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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‘Fireflies’ Is Another “Shining” New Offering From Mister G

Courtesy: Coil Records

Summer is officially over, but in many parts of the country, mother nature apparently seems to think otherwise, as temperatures are still reaching close to 90.  To that end, thoughts of leaves falling, pumpkin spice and hot apple cider are still quite distant.  That makes Fireflies, the latest full-length studio recording from veteran children’s entertainer Mister G (a.k.a. Ben Gundersheimer) a timely release, with its lyrical themes that celebrate summer.  Those lyrical themes are just one part of what makes this album another enjoyable offering from the Latin Grammy and four-time Parents’ Choice® Gold Award recipient.  The record’s collective musical arrangements will appeal just as much to grown-ups as they will children.  This will be discussed a little later on.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later.  Each element is key in its own way to the whole of Fireflies.  All things considered, they make Fireflies a record that shines just as bright as a firefly’s own light.

Ben Gundersheim’s ninth full-length studio recording Fireflies is a record that is simple, both in its lyrical and musical content.  That simplicity makes the record an appealing new effort from the veteran family entertainer.  The simple lyrical themes celebrate the joys of summer camp.  From the joys of making s’mores at the campfire in the aptly titled ‘S’mores’ to spending time with one’s favorite furry friend (obviously a dog) in ‘Four-Footed Friend’ to the light, bluesy celebration of summer that is ‘Sweet Summertime’ and beyond, this record celebrates the best time of the year in so many ways.  Even the album’s opener and title track is its own celebration as it presents that equally simple and beautiful memory of one’s most memorable summer, catching fireflies, going to camp and just being with friends and loved ones.  It is a wonderful start to the record, and one more way in which that general theme of summer presents itself here.  Of course, for all of the celebrations of summer that are presented here, that overlaying lyrical theme is not the only important theme that is presented.  Gundersheimer also tackles the issue of racial equality in the old-school country-style song ‘Together as One’ and learning as one grows in ‘Crawl.’  ‘Big Old World,’ meanwhile, serves as a reminder to the world that mankind must take care of Mother Earth.  Mister G’s delivery of that message is just as simple and easy here as is his delivery of his other messages.  When one considers this along with the simplicity of the themes themselves, one sees why the record’s musical themes are so important to Fireflies’ whole.  That simplicity (and in turn accessibility) is just one part of what makes Fireflies an enjoyable new offering from Mister G.  The record’s equally simple musical arrangements do just as much as the lyrical themes to make it enjoyable.

The musical arrangements presented throughout Fireflies are, as noted, just as simple as the record’s lyrical themes.  This simplicity adds even more to the album’s accessibility and appeal.  From compositions that lend themselves to comparisons to Ben Harper’s best works to more country music-oriented works, all ten arrangements exhibited in this record are simple in their presentations.  Case in point is the classic country styling of ‘Together As One.’  The two-chord guitar line and the twang of the steel pedal and violin conjure thoughts of the greatest works from Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams Sr. just to name a few similar acts.  This is a styling that is sadly missing in today’s country music world, so it’s nice to hear it featured here.  ‘Sweet Summertime,’ with its bluesy arrangement lends itself –to a point – to comparisons to Booker T & The M.G.s’ hit single ‘Green Onions.’  The similarity in the songs is not exact, but a close listen reveals that similarity.  Again, each song is so simple in its approach, and because of that simplicity, find themselves appealing to plenty of audiences.  That simplicity is just as evident in the arrangement of ‘Crawl’ as in ‘Sweet Summertime’ and ‘Together As One.’  This is one of those songs that lends itself to comparisons to Ben Harper’s best works.  Anyone familiar with Harper’s work will agree.  To say that this is a good thing is an understatement.  It’s not the last of the simple arrangements presented across the record.  The seven other songs not noted here are just as simple as the works discussed here.  Keeping that in mind, the overall simplicity in the album’s arrangements goes a long way toward Fireflies’ overall presentation.  When it is considered along with the simplicity in the album’s lyrical themes, the two elements collectively do plenty to make the record enjoyable for every listener.  While the simplicity of the album’s collective lyrical and musical content goes a long way toward making it enjoyable for listeners of all ages, that simplicity is not all that makes the record so widely appealing.  Its sequencing offers its own share of interest for listeners.

