The Not-Its Are “It” In Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Family Music Albums List

Courtesy: Burnside Distribution/Sugar Mountain PR

Family music is one of the most surprisingly entertaining genres that exists today across the musical universe.  That statement is just as true today as it ever has been thanks to this year’s crop of new albums.  Between the arrangements, which will entertain listeners of all ages and the lyrical themes, to which young listeners especially will connect, family music albums prove that they are just as viable as those of their mainstream counterparts.

That is why this year, just as in years past, Phil’s Picks is making sure to give those albums their own time in the light.  This year’s list features new releases from acts such as Mister G, The Not-Its, The Okee Dokee Brothers and plenty of others who might not be so well-known.

Topping this year’s list is the new album from Seattle’s own The Not-Its.  As noted in a previous review of that album, it is a full-on celebration of childhood and the innocence connected to that time in life.

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ latest album Winterland was a risk for the duo because of the success of the group’s “adventure albums” that preceded the record.  Yet, it was a risk that proved to pay off thanks to its musical and lyrical content, which uses winter themes to delve into some very deep and very grown-up topics.

Cheri Magill’s new indie-pop styled record Tour Guide takes third place in this year’s list thanks to its arrangements and its own celebration of childhood (and even parenthood).

The records noted here are just part of this year’s list.  The other 12 records featured in the list are noted with these records below.  As always, the list features 15 total albums, with the Top 10 being the top albums and the following five being honorable mentions. without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Family Music Albums.


  1. The Not-Its — Ready or Not
  2. Cheri Magill — Tour Guide
  3. The Okee Dokee Brothers — Winterland
  4. Mister G — Fireflies
  5. Red Yarn — Red Yarn’s Old Barn
  6. Hullabaloo — 20 Songs in 20 Days
  7. Splash and Bubbles — Rhythms of the Reef
  8. Steve Elci and Friends — Jump in the Puddle
  9. Ants, Ants, Ants — Why, Why Why
  10. Mi Amigo Hamlet — Happy Land is Tierra Feliz
  11. Suzi Shelton — Hand in Hand
  12. Sara Lovell — Wild is Everywhere
  13. Animal Farm — We Are One
  14. Liz Beebe — Hush NowLullabies For Sleepy People
  15. The Green Orbs — thumb Wrestling Champions

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Listeners Of All Ages Will Enjoy Hullabaloo’s ’20 Songs…’ For 20 Days And More

Courtesy: Hullabaloo Happy

Over the course of the past 14 years, kindie-folk act Hullabaloo has built quite the reputation for itself with its unique brand of music.  Founded by musician Steve Denyes, the San Diego, California-based outfit has established a positive reputation for itself over that time.  Late this past March, Hullabaloo strengthened that reputation even more when it released its latest album 20 Songs in 20 Days.  Its 14th new album, this 20 song record takes Hullabaloo’s trademark folk sound and couples it with 20 different lyrical themes – from  serious to downright silly — to make a record that keeps listeners of all ages entertained from start to end.  ‘Kicking Up Dust,’ which comes just past the album’s halfway point, is just one of the album’s entries that serves to support that statement.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘My Trip To Paris’ supports that statement in its own unique way, too.  It will be discussed later.  ‘She’s Not Just My Sister’ is one more song that supports the noted statement, and will be discussed later, too.  These songs are hardly the one additions to the 20 Songs in 20 Days that serve to show what makes the album enjoyable for its intended audiences.  It would be just as easy to cite the likes of ‘Help! A Snake Is Going To Eat Me,’ ‘Best Day of Fishing’ and ‘Supermoon’ and any of the album’s other entries to support the noted statement, too.  All things considered, 20 Songs in 20 days is a record that will entertain audiences for 20 days and beyond.

