Sunday, November 4, 2007

Covered in Kidfolk:
Lullabies and Softsongs For Cool Moms and Dads




I've been a teacher for almost fifteen years, and a Daddy for five; I'm lucky to be able to live in a world where I can be with kids, and play. But other than a short period of time where my daughter's favorite song was Andrew W.K.'s thrashpunk anthem She Is Beautiful, this means there's a constant struggle in my house between what I like to call "that same damn circus record" and what the kids dismissively refer to as "Daddy's music".

But listen up, Dads (and Moms): when the kids demand more appropriate age-specific earcandy, we don't really have to lose. In a world where an entire generation is trying to keep their cool in the face of diapers and snailspace trick or treating, you don't have to listen to that pap that passed for kids music in the disco era. Or Barney songs. Or that awful, too-chipper CD of baby-fied classics your mother picked up at her local all-natural toy store (sorry, mom). There's a brand new crop of kidsingers out there -- a holy host, from Dan Zanes to a thousand younger artists -- and they're not afraid to get 'em while they're young.

For the indie and rock crowds, I suppose, this demand for "real" kidmusic does seem to have opened up a new niche market. But folk music has long carried the torch for the authentic in kidsong. My 1970s childhood was filled with acoustic guitar and rough-tinged voices on already-old records from Guthrie and Leadbelly, and newer acts from Peter, Paul, and Mary to Bill Staines. When folk music came back for the Fast Folk second wave, it brought along its sense of childlike wonder; the demand bought Grisman and Garcia and Taj Mahal a second round of folkfame, and made way for new acts, like the jamgrass-for-kids Trout Fishing in America.

Since then, as the new generation grows through its indie stages, our favorite streetwise musicians grow up and have kids of their own -- and out come the guitars and the quiet, simple voices, calling up half-remembered favorites from a time when everything was simple and pure. Suddenly, everyone's a folk singer.

Like ice cream comes in vanilla and chocolate, kids songs come in two primary flavors, the quiet and the silly -- but there are infinite variations from creamy to nutty. Next week, maybe, we'll get a case of the sillies, and need to shake it all out. Today, three generations of folksingers -- oldtimers Bill Staines and Garcia/Grisman, fastfolker Shawn Colvin and bluegrass staple Alison Krauss, and a host of newer artists from the wide margins of modern folk -- bring us a set of lullabies and resting songs for a quiet Sunday afternoon.


Click on artist/album names to buy some incredible music for the young and the young at heart. And remember, kids: buying music from the artist's preferred source gives you peace of mind so you can sleep like a baby.

19 comments:

dex. said...

Thanks for sharing the Rob Skoro track -- I've been a fan of his since he was a skinny kid playing with Mason Jennings, and I've also been curious about the record that track comes from since Jennings himself started doing "Down By The Riverside" in concert two years ago -- and mentioning the album but not by title! -- but had no luck tracking it down until now. Double plus bonus for me, since I'm off to order the disc!

boyhowdy said...

Glad to help, dex! And doubly glad to hear that the artist/album promotional service we offer here at Cover Lay Down is truly driving CD sales. That is, after all, the goal: to introduce, to entice, to support, and --in doing so -- to perpetuate and patronize the production of ever more music!

Chad said...

Elizabeth Mitchell (who did the great version of "You Are My Sunshine" you listed here) and her husband have put out three great "kids" records, all of which my wife and I enjoy as grown ups (and our daughter absolutely loves).

Covers of Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Leadbelly, Bob Marley, and more...you can't really go wrong.

boyhowdy said...

Thanks oh so much, Chad, for reminding me about the Mitchell/Littleton albums -- one of the challenges of having iPodded all our music is that we sometimes forget to connect albums with singles from collections. Great covers -- maybe they'll show up on another post sometime?

Anonymous said...

What a brilliant post! Thank you!

Peace, Lisa H.

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