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.
PHIL’S PICKS 2021 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY MUSIC ALBUMS
Koo Koo Kanga Roo – Slow Clap
The Story Pirates – The Strawberry Band
Sarah Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree
The Bright Siders – A Mind of Your Own
Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band—Crayon Kids
Laurie Berkner – Let’s Go
Twinkle – It’s OK To Be Me
Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman – Folk For Little Folk Vol. 1
Tracy Bonham – Young Maestros Vol. 1
Genevieve Goings – Great Indoors
Tunes With Tim – We’re All Human
Stacey Peasley – Make It Happen
Jenn Cleary – All Together Now
Kelli Welli – Let’s Go Pistachio
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.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band returns this week with its latest album. The band is scheduled to release its new album, Crayon Kids Friday through Rainy Day Dimes Music. The album is composed of only nine songs which span less than half an hour in length total (technically speaking, it runs 28 minutes, 12 seconds). Even in that small span, the record offers audiences plenty to appreciate, beginning with the record’s musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The album’s lyrical content adds its own appeal to the presentation, too. It will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered, they make the album another enjoyable offering from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band.
Crayon Kids, the 12th album (technically 13th counting the band’s 2015 hits compilation) from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, is another successful offering from the veteran family music collective. That is due in no small part to the album’s featured musical arrangements. The arrangements in question are diverse to say the least. They present sounds of the past and present from one to the next. The album’s closer, ‘Better Together (ft. Frances England)’ for instance is a gently flowing work whose guitar line and vocal harmonies easily lends the song in whole to comparison to music from the likes of The Everly Brothers and other similar acts from their era. Meanwhile, audiences get some great rockabilly in ‘Dinomite (The Martian Mix).’ It conjures thoughts of acts, such as Reverend Horton Heat, Brian Setzer Orchestra, and the Legendary Shack Shakers. As if that is not enough, ‘Sabado’ — one of the album’s early entries — offers up a touch of ska-infused sound just with some Spanish-language vocals. That dichotomy of Latin and Caribbean influence makes for its own unique presentation. It is hardly the last interesting musical presentation featured in this record. The album’s title track presents a gentle, laid back arrangement that partially lends itself to comparison to works from Country Joe McDonald and also from Lou Reed’s ‘Take A Walk on the Wide Side.’ That comparison comes through an examination of the song’s combined vocal delivery style and instrumentation. Taking all of these arrangements into account along with all of the others featured throughout the album, the whole makes clear the diversity in the album’s musical presentation. Presenting so much musical diversity is nothing new for Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, either. It is a long-running tradition for the band in each of its albums. At the same time, the band makes sure to not just rehash works from its existing catalog here. Rather they are still their own original arrangements. To that end, the importance of the album’s musical content becomes even clearer. It is just a part of what makes the album worth hearing, too. The record’s lyrical content adds its own appeal to its presentation.
The lyrical content featured throughout this record is so important to its presentation because it is just as diverse as its musical counterpart. Case in point is the Spanish-language song ‘Sabado.’ While the song is sung largely in Spanish, the chorus is sung in English. It is here in which Diaz and company sing of the joys of Saturdays, calling it “fabulous.” Of course, he and his band mates do not discount the rest of the week. Each other day has its own positive, according to the band, but Saturday is really the big day according to the band, who calls it “the best day of the week.” No one can argue with the joy that Saturdays bring. Saturday is a day to rest and be out with family and friends. Considering that and the fact that the song is…well…about the joy of Saturday, the lyrical theme here proves quite unique. That in itself is enough to prove the importance of the album’s lyrical content. It is hardly the only example of that importance, though. ‘Hey You!’ is another example of that importance.
‘Hey You!,’ with its bluesy, gospel-tinged arrangement (again showing the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements) comes across as a random, silly song that finds its subject playfully talking to himself/herself, maybe in a mirror. There are mentions of enjoying sweet and savory treats along the way. It comes across, again, as just being a fun, silly song that focuses on one of the joys of childhood. That joy is just being silly.
‘Another Day’ is another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. This gentle, beachy song (whose arrangement – once again displaying the diversity here – lends itself to comparison to works from Jack Johnson) presents a theme of just wanting some personal space. Whether it be just wanting that space for the sake of wanting it or wanting it so as to cool off after a disagreement with someone else, it lets young listeners that it is okay to want that personal space. This is such a simple yet important lesson, and this lyrical theme serves as a wonderful way to take on that all too important life lesson. When this topic is considered along with the rest of the album’s lyrical themes noted and not, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the album’s lyrical themes. When that content is considered along with the album’s clearly diverse musical content, the overall whole makes the album that much more enjoyable. Completing the album’s presentation is its sequencing.