Veteran kindie-folk act Hullabaloo’s latest album 20 Songs in 20 Days is a record that is just as certain to entertain folk music aficionados as it is the group’s own fans.  It is a work that will entertain said audiences for 20 days and beyond.  That is evidenced in part through the country/folk style opus ‘Kicking Up Dust.’  The simple, acoustic arrangement boasts influences from the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and others along those lines.  Keeping that in mind, its arrangement is such that it will definitely appeal to certain older audiences, not just children.  Its lyrical content is just as certain to appeal to older listeners as younger, too.  That is because the song comes across as a tribute to America’s farmers who wake up before the first rays of light (and work through the day) just so that Americans can have the food that we eat.  This is evidenced as Denyes sings, “Welll I’m up every morning in my work clothes/About an hour and a half before the rooster crows/Nobody’s awake, but my old dog Jake and me/Well I can’t wait around for the rest of my pack/The sleepy heads will just hold me back/I’m a man with a plan and I got places to be/I’m kicking up dust/I’m breaking new ground/I’m getting things done/When you’re lying around/I’m kicking up dust/I’m leaving now/I got rows to how and fields to plow.”  He goes on to say in the song’s second verse (he actually delivers the song’s lyrics in a very spoken word style, adding to the song’s interest), “Well right about noon I’ll stop for lunch/But I don’t sit down with the rest of the bunch/And there’s just no way that I’m gonna stay for dessert/I get right back to work when my belly’s full/I got crops to tend, I got weeds to pull/I got a whole bag of seeds that need to be in the dirt/I’m kicking up dist/I’m breaking new ground/I’m getting things done/When you’re lying around/I’m kicking up dust/I’m leaving now/I got rows to hoe and fields to plow.”  The song’s third and final verse is relatively short.  It sees the song’s subject telling listeners about dreaming about working the fields even as he sleeps.  Even at day’s end, the farmer is still working the fields, just in his own mind.  Again, it’s a strong statement that continues to pay tribute to what farmers nationwide do and all that they are.  Given, there are country music songs spread across the mainstream country music realm about farmers and farming, but none are delivered in the fashion in which this song does lyrically.  Keeping that in mind, that lyrical approach (and vocal delivery style) add to the song’s originality.  When joined with the song’s catchy musical arrangement, they make the song in whole a clear example of what makes 20 Songs in 20 Days such an enjoyable offering from Hullabaloo.  It is just one of the songs that serves to support that statement.  My Trip To Paris’ also supports that statement.

‘My Trip To Paris’ is a fun, silly song about Denyes taking a trip to Paris and the laughs brought by his inability to speak French.  He sings (in that near spoken word style again) about saying to someone, “Hello, good sir/I’d like some cheese with a nice ocean view/Good night pretty bird/I’m gonna steal all your feathers from you.”  Denye even says jokingly, “you know, I think something must be lost in translation. Let’s go back to French.”  His translation actually did not get lost as he joking says.  The closest translation of the song, which says, “bonjour monsieur. fromage a la plage S’il vous plaît. bonsoir. Avoir. alouette  je te plumerai” is in fact “Hello sir. cheese at the beach Please. Good evening. To have. Lark, I will pluck you.”  To that end, Denye’s translation is not far off, and definitely makes for its own share of laughs.  It’s like he got a certain children’s song – which now translated seems kind of violent as it is about someone plucking feathers from a bird’s body, head to foot – and crosses that with a bunch of nonsense about eating cheese on the beach.  To a certain extent, it’s a certain self-deprecating humor about Denye’s inability to communicate with the French.  On another level, one could also argue here that Denye is using this light-hearted experience as an anecdote to explain the importance of multiculturalism.  That might be a bit of a stretch, but it is this critic’s own interpretation.  That aside, this song is another addition to this album that is certain to stick in listeners’ heads.  To that end, it becomes another clear example of what makes the album in whole such a surprisingly enjoyable album.  It still is not the last of the album’s key entries.  ‘She’s Not Just My Sister’ is another key addition to the album.

