American Folk Old and Newer. Smithonian Folkways is one of the legendary American folk music labels. Both of the albums discussed this time are from this company.
American childrens musician Dan Zanes has had a long love affair with the legend that is Lead Belly. And Lead Belly has written many songs that are really children’s songs, plus many songs which are very child friendly. Having been drawn to Lead Belly’s music since he was a young boy, he decided that he wanted to bring Lead Belly’s music to a new generation.
On this recording, Lead Belly, Baby!, Dan has revisited the Lead Belly repertoire and picked 15 songs to rediscover and record, with a young audience in mind. Dan invited a whole host of guests to record with him, including Billy Bragg, Chuck D and June Valerie. The album is full of Lead Belly‘s spirit, so if that’s your kind of music, this will be a great introduction to the music for your children (any excuse!).
While above album has newly recorded old songs, the album ”Music for Children, Music by Children” digs deep in the archives of the recording. There are a whole 42 tracks on the album, yet the album is only 58 minutes long. The album can be split into three parts, and does not offer a particularly coherent listening experience.
The “Music for children” section features 14 songs recorded by professional grown up artists. Most of these are children’s songs with a clearly traditional Americana sound - performed by many well know musicians such as New City Ramblers, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Pete Seeger and (a link to the review above!) Lead Belly.
In the middle of this, and feeling somewhat out of place in the Americana focussed collection, there are a few world music children’s songs - in Latin American Spanish, Mexican, African and Yiddish. The majority of the adult performed songs are from this or the tail end of the last century - although there are also several track from the 1950s, including a very young sounding Pete Seeger singing “Here we go Loopy-Loo”.
The second half of the CD “Music by children” features songs sung by children. However, for these tracks, the editors of the CD have dug even deeper into their archives, with recordings from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The poor recording quality and at times shrill singing makes this part of the album more of a historic record rather than an album I would recommend to play to your children.
Photo Credits: (1),(3) CD Covers, (2) Huddie William Ledbetter (Leadbelly) (unknown/from website).