***Little Miss Ann***

On what may be the kids' album with the grooviest title of the year, Chicago's Ann Torralba uses a mix of world, folk, and rock influences to create one of the best children's CDs of 2008. On her first CD for kids as Little Miss Ann, 2006's Music for Tots, Torralba featured a more folk rock sound. Well, the reverse is true on Clap for Love: rock is definitely emphasized over folk, as Ann and her full band flesh out originals and traditional tunes.

The easy going welcome song, "Good Morning," sweetly kicks off Clap for Love. Then, wow! the powerful "Stand Up" jumps out of the speakers, proclaiming lines line "Stand up all you children / For things that are in your heart." A swirling organ and fist-pumping chorus deliver a message of the importance of empowerment and social conscience.

The quieter "Mockingbird" is all about individuality, followed by an absolutely rockin' version of the traditional "Over in the Meadow." The loping title tune features a banjo ukulele and demands audience participation ... for love! And dig the very Ring Starr-like drum rolls in the instrumental bridge.

"This Little Heart of Mine" is a great pop reworking of the old spiritual, and the rowdy "Wheels on the Bike" is another audience participation song. The sounds of a drum circle surround the South African hymn "Siyahamba," sung in both Zulu and English. Hints of Bruce Cockburn's world music style flavor the traditional "All Around the Kitchen," and the purely sing-along tune "Count by Fives" includes an enthusiastic performance by a First Grade class from Burley Elementary.

A key to the album's success is Jon Williams' production: great drum sounds and warm, organic instrumentation throughout, very reminisient of the whole mid-'70s L.A. crowd like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, etc. Clap for Love is for an older audience than Music for Tots; in fact, the same fans of Little Miss Ann's first CD will now dig her second, kinda like fans of A Hard Day's Night turning on to Rubber Soul.

This is a beautiful album to be coming out in these times of increasing loss of uniqueness and personal conviction. It's very cool that a kids' artist will make a call-to-arms to the under-10 crowd, while entertaining them all the while ... have fun, but get involved. Groovy!

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