The Best Of This Year’s New Albums Come From Across The Musical Universe

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

And then there was one.  That’s right, Phil’s Picks is finally down to the last of its annual music ear-ender lists.  The last of this year’s music-related “best of” lists is the proverbial peak of the mountain in the form of the year’s top new albums. 

This year’s list of the top new albums is diverse to say the least.  It features new releases from across the musical universe.  From jazz to world to rock and even some bluegrass, this year’s list represents how much the musical universe produced this year. 

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this final music-related list for this year features the Top 10 new releases and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15, all of which deserve their own share of applause.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is this year’s Top 10 New Albums.


  1. Liquid Tension Experiment – 3
  1. Gabor Lesko – Earthway
  1. Devin Townsend – The Puzzle
  1. Doug MacDonald Trio – Toluca Lake Jazz
  1. Allison Russell – Outside Child
  1. Walking Papers – Light Below
  1. Dobet Gnahore – Coleur
  1. Brasuka – Life With Passion
  1. Peter Welker — Sidemen
  1. Nik Bartsch – Entendre
  1. Madre Vaca – The Elements
  1. Billy F. Gibbons – Hardware
  1. Marc Ribler – The Whole World Awaits You
  1. Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems – Still Dirty
  1. Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman – Folk For Little Folk Volume 1

That’s it for this year’s music lists, but it’s not the end for this year’s “best of” lists.  From here, the attention turns to the best of this year’s new TV and movie offerings, beginning with the year’s top new documentaries.  Stay tuned!

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Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top New Family Music Albums Shows The Present, Future Of The Genre

Courtesy: Uniroo Records

The genre that is family music is one that has always stood out from the rest other genres that make up the musical universe.  That is because by and large the music that fills that space is constantly so diverse even as the lyrical themes in so many songs are largely the same.  Even being so much the same from one song to the next, the themes are important because they promote individuality, self-confidence, creativity, and so many other items that are key not only for personal growth and development in younger people, but for continued development in older audiences.  To that end, those themes are just as accessible for younger listeners as for their more seasoned counterparts.  In the same vein, the diversity in the genre’s musical content is just as enjoyable if not more so.  That is because honestly, more often than not, it is more diverse than in so much mainstream music for older audiences.  At the same time, it will again, more often than not, appeal to such a wide range of audiences.  Keeping all of this in mind, the world of family music really is just as deserving of having its own list of top new albums as any other genre, and that is why this critic has continued to present exactly that for so many years.

This year is no different from past years, either.  This year was another successful one in the family music world.  New albums from veterans, such as Laurie Berkner, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, and Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band joined new records from up-and-comers, such as Ben Tatar & The Tatar Tots, Twinkle, and Stacey Peasley among many other established acts.  All in all, this year’s field of new family music albums represented the present and future of the genre very nicely, as today’s list will show.

Keeping in mind everything noted about the importance of the content in every family music record, developing a list of the year’s top new albums in the genre is never easy.  This critic tried, though.  The result of those efforts is this critic’s view of the year’s top 10 best family music albums and five additional honorable mentions, for a total of 15 new offerings.  So without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2021 Top 10 New Family Music Albums.


  1. Koo Koo Kanga Roo – Slow Clap
  2. The Story Pirates – The Strawberry Band
  3. Sarah Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree
  4. The Bright Siders – A Mind of Your Own
  5. Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band—Crayon Kids
  6. Laurie Berkner – Let’s Go
  7. Twinkle – It’s OK To Be Me
  8. Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman – Folk For Little Folk Vol. 1
  9. Tracy Bonham – Young Maestros Vol. 1
  10. Genevieve Goings – Great Indoors
  11. Tunes With Tim – We’re All Human
  12. Stacey Peasley – Make It Happen
  13. Jenn Cleary – All Together Now
  14. Kelli Welli – Let’s Go Pistachio
  15. Ben Tatar & The Tatar Tots – Seconds

That’s all for this year’s list of top new family music albums.  The new year is just around and the corner and no doubt, lots of new family music is coming with the new year, too.

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Gordie MacKeeman’s Latest LP Is A Hit For The Whole Family

Courtesy: MAPL/innovationpei/MUSICPEI

Family music entertainer and veteran daycare worker Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman writes in the liner notes for his forthcoming album, Folk for Little Folk Volume 1, “My vision for this project is to create something that will please all members of the family and allow families to listen together, dance together, and enjoy each other.”  It goes without saying that in listening to the 17-song record, he achieved that goal.  This is proven throughout the course of the album’s 40 minute record in the covers and originals.  One of the most notable of the covers comes early in the cover of ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’  It will be discussed shortly.  MacKeeman’s album closing lullabye, ‘Dreamland’ is another example of what makes this album so enjoyable.  It will be discussed a little later.  His cover of Wade Hemsworth’s ‘Log Driver’s Waltz’ is another example of how much this record has to offer audiences and will also be discussed later.  Each song noted here does its own share to make this record enjoyable.  When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole proves itself a presentation that lives up to MacKeeman’s expectations and those of his audiences.