A close listen to Crayon Kids reveals a very deliberate approach to its sequencing. The crests and troughs (so to speak) are clearly placed in specific points throughout the record’s sequencing. The album starts out in mid-tempo fashion in ‘Generation C’ and picks up even more in ‘Sabado’ before pulling back significantly in the much more laid back ‘Crayon Kids.’ From there, the energy builds again over the course of the next three songs before gradually pulling back again, starting with the distinct disco-esque ‘The Letter C.’ The song is a mid-tempo composition, but in comparison to the clear peak that is ‘Dinomite (The Martian Mix),’ it is slightly less energetic. ‘Another Day’ pulls the record’s energy back even more before giving way even more to the album’s so relaxed finale, ‘Better Together (ft. Frances Engalnd).’ Looking back through all of this, the noted deliberate sequencing is even clearer. The sequencing completes the presentation whose content itself does so much to make the album engaging and entertaining. All three elements combine to make Crayon Kids another example of why Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band is one of the most respected acts in the realm of family music.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band’s latest album, Crayon Kids, is another successful offering from the veteran family music act. It succeeds in part through its musical arrangements. The arrangements are of note because of their diversity. The lyrical themes that are presented throughout the album are just as important to the album’s presentation as its musical arrangements. That is because they are just as diverse and accessible as the record’s musical content. The sequencing of that collective content rounds out the most important of the album’s elements. That it because it balances the energy in the album’s content in mind in ordering the songs, succeeding there, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make Crayon Kids one more of this year’s top new family music albums.
Crayon Kids is scheduled for release Friday through Rainy Day Dimes Music. More information on the album is available along with all of the group’s latest news at:
The mainstream and independent music industry have both generated their fair share of impressive records in 2015. This includes both full-length albums and EPs. Of course for all of the success that both realms have shown one would be remiss to ignore the realm of music for the whole family. That realm has seen the release of a number of impressive records, too. Recess Monkey returned again this year with yet another fun new album. And children’s classical label Maestro Classics released a pair of interesting releases, too. New entries from Jazzy Ash, Josh and the Jamtones, and Alex & The Kaleidoscope among others have proven to be just as impressive. Those acts’ albums are all on this year’s list of the year’s best new children’s albums along with five more that have once again gotten honorable mention. Without any further ado here is the Phil’s Picks Best New Children’s Albums.
2015 TOP NEW CHILDREN’S ALBUMS
1. MAESTRO CLASSICS — THE NUTCRACKER 2. MAESTRO CLASSICS — MERRY PRANKS OF MASTER TILL 3. RECESS MONKEY — HOT AIR 4. JOSH AND THE JAMTONES — ROCKSTEADY 5. ROCK ‘N RAINBOW — LET’S BOOGIE 6. CATHY FINK & MARCY MARXER — DANCIN’ IN THE KITCHEN: SONGS FOR ALL FAMILIES
7. ALASTAIR MOOK AND FRIENDS — ALL KINDS OF YOU AND ME 8. JAZZY ASH — BON VOYAGE 9. THE BAZILLIONS — ON THE BRIGHT SIDE 10. FUTURE HITS — TODAY IS FOREVER 11. THE POP UPS — GREAT PRETENDERS CLUB 12. ROCKNOCEROS — PLYMOUTH ROCKERS 13. ALEX & THE KALEIDOSCOPE — GET ON BOARD 14. LUCKY DIAZ AND THE FAMILY JAM BAND — ADELANTE 15. MIL’S TRILS — NOW THAT WE’RE FRIENDS
Family entertainers Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band will release their new album next month.
Aqui Alla will be released nationally on Tuesday, May 5th via Rainy Day Dimes Music. The band’s new album was recorded by 13-time Grammy award-winning producer Gilbert Velasquez in Los Angeles. It was produced by Al Sgro (Meiko, Fitz and the Tantrums, Sara Bareilles). Diaz and company feature welcome well-known Tejano names Flaco Jiminez, Grammy-nominated Ruben Ramos (Los Super Seven) and Grammy award winner David Lee Garza.
Aqui Alla celebrates the Latino culture as part of the whole American culture. Diaz explained in a recent interview. “This is my family’s story of the American dream. My parents were immigrant farm workers who marched alongside César Chavez in the 1970s. Believing in the farm workers’ motto of “Si Se Puede,” (“Yes, one can” or, roughly, “Yes, it can be done”), my family yearned for freedom, equality and the hope of a better tomorrow. Today, I’m living that dream. I’m really from here and there, and I have found this feeling shared by many other second generation Mexican Americans.”