From start to end, Fireflies’ sequencing proves just as crucial to its presentation as the simplicity in its music and lyrics because of the balance in the songs’ energies.  The record starts off slow and gentle in its title track before barely increasing the energy exuded in that song in the next two songs, ‘Sweet Summertime’ and ‘Me And You.’  The record’s energy picks up just a little bit more in the classic country-style ‘Big Old World’ before pulling back immediately afterward in ‘Four-Footed Friend.’  That gentility lasts only briefly through that song and ‘Crawl’ before it picks back up again ever so slightly in ‘Together As One.’  The album’s energy pulls back again to that familiar laid back, Ben Harper-esque vibe from there as the album gently makes its way to its finale.  Simply put, from beginning to end, the energy in the record’s presentation never gets too much or too little at any given point.  Rather, it is expertly balanced all the way through.  When the time and thought put into keeping the record’s energy stable from beginning to end is considered along with the impact of the simplicity in the album’s music and lyrics, the whole proves to be a record that shines just as bright as a firefly.

Mister G’s ninth full-length studio recording Fireflies is a shining new offering from the veteran family entertainer.  This is due in part to the simplicity in its musical and lyrical content.  That simplicity makes the record an accessible offering for the whole family, as has been noted already.  The time and thought put into the album’s sequencing puts the final touch to its presentation.  Each element is key in its own way to the whole of the record, as has been proven in the previous discussions.  All things considered, they make Fireflies a record that is its own bright, shining offering from Mister G.  It is available now.  More information on Fireflies is available online now along with all of Mister G’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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Mister G’s ‘Green World’ Gets The Gold

Courtesy: Coil Records

Children’s entertainer Mister G has made quite the name for himself throughout his career, turning out album after album of family-friendly music that successfully bridges cultural and musical boundaries  That success was continued late this month when the Latin Grammy® Award-winning musician released his latest album Mundo Verde/Green World.  The 11-song record, his eighth offering, is a success due in part to its overall theme.  That will be discussed shortly.  The variety presented throughout the record’s musical arrangements is just as important to discuss in examining the album’s presentation as its central theme.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the album’s whole.  All things considered, they make Mundo Verde / Green World yet another successful offering from Mister G and potentially one of this year’s top new children’s albums.

Mister G’s eighth studio recording Mundo Verde / Green World is yet another successful offering from the veteran children’s entertainer. That is thanks in no small part to the album’s central theme, which promotes environmental awareness.  Right from the album’s outset, Mister G sings to his listeners, “We’ve got to protect this planet of ours…I want to live in a green world.”  That emphasis on environmental awareness continues throughout the rest of the album’s run, too, in various ways.  From a song about recycling (which is in fact simply titled ‘Recycling’) to a song promoting the huge importance of the tiny honey bee (yes, that song is called ‘Bee’) to the encouraging ‘Yes We Can’ and more, this record’s songs focus in their own way on that one central theme of caring for the planet.  Obvious, Mister G is not the first artist from any genre to focus on the plight of the planet.  But this album marks the first of his albums to focus so wholly on that one subject.  It is one more way in which he continues to keep his albums varied from one to the next—his previous albums have paid tribute to the Jewish people and culture, general education and on animals among other topics—making that central theme all the more important to the album, even if the theme is not uncommon to the music industry in whole.  It is only one of the elements that makes this record so enjoyable.  The album’s musical styles exhibit their own variety throughout its run.

The variety presented throughout Mister G’s latest album is so important because it shows just as much as the album’s theme, Mister G’s continued conscious effort to keep things fresh for his listeners.  ‘Agua’ takes the Latin sounds for which Mister G has come to be known throughout his career and crosses them with an arrangement that conjures thoughts of the Hawaiin-islands.  With the recent success of Disney’s Moana, some might even start getting images of the Polynesian islands of the Pacific in listening to this song’s arrangement.  ‘How Many Fish’ is yet another surprise as its musical arrangement lends itself easily to comparisons to certain works from John Mayer.  The easygoing arrangement presented in ‘Paws in the Air’ stands out in its own way with its easy comparison to works from Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and other similar acts.  Even the more Latin-leaning arrangements featured in this record show their own identity from one another.  Considering the variety exhibited throughout the course of this record’s arrangements, it becomes clear why the record’s musical variety is so important to its overall presentation.  It still is not the last of the album’s most important elements.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