Folk for Little Folk Volume 1 is an impressive new offering from family music entertainer and veteran daycare worker Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman.  Its success is evident from beginning to end in each song, cover and original.  His take on the traditional ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain is just one example of that success.  MacKeeman is joined by famed performer Dom Flemmons (Carolina Chocolate Drops) on the bones for this song, which offers an upbeat arrangement that is even fuller than the original composed by Harry McClintock.  Where McClintock’s rendition is a simple presentation with just vocals and guitar, MacKeeman’s version is much more involved and more upbeat.  A close listen reveals that McKeeman’s wife is also featured here, offering some nice, subtle backing vocals.  The duo’s harmony works so well with the overall instrumentation to make this rendition just as good as the original if not better.  This is only a part of what makes the song work so well.  MacKeeman also updates the lyrics to a point for the 21st century, making mention of solid WiFi service, optional naptime and nonstop cartoons.  That addition, although minor, is a welcome touch to the song that will make it even more entertaining.  It is just one of the songs that shows how much this record has to offer audiences.  ‘Dreamland’ the album’s finale, is another notable addition to the record.

‘Dreamland’ is one of only three originals that MacKeeman features in his new album.  That aside, it is still enjoyable in its own right.  The nearly four-and-a-half minute composition (four minutes, 17 seconds to be exact) opens with a gentle piano line alongside an equally gentle, flowing fiddle line.  Almost immediately, the melody presented through the pairing lends itself to Kermit the Frog’s timeless ‘Rainbow Connection.’  This should not be misconstrued to mean that the songs are exactly the same.  It is just that they sound similar in their sound and stylistic approach.  To that end, it is certain to put a smile on any listener’s face.  Even more interesting is the eventual addition of Mr. and Mrs. MacKeeman’s vocals to the mix.  Jillian’s gentle operatic presentation gives the song a special, magical touch while Gordie’s vocals meanwhile lend themselves to comparison to that of Willie Nelson as he sings Kermit’s famous song.

In terms of the song’s lyrics, the gentle statement that “It’s time for bed/my little one” from Mr. MacKeeman is so relaxing.  Additionally, his statement of the child being in “a happy place” That added spiritual message of loved ones coming to visit the child from heaven in his/her dreams is another unsuspectingly powerful statement even in its simplicity.  When all of this is considered collectively, there should be not a single dry eye.  It is that moving.  Anyone who is not moved by this powerful finale is either not human or has no emotions.  It is just that enjoyable.  Even with all of this in mind, it is not the last of the album’s standout songs.  MacKeeman’s cover of Wade Hemsworth’s ‘Log Driver’s Waltz’ is another example of how much this record has to offer audiences.

MacKeeman’s rendition of ‘Log Driver’s Waltz’ is unique in the changes that he, his wife and fellow musicians make to the original.  The original composition is a simple presentation, driven by vocals and guitar.  In the case of this song, the layered vocals pair with the richness in the accordion and guitar to give the song an enjoyable update.  Interestingly, the use of the accordion and guitar collectively gives the song more of a Celtic sense than anything Canadian (which it is at its roots).  Keeping that in mind, MacKeeman and company’s rendition becomes even more unique and no less enjoyable.  As a matter of fact, it can be argued that it is even better than the original.  That is not to say that Hemsworth’s original is bad.  Rather it is quite enjoyable.  This version just steps things up and gives the song a whole new identity.  It is definitely a memorable addition to the album, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the song.  When this song is considered with the others examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album one of the best of this year’s new family music albums and new bluegrass/country/folk/Americana offerings.

Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman’s forthcoming album Folk for Little Folk Vol. 1 is an impressive new offering from the family music entertainer and daycare teacher.  It is a presentation that easily meets his expectations and will meet those of audiences.  That is proven from the album’s opener to its gentle finale.  The originals and covers alike fully display the talents of MacKeeman, his wife, and their fellow musicians and their respect for the music.  All things considered, the record proves itself to be among the best of this year’s family music albums and bluegrass/country/folk/Americana records.

Folk for Little Folk Volume 1 is scheduled for release Friday through MAPL/innovationpei/MUSICPEI.  More information on the album is available along with all of Gordie McKeeman’s latest news at:




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