Beth’s Corner # 4

Sugar Mountain PR

Sugar Mountain PR

By: Beth Blenz-Clucas

Why Kids’ Music?

When we tell a new acquaintance that we work with great kids’ music, the usual response is a blank stare. At best, the response is, “Well, I play my music for my kids. They don’t need children’s music.” Most music critics begin with the same way of thinking. Witness this article by a writer for the Hartford Courant as he reviewed a new Barry Louis Polisar family music compilation. The story leads off: “Children’s music, with a few exceptions, is typically dreadful.” A very cool mom blogger named Toni started out with the same opinion (“I’m always a bit suspicious of children’s music. I mean, really, can’t children just listen to music?”).  But after listening to Uncle Rock’s new CD The Big Picture, she comes away pleasantly surprised at its musicality and intelligence, wanting to hear more.

Granted, Uncle Rock is an exceptional artist. And granted, there is a lot of unlistenable music out there, mistakenly created “for the kiddies.” I don’t blame people who avoid the genre. Most of the kid tunes on display at your local big box retailer and on the Billboard best-seller lists don’t reflect the new wave of independent music by real musicians who delve a little deeper than these overly simplified and commercialized CDs. It turns out that you don’t have to sacrifice musical quality while serving your kids with lyrics that truly speak to them. As Dan Zanes so aptly remarked at Kindiefest in May, “what kid wants to hear yet another song about drinking or failed romance?”

With rave reviews in the Star-Ledger and Time Out New York, and two sold-out CD release party shows, StarFish rocks the summer with their new release, Enter Sandbox. Check out this video interview with the band members for an insider’s look at how they play and work together.

Justin Roberts continues his never-ending family concert tour with dozens of shows this summer, many of which are free. His seventh family music release, Jungle Gym is generating tons of buzz. Check out the one-hour “Rumpus Room” concert on Sirius-XM’s Kids Place Live, which plays four times over this coming weekend (June 4th- 6th). Justin and his Not Ready for Naptime Players are currently producing a zany video for the new song “Obsessed by Trucks.” Look for cameo appearances by Ezra and Keith of Trout Fishing in America. Fans in Chicago, Boston, Columbus, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Winnipeg will get to see the band live in the next few weeks.

Worried that your kids will suffer the summer slide? Why not help them build language skills, both in English and Spanish, with Hap Palmer’s newest release, Learning in Two Languages/Aprendiendo en dos idiomas. Hap is a rock star among educators, and well known for his best selling Baby Songs CDs and DVDs. If you want to fill your summer road or plane trip with music and educational activities, the new Scholastic Storybook Treasures Wheels on the Bus Sing Along Travel Kit is just the ticket. The little carry-on kit includes 2 award-winning DVDs, a music CD featuring songs by the Bacon Brothers and Cyndi Lauper, a colorful activity guide and crayons. Peter Yarrow (of the legendary folk trio Peter Paul and Mary) continues to produce glorious new recordings of classic folk songs with his daughter Bethany, and Sterling Publishing packages his CDs with gorgeously illustrated books. His latest publication is Songs for Little Folks.

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ second family release Take It Outside will present new and original songs with a bluegrassy flair. The energetic Twin Cities duo of Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing enlisted the help of Grammy nominated producer Tor Hyams and the smart guitar licks of Adam Levy of the Bunnyclogs to create a powerful new sound.

I’m staggered to hear the creative exuberance in the new music so far this year on blogs like Zooglobble, Dadnabbit, OutwiththeKids, AOL ParentDish and GooneybirdKids .  Jitterbug TV posts incredibly smart new kids’ music videos all the time, and a host of other sites like also feature interesting options. Currently, the only national radio outlet for this genre so far is Sirius-XM’s Kids Place Live, whose brilliant DJs play hours of interesting indie music every day. And hosts of smaller shows at public and community radio stations across the country are like little beacons of light, pointing parents, grandparents and kids to the wide world of interesting family music.

As reflected by the reader responses to Harriet Barovick’s recent Time magazine piece about “kindie rock,” the range of what parents want is about as wide as the range of musical interests among the general public. Why limit your kids to your music, or conversely (to cite the second letter writer to Time) to music that is purely educational? Play whatever you want for your kids, but realize that there’s a wide variety of options available in the new “kindie” genre.


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