Mundo Verde / Green World’s sequencing is an important piece of the record’s whole because it is puts the finishing touch on the already solid foundation created through the record’s theme and musical variety.  The finishing touch in question is a continued energy from one song to the next, with the variations in that energy being just enough from one to the next to ensure listeners’ engagement.  The sequencing also involved variations, just slight enough, in the arrangements to ensure even more listeners’ engagement.  Keeping this in mind, the album’s sequencing proves to be just as critical to its overall presentation as its central theme and its musical variants.  When all three elements are joined, they make the album in whole yet another successful offering from Mister G and potentially one of this year’s top new children’s albums.

Mister G’s latest full-length studio album Mundo Verde / Green World is yet another successful offering from the veteran children’s entertainer.  It is also potentially one of the year’s top new children’s albums, as is evidenced in the focus of the album’s central theme and musical variations.  The album’s sequencing shows just as much focus.  Keeping that in mind, all three elements collectively make this album enjoyable from start to finish.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Mundo Verde / Green World is available online now along with all of Mister G’s latest news and more at:










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Mister G’s “Bossy E” Gets An “A”

Courtesy:  Coil Records

Courtesy: Coil Records

Children’s entertainer Mister G will release his latest full length album later this month. The Bossy E will be released Tuesday, June 24th. Suffice it to say that this album is one of the year’s best new children’s records hands down. The album is deserving of such a title thanks to its mix of catchy music and equally positive and important messages. The very title of The Bossy E tells listeners what they can expect from this record. The album’s opener ‘Love To Read’ and its companion piece ‘Everything’s Free at the Library’ both promote literacy. The album’s title track is a great tool for both teachers and parents to teach young listeners. For all of the fun educational content that Mister G incorporated into The Bossy E, it’s not all that was included. He also included a song in ‘Daddy’s Snoring’ that every woman across the country will appreciate. And his simply titled song ‘Camp’ touts the fun of going to summer camp for the first time. He reassures young listeners that despite that normal feeling of separation anxiety, they’ll find that they actually will enjoy camp if they allow themselves to do so. The songs noted here are not the only songs that make The Bossy E deserving of being called one of the year’s best new children’s albums. There are seven other tracks from which listeners can choose as their favorite or even favorites. Regardless of whether they choose one of those songs or one of the pieces noted here, everyone will agree that The Bossy E is more than deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new children’s albums.

In listening to The Bossy E, listeners will note the first half of Mister G’s new album is made up of songs that promote literacy in various avenues. The album’s opener, ‘Love to Read’ is a short but catchy tune that openly promotes the joy that one gets from reading. Mister G sings in this song, “Most of all/I love to read/Give me a bunch of books/And I’ll go to my room/And travel round the world/In an afternoon/There’s not that much/That I really need/Cause most of all/I love to read.” He goes on to sing about all the different kinds of books he loves to read. He says he “just can’t get enough” because he “loves to read.” This message of the joys of reading is extremely important especially in an age when children have immediate gratification thanks to the internet, video games, and other technology. Children today need to know the joys of cracking open a good book, not turning on a nook or some other e-reader. The song’s closing line in which Mister G recites the alphabet in full is a good setup for the album’s title track.

‘The Bossy E’ is a fun surf-rock style song that teaches the vowels. The imagery used on the album’s cover is a great addition to the song. It presents a rather large letter “E” walking tall over everything else. That image set against the fun musical backing and silly yet educational lyrics will have any listener young or young at heart smiling and singing happily along. He sings in this song, “When you see ‘em there sitting/At the end of a word/I’m the Bossy E/Or Haven’t you heard/If you’re an A/If you’re an E/An I an O a U/Well I’m the bossy E/And I’m the boss of you.” Again, it’s silly. But it is a fun and catchy way to teach the vowels to young listeners. It will teach said listeners all while having them singing and dancing along to Mister G’s catchy song. The young listeners in question might not even realize they’re learning all while being entertained. It’s yet another example of what makes The Bossy E one of this year’s best new children’s albums. It isn’t the last example, either.

