the title track are worth the price of the album alone. Marimbas, reverbed guitars, ukuleles, dobros, and filtered vocals add to the distinctiveness of Bug Feathers, a CD that would be right at home on the Rounder or Folkways labels. A winner!

***Shad Weathersby & Mike Artell***

Yeah, you right! It's party time with Calling All Children to the Mardi Gras!, featuring Louisiana natives Shad Weathersby and Mike Artell. Weathersby is a respected New Orleans music veteran, and children's author Artell is best known for his books Three Little Cajun Pigs and Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood. Together they've created a rockin' celebration of all things Mardi Gras, from King Cakes to Fais-Do-Dos.

Calling All Children rises to the top because of one reason: even the youngest kids can sing along with these tunes without the band having to compromise the spirit and quality of the music. Plus, the songs are played by a real band, and the whole thing is ridiculously catchy! Man, you can't help but march along, drum along, shake along with these ditties, especially songs like "Here Comes the Big Parade," "Chicka Wah Wah," and "Mardi Gras Elementary." And "Up on the Ladder" is just a great song, no matter what genre it falls under.

Two bonus tracks include interviews with New Orleans kids talking about their memories of Mardi Gras, and author Mike Artell reading aloud his picture book Petite Rouge. A great CD for classrooms and families!

***Nat Hussey***

This is one of those gems that just comes out of nowhere. Not literally, but Matinicus Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine, is gettin' pretty close to the outskirts of nowhere. Nat Hussey's 2005 CD Papa Goose: Nursery Rhymes Fresh from Maine is as timeless as anything on Smithsonian's Folkways label, yet the arrangements are freshly contemporary.

Hussey has been recording and releasing music on his own since 1997, and, as with his grownup albums, Papa Goose (his first CD for kids) is based on everyday life in Maine. Some of these quiet, fingerpicking-style songs are so similar to James Taylor's classic sound, I'm surprised JT hasn't commissioned Hussey to write a few tunes for him.

Hussey's originals mix well with the folk tunes he chose to perform on Papa Goose, and the very Maine-centric, fun songs like "Critters Going Home," "I'm So Hungry!" and "Magic Rock (Maine Island Song)" are sure to grab yer kids' ears right away. "Sweep Away" sounds like a forgotten Paul Simon tune, and "The Seasons Change, Here in Maine" would be right at home on a James Taylor greatest hits album. Papa Goose is a beautiful, intimate, unforgettable CD for the whole family.