‘She’s Not Just My Sister’ is pivotal to the album’s whole because of its timeliness.  Considering who (and what) is running this country right now – and what with the MeToo movement still going on – this song comes along at a key moment.  It presents the song’s subject as a strong candidate for the highest office in the land, having won 99 percent of the nation’s votes in a hypothetical election.  The song’s subject even goes so far as to say that the one percent who didn’t vote for her would still come to love her.  One a deeper level, that one percent could be Denye taking a subtle, veiled swipe at the “one percent” who have been addressed in so many protests in the past year or so.  This is all set against a decidedly Pete Seeger style musical arrangement. That aside, the song serves as a reminder that women can do anything that men can do, an important, empowering message that is always needed and welcome.  When this serious message is considered along with the more light-hearted fun of ‘My Trip To Paris,’ the moving tribute to America’s farmers and all of the other mix of silly and serious songs included here, the end result is an album that once again, proves appealing to listeners of all ages.  That wide-ranging appeal, both musically and lyrically, proves the album to be a viable candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new family albums.

Hullabaloo’s 14th full-length studio recording 20 songs in 20 Days is another enjoyable effort that proves this kindie-folk act has hardly lost its step over the course of its life.  That is evidenced partially through arrangements that will appeal just as much to grown up fans of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and other similar performers as it will to younger listeners.  The album’s lyrical content, in its own way, will reach just as wide a range of listeners, as has been explained here.  Both elements are equally important in each of the album’s…well…20 songs.  When they are considered from start to end, they prove the album to be a record that audiences will enjoy for 20 days and beyond.  It is available now.  More information on 20 Songs in 20 Days is available online now along with all of Hullabaloo’s latest news and more at:










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Jazzy Ash “Swings” Her Way To The Top Of Phil’s Picks’ 2017 top New Family Music Albums List

Courtesy: Leaping Lizards Music

Children’s music, this critic has noted time and time again, is one of the most underrated genres of the vast musical universe.  To this day, so many people still have the belief that children’s music is cutesy pre-school level material that will only appeal to its young target audiences.  The reality of children’s music is that while some of that music does appeal mainly to younger listeners, just as much of it will appeal to older audiences, too.  The bluegrass sounds of the Okee Dokee Brothers, the hip-hop vibes of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and even the light jazz arrangements of Diana Panton prove that there is just as much music out there that will appeal just as much to adults as it will to children.  That being the case, this critic is hereby proposing that the music industry eliminate the term “Children’s Music” from here on out and replace it with the term “Family Music.”  Now with that in mind, this critic has been focusing quietly a handful of Family Music albums yet again this year, and this year’s list has some interesting new additions that will indeed appeal to the whole family including the list’s topper, Swing Set, from veteran Family Music entertainer Jazzy Ash.

Also included in this year’s list of new Family Music offerings is the soundtrack to the Junie B. Jones stage play, Dolly Parton’s (yes, Dolly Parton) I Believe In You, Danny Weinkauf & The Red Pants Band’s Totally Osome! and so many other offerings.  As always, this critic’s list includes the top 10 New albums plus five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 records.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Family Music Albums.


  1. Jazzy Ash — Swing Set
  2. Ladysmith Black Mambazo — Songs of Peace & Love for Parents & Kids Around The World
  3. Putumayo Presents — Cuban Playground
  4. Putomayo Presents — Italian Playground
  5. Junie B. JonesThe Cast Album
  6. Mr. Dave — Feeling Good
  7. Mister G. — Green World
  8. Danny Weinkauff & The Red Pants Band — Totally Osome!
  9. Paper Canoe Co. — Beanstalk Jack
  10. Dolly Parton — I Believe In You
  11. Twinkle — Just Dance
  12. Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights — Brooklyn Baby!
  13. Hullabaloo — The Best of Hullabaloo
  14. Laurie Berkner — The Dance Remixes
  15. Dana Cohenour — Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes

That’s it for this list, but not it for Phil’s Picks year-ender lists.  With this list out of the way, there are still lists of the year’s top new Jazz & Blues albums, rock, hard rock & metal albums, live recordings, albums of the year, and plenty of DVD/BD lists.  Since time is short in the year, Phil’s Picks will offer multiple lists each day in an effort to make it to the year’s end.  So stay tuned for all of that.