As if ‘The Bossy E’ and ‘Love to Read’ aren’t enough for listeners, Mister G encourages his young listeners to not only read but to also frequent their local libraries so that they can discover the joy of books. What’s more, he explains both to his younger and older readers that “Everything’s free at the library.” He sings against the song’s bluesy musical side, “Summer’s here and we’re finally free/Everything’s free at the library/There must be a million books in here/But I’m a super reader/So have no fear/I’ll read ten thousand every day/Until my head explodes in a really cool way.” He goes on to sing about spending the summer with one’s imagination thanks to books. It could be easily argued that this song is the “companion” piece to The Bossy E’s opener. That’s because not only does it promote literacy, but it promotes actually going to the library since books can be checked out for free. Many libraries are suffering financially because people are relying increasingly on digital technology for their books. It’s a sad statement. Thankfully there is this song to help promote the importance and need of libraries.

The songs that make up the first half of The Bossy E are just as entertaining as they are educational. And that’s saying something. For all of the educational content included in this album, Mister G also offers listeners some pieces that are simply entertaining. Women across the country will appreciate the fully tongue-in-cheek song that is ‘Daddy’s Snoring.’ It’s exactly what it sounds like. And the simply titled ‘Camp’ is a great way to help kids get over their anxiety over going to camp for the first time. All of the songs noted here more than make the argument as to why Mister G’s latest album deserves a spot on this year’s list of the best new children’s albums. That isn’t to discredit the album’s other songs by any means. If anything, they are just as much fodder for that argument. And audiences will agree when they hear the songs for themselves when The Bossy E is made available in stores and online June 24th.

Mister G will kick off a tour in support of The Bossy E on June 14th at the Williams College Reunion in Williamstown, MA. The performance will be followed by dates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and other locations. Mister G’s current tour schedule is available online at and More information on his upcoming tour and more is available via Twitter at 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

Mister G’s New LP Will Have The Whole Family Dancing And Learning

Courtesy: Coil Records

Mister G’s music isn’t just music for kids.  It’s music for the entire family.  It’s music for the world.  This is so true on his new record, “Chocolalala.”  This Spanish language children’s record is a double hit that is a great celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which by the way started this past Saturday, September 15th

Who out there doesn’t enjoy some good Latin tinged music?  Exactly.  The music on this new album will make audiences of all ages want to get up on their feet and dance.  What’s more, the lyrics are a great teaching tool for audiences of all ages, too.  Sure, it’s aimed mainly at younger audiences.  But even parents who perhaps don’t speak any foreign language could easily use this record as a starting point to learn Spanish.  What better starting point than the album’s title track.  Who wouldn’t love to sing all about one of the world’s favorite foods, chocolate?  Follow that up with a song simple titled, ‘Bailamos’ (which translates to ‘Dance’), and audiences have two instant hits on their hands.  ‘Bailamos’ has music that expertly catches the energy of the song itself.  It will have everybody on their feet in no time.  And the semi-rap vibe of ‘Big Yellow Bus’ will get anyone’s toes tapping and heads bobbing.  Even adults will secretly admit that they’re jamming to the beats of this song.  Add in the horns to back it all, and audiences have yet another great track.

The songs throughout Mister G’s new album are great for kids and their parents.  There isn’t one bad track on this entire LP.  The music is great.  And the lyrics make for a great starting point for both kids and their parents to learn Spanish together.  But that’s not all that makes this such an enjoyable listen.  Mister G was joined by some rather well known musicians on this album, including:  Mike Visceglia, Steve Gaboury, Rani Arbo, and an eleven year old trumpeter who just happens to be the daughter of famed children’s author Mo Willems (author of the Knufflebunny books).  Mike Visceglia is the bassist for the one and only Suzanne Vega.  And fans of Cyndi Lauper might recognize Steve Gaboury’s name, as he is her keyboardist).  Also on board for this record are some of Mister G’s former students.  All of these musicians and students collectively brought so much to the table to make “Chocolalala” an infectious record that serves as even more proof of the power of music to bring kids and adults the world over together.

Mister G is currently touring in support of “Chocolalala.”  He’ll be performing at the New England Reading Association Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on September 25th.  For a full list of tour dates and all the latest news from Mister G, go online to,,, and

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