Putumayo Kids has taken young listeners all around the world all from the safety of their own homes and classrooms thanks to its series of compilations featuring music from different regions of America and Europe. With the release of its latest compilation, American Playground, Putomayo continues that well-established tradition this time by examining a number of children’s favorites set to bluegrass, folk, and gospel settings.
The ten track compilation includes a solid mix of folk, bluegrass and blues pieces along with a trio of adaptations of hits from Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and jazz composer Irving Berlin. The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ stands out as it’s the only jazz piece on the compilation. But it is still an impressive rendition of the jazz classic nonetheless. The pairing of Aaron Watson and Elizabeth McQueen for the song is especially interesting considering that both singers are more versed in country music than jazz. Had listeners not known this, they would never have known that the pair had no background in jazz. This is in itself a tribute to the choice of artists and songs picked for the compilation’s sequencing. Watson and McQueen’s take on Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a solid interpretation of the jazz classic. It is impressive enough that one wonders if Putumayo will eventually release a compilation of jazz standards for both kids and their parents. There is rumor that another album is due out before 2013 is over. So it would be interesting to see if that in fact becomes the alleged new compilation.
The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a nice touch to this compilation that is otherwise centered largely on roots music. Of course the roots music compiled for this release is enjoyable in its own right, too. The cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is a fitting and touching song. It shows a side of Dylan that many casual listeners might not otherwise have known about. Most people know Dylan for his protest songs. This song is the exact antithesis of those works. Singer/songwriter Randy Kaplan makes the song even more interesting with his rendition of the song both with this musicianship and his voice. He actually sounds very similar to a young Bob Dylan with this record. Its slight gravelly sound and gentility perfectly complements what sounds like a mandolin used in the place of a guitar. He gives the song a whole new meaning with his rendition that is still powerful in its own way. It is one more enjoyable piece that parents and children alike will enjoy.
The cover of Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is another high point to this instantly enjoyable record. It’s not the last, either. The compilation closes out fittingly with a cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’ After taking listeners on a musical journey across the country on the previous songs, this song is a good bookend companion to the compilation’s opening number, ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.’ Listeners are taken from up high in the mountains in the compilation’s opener, down to the plains, looking up at the blue skies and across the heartland to the final notes of Guthrie’s classic song. Younger listeners won’t catch it. But older listeners might catch that one specific line was removed from this rendition of the song. Why that was done is anyone’s guess. Even with one specific portion of the song omitted in this rendition—intentionally or not—it doesn’t lose any of its enjoyment. Along with the remaining material on this compilation, it serves as just one more impressive addition to what is an overall enjoyable compilation for listeners of all ages. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from the Putumayo online store at http://www.putumayo.com/americanplayground?section=kids.
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