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Hullabaloo’s Latest LP Proves Simplicity Breeds Success

Courtesy:  Hullabaloo Music

Courtesy: Hullabaloo Music

Later this month, Hullabaloo will release its latest album I Chew. The album, the band’s twelfth full-length studio recording, will be released Friday, February 26th. It comes almost two years after the release of the band’s most recent release, 2014’s Shy Kid Blues. And needless to say that this latest offering from the San Diego, CA-based trio is yet another impressive collection of songs. That is thanks in large part to the album’s mix of country and bluegrass sounds and its mix of lyrical themes. From the album’s fun, upbeat opener about appreciating what one has in ‘Birthday Fish’ to the socially conscious ‘I Wear Pink’ to semi tribute to the late great Johnny Cash in ‘Flowers on My Shirt’and more, this album impresses from beginning to end. The end result is a sixteen-song, twenty-one minute record that proves to be another early candidate for a spot on this year’s list of top new children’s albums.

Just as with its 2014 album Shy Kid Blues, Hullabaloo’s latest full-length studio recording is any easy, early candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s best new children’s albums. That is thanks to the mix of the album’s country/bluegrass sounds, its deeply insightful lyrical themes, and their accessibility for listeners of all ages. That is clear right from the album’s fun, upbeat opener ‘Birthday Fish.’ On the surface it sounds like a silly song as front man Steve Denyes sings from the vantage point of a kid who got a fish instead of a dog for a pet; on his birthday no less. It isn’t just about that, though. On a deeper level, the song teaches an all too important lesson about appreciating what one has. That is clear as Denyes sings, “Well I was a fish hater/But a few days later/I found myself falling in love/Now this fishy little guy/Is the apple of my eye/And I thank my parents/My lucky stars above.” He is saying that just because something might be this or that does not necessarily mean that it is all that. It’s a lesson that can be applied in any number of scenarios both for children and adults alike. The song’s catchy, upbeat rhythms add even more enjoyment to the song making the song in whole a composition that even in its simplicity is truly a deep work. The fact that the song is still made accessible for listeners of all ages makes it even more enjoyable and important to the record’s whole. It all comes together to make the song not just an important addition to I Chew but a great start for the album.

‘Birthday Fish’ is a great start to Hullabaloo’s latest full-length studio recording. That is thanks to the depth of its lyrical theme contrasted by the accessibility of said theme. The upbeat sounds of its musical content adds even more enjoyment to the song. For all of the enjoyment that all of that brings to the song, ‘Birthday Fish’ proves to be just one example of what makes I Chew one of 2016’s top new children’s albums. The socially conscious ‘I Wear Pink’ is another example of what makes this album stand out, too. It’s a very timely addition to I Chew especially considering all of the headlines about gender roles in America, transgender children and sexuality. As Denyes notes in this song, “The first time I sang this song somebody said, “You can’t sing this song for kids, it’ll mess with their heads”/I heard what they said/I just disagree/So I sing this song for the pink kids like me/Well here’s to all the outlaws both little and grown/You might be different but you’re not alone.” What is interesting here is that Denyes sings this song from the vantage point of an adult rather than a child. This direct aim makes the song just as accessible for adults as for children if not more so. It also helps make the song a good starting point on said headlines and related topics. There is even mention here of a girl who played football, bucking that social norm of only boys playing football. So yet again, it becomes even more of a solid starting point for some very deep discussions that both children and adults alike will enjoy. Adults might appreciate it more than children. But some children will appreciate it especially if they grasp the concept. Keeping this in mind, ‘I Wear Pink’ proves in the end to be yet another important addition to I Chew. It is hardly the last remaining example of what makes this album stand out, too. ‘Flowers on My Shirt’ is yet another example of what makes this record stand out.

