Songs for Kidz made in North America. Lots of new children’s music from North America - a little bit for everybody: fun, educational, bilingual, music for younger children and songs for young and old.
My favourite of this lot is the album “Top of the hill” of talented Canadian fiddler, singer and step dancer April Verch. April does not normally do children’s music, but the recent lockdown inspired her to record an album of children’s songs at home, aimed to help to get families through these difficult times. Even though April doesn’t have children of her own, it is clear from the album that she does, and enjoys to, spend a fair amount of time with children of her wider family. Her songs are charming and catchy, and are a joy to listen to for young and old. Some are about nature – April’s love of all the seasons of the year or a red robin playing catch with a cat - others are about taking responsibility - being helpful in the household or loving your neighbour; a song tells the young listeners in a warm way that it’s ok to cry when you are sad; and the album finishes with a countdown song of Ten Fiddlers.
Of course, as you would expect of a musician of this quality, the music and arrangements are brilliant - in a charming folk and americana style, sometimes with a jazzy swing, we get to hear April’s fiddle and on one track also a bit of step dancing, and she is also virtually joined by the musicians of her trio, Cody Walters and Korey Brodsky, on guitars, banjo, mandolin and bass. Now that the main lockdown this album may have passed, the album will still be welcome by children and parents alike to cheer us all up.
Perhaps what we need most at the moment is to escape – if not in reality than at least in your phantasy. Thus Peter Alsop, on his 22 album, takes his young listeners on a trip to go Camping with dads. Peter attempts to link the songs on the album together as one story, telling of a camping trip of a group of children and their dads (and grand dads). Perhaps Peter is trying a bit too hard at times to bring educational and serious messages into his songs and stories - be it teaching about anthropologists or how the rain/water circle works, or “to raise our son’s awareness of why we need to respect our daughters”. Having said, Peter does bring in a fair dose of his wit and humour into songs and stories. The album sees spoken parts - featuring Peter and four fellow dads and a number of children – inbetween the songs which feature the voices of both Peter and the kids. The music is predominantly Appalachian-Americana, but with plenty of references to Good Time or pop/rock.
His previous albums have won Peter Alsop numerous Best Children’s Album of the Year Awards. This one is probably not the kind of album you want to hear repeatedly but may well amuse particularly primary school age children.
Meanwhile, The Barbaloots’ album does invite for repeated listening, with an appeal to children and adults alike. The album cover is on its own already inviting - a cute possum walking with his suitcase into town – reference to the title of the album, Possum came to town. And this title song sets both the theme and calibre of the Barbaloots – this song is witty and humorous but carries a serious message about prejudice, in this case against the dirty brown possum coming to town - great lyrics put to highly appealing arrangements driven by a jazzy clarinet.
There’s lots of adventure and fun in the songs on the album – there’s heroic sea captains, destructive guys, lumberjacks and a magical horse in the Barbaloots’ world - and underneath the humorous and catchy songs, more serious messages are hidden, be it about about cooperation, social injustice or environmental issues.
The music is a blend of Americana, country, folk and jazzy corners and clarinets. These are songs that appeal and feel relevant equally for children and adults. I was reminded by several of the songs of Harry Bird and The Rubberwellies, an act better known on this side of the pond. Definitely recommended.
A much stronger educational focus is present in Jose-Luis Orozco’s new album „Muevete! Songs for a healthy mind in a healthy body”. The album gets children to learn some Spanish, as well as encouraging children to move – yet younger children won’t be noticing that this is educational. By including the same children’s songs first in Spanish and then in English, with lyrics that encourage children to sing along choruses in their non-native language, children will pick up Spanish words (or indeed for Spanish audiences the English words). So for example, one song goes through colour words encouraging children in counter-singing to repeat the words. Another aim of the singer is for the words and music to encourage children to express themselves through movement.
Aimed at children under seven, parents may get fed up with some of the songs and the clapping, and with the ever-present enthusiasm and jolliness of the singer.
Photo Credits: (1) April Verch, (2) José-Luis Orozco, (3) The Barbaloots, (4) Peter Alsop (unknown/from website).