‘Birthday Fish’ and ‘I Wear Pink’ are both key examples of what makes Hullabaloo’s latest album stand out early on in this year’s field of children’s albums. That is thanks, again, to their mix of fun musical content and deep yet easily accessible lyrical themes within each composition. They are just a couple of examples of what makes this record stand out. The band’s semi-tribute to the late great Johnny Cash in ‘Flowers on My Shirt’ is one more example of how that mix of music and lyrics makes I Chew stand out. On the surface it is a tribute of sorts to the legendary country music superstar. On another level, it is much more than that. It is a lesson that looks aren’t everything. As Denyes sings, “Well everybody called Johnny Cash The Man in Black/Well he wore those dark black clothes for the ones that were left back/Well Johnny’s always been/A hero to me/I just choose/To choose my clothes a little bit differently/I wear flowers on my shirt/To chase your blues away/Some Hibiscus to remind us all it’s gonna be okay/together we can change the world/And I will do my part/With flowers on my shirt/And love inside my heart…With all respect to Mr. Johnny Cash/I humbly assert/That life is just a little bit better/ With flowers on your shirt.” The statement that is seemingly being made here is that old adage about the man making the clothes not the other way around so to speak. The playful, slightly joking address to Cash is hardly meant as a stab at him or his legacy. Denyes clearly notes his respect for Cash and his legacy here. Rather it is meant as part of the argument that a person’s clothes shouldn’t matter whether in music or any other aspect of life. What should matter is what is in a person’s heart. Keeping that in mind, this song becomes even more of an important addition to I Chew. It shows even more why I Chew stands out as an early candidate for any critic’s list of this year’s best new children’s albums.

All three of the songs noted here are excellent examples of what makes I Chew one of 2016’s top new children’s albums. As important as they are to the album’s overall presentation they are hardly the only songs that could be cited as examples of what makes this album stand out so well. The “PSA” ‘Senator John Arthur Clydesdale III’ will leave adults laughing as it pokes fun at the country’s politicians. Adults will laugh just as much as Denyes jokes about the minimal snack offerings on plane rides. If that isn’t enough ‘Waterfront’ shows to be just as much of a joy as it paints a picture of a laid back weekend evening on the waterfront. It could be a riverfront, beachfront, or any other waterfront. Regardless, this laid back piece is one that listeners of all ages will appreciate and enjoy. The two-part a capella/acoustic closer ‘You Are Loved’ is yet one more example of what makes I Chew stand out so brightly. It is a short, simple song. But it says so much in such a small space. It reminds listeners that no matter what they are loved. It is a beautiful piece that parents can use as they put their children to bed each night both for its gentility and its positive message. The band has posted a video of Denyes performing the song on its official Facebook page complete with signs that can be used as teaching tools for parents and educators alike. Whether for this song, any of the others noted here or the pieces more directly noted, it can be said of the album in whole that it is one of 2016’s top new children’s albums thanks to its depth of material and its accessibility despite that depth. It is an album that every family should have in its music collection regardless of familiarity with Hullabaloo and its expansive body of work. It will be available Friday, February 26th and can be ordered online via CD Baby at

Hullabaloo will hit the road in support of I Chew beginning this Friday, February 5th in its hometown of San Diego, CA. The band also has performances planned on March 6th, March 10th, April 4th, and April 30th. Audiences can keep up with all of the latest updates on the band’s tour schedule online now along with all of the band’s latest news, updates on I Chew, news, and more at:




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Shy Kid Blues Could Be A Candidate For One Of 2014’s Best New Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  Hullabaloo Music

Courtesy: Hullabaloo Music

In an age when audiences seem to be increasingly fickle in their musical tastes, any band that reaches anything more than three albums released should consider itself/himself/herself very lucky. For such bands, groups, or artists to reach eleven albums released is a landmark. It’s even more of a landmark for those that are classified under the children’s music genre. This Spring, the two-man act known as Hullabaloo will hit that landmark when it releases its eleventh full length album, Shy Kid Blues. The album is another great addition to the children’s music scene in 2014. The first reason for that is the album’s format. Those that have perhaps heard fellow children’s entertainers Josh and the Jamtones’ 2013 album Bear Hunt! will notice a similarity in the story-telling style of the album. Another reason the album is such a great addition to this year’s crop of children’s albums are the positive messages delivered through the story. And last but definitely not least is the album’s overall country/rockabilly style sound. The three factors noted here collectively make Shy Kids Blues a potential candidate to be one of this critic’s top ten new children’s albums of the year by year’s end. It’s still early. But it could end up on that list as enjoyable as it is.

The primary reason that Shy Kid Blues is such a great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums is its format. The format of this album is one of a story-telling nature. Those that have heard Josh and the Jamtones’ 2013 album Bear Hunt! will recognize that familiar story-telling format on this record, too. The difference is that whereas Josh and the Jamtones used a classic children’s poem/song as the basis for their album, Hullabaloo—Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer—have actually crafted a wholly original story in its latest release. Denyes and Kremer have crafted a story in Shy Kid Blues that follows two childhood friends as they grow up together and help each other overcome their own shyness and become who they always knew they could be underneath. That is another part of what makes this album such a great addition to this year’s crop of children’s albums. It will be discussed later. Getting back to the album’s overall story and format, the story itself is original. One could almost see this story playing out in its entirety in short form on screen. It almost begs to be made into a full story put to video. It would be an interesting story to see happen should anyone consider making it.

The story presented in Shy Kid Blues and the story’s format are together the foundation of this outstanding album. Sitting atop that solid foundation is another reason for this album’s ease of enjoyment. That reason is the album’s collective positive messages. Shy Kid Blues boasts at least two positive messages over the course of its two dozen songs. The positive messages embedded in the album’s story are messages of friendship and of self-confidence. The message of friendship is presented through the story of Steve and Brendan. The two boys were born mere weeks apart from one another. And while they were born so close together in time, they turned out to be two entirely different people.   One was really shy. The other was the total opposite. Interestingly enough, despite their differences, the two became fast friends when they got older. And they stayed friends well into their adult lives. They stayed friends because they didn’t let their differences keep them from being friends. Instead it made them stronger because they supported the other emotionally. This is a wonderful message for young listeners to take in. It shows true friendships can weather anything as long as friends don’t’ let their differences tear one another apart.

The second message presented in Shy Kid Blues is one of self-confidence. As the story progresses, listeners learn that as extroverted as he was, Brendan turned out to be very shy in his own way. He was afraid of singing in front of everyone . So Steve supported Brendan much the same way Brendan supported him. He told Brendan how great a singer Brendan was. Together, the two built each other. They helped one another believe more in themselves. This in turn helped their friendship to remain strong even into their adult years. It is yet another positive message presented by the real life Steve and Brendan. Together with the wonderful message of friendship, it proves once more why Shy Kid Blues is such a great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums.

The positive messages shared through Shy Kid Blues make this album all the more solid for listeners of all ages. Together with the story and its presentation style, it makes Shy Kid Blues all the more solid an album. There is still one more factor in this album that makes it such a great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums. That final factor is the album’s musical styling. Shy Kid Blues largely boasts a country/rockabilly sound throughout the course of its two dozen total tracks. There are some tracks that move a bit more to the left of center. But by and large, the album’s sound is more centered in country and rockabilly. Making the sound even more enjoyable is that the songs that boast a more country vibe are more along the lines of classic country. Listeners more familiar with the world of classic country can hear influences from the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and even Hank Williams, Sr. to a lesser extent. Put simply, it is a great introduction to the world of country music for those wanting to initiate their young listeners into that world. So not only is it a way to entertain listeners, but it also serves as an introduction potentially to a whole new musical world. It is the last part of the whole that is Shy Kid Blues, proving once and for all why this album is not only another great addition to this year’s crop of new children’s albums, but also a potential candidate for this critic’s final year-end list of the year’s best new children’s albums.

Shy Kid Blues will be available Tuesday, May 27th. Audiences can order the duo’s new album via its website, and through CD Baby at While there, audiences can check in on the band and get all of the latest news, tour updates and more from Hullabaloo, too. Audiences can also keep up with Hullabaloo via Facebook and Twitter at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at