Family music entertainers have, like acts in every other genre across the music universe, been adversely impacted this year by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Their live plans have been put on hold for the foreseeable future. In the same vein, while the pandemic has put a (hopefully) temporary hold on live music, it has not prevented acts within the realm to release new albums. That means that a list of the year’s top new Family Music albums is just as qualified as that for any other genre. This year’s list of top new Family Music albums features new titles from some of the most well-known names within the realm, including but not limited to this year’s list topper The Okee Dokee Brothers, Paul Winter, and Justin Roberts. It also features some younger acts, such as Roger Day, Greg Lato, and Lindsay Munroe. Between them and others, this year produced many enjoyable albums within the Family Music world.
The list of this year’s best new records, offers the Top 10 new albums in the genre and five honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 albums. Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Family Music Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY MUSIC ALBUMS
The Okee Dokee Brothers – Songs For Singin’
Alastair Mook & Friends – Be A Pain: An Album For Youn (And Old) Leaders
Justin Roberts – Wild Life
Red Yarn – Backyard Bop
David Gibb & Brady Rymer – Songs Across The Pond
Paul Winter – Light of the Sun
Flor Bromley – Fiesta Global
Lindsay Munroe – I Am Kind
Joanie Leeds – All The Ladies
123 Andres – Hola Amigo
Rolie Polie Guacamole – Avocado
Roger Day – Invincible
Sara Lovell – Night Life
Greg Lato – Create My Own World
Ants Ants Ants – Colors All Around
Next up from Phil’s Picks is the list of 2020’s Top 10 New Country/Bluegrass/Folk/Americana Albums. Stay tuned for that.
Veteran saxophonist/composer Paul Winter is scheduled to release his latest album Friday. The record, Light of the Sun is an aptly titled presentation. That is because it is a record that will certainly warm and relax the spirits of every listener. From start to end, its subtle musical arrangements are everything that audiences have come to expect from Winter over the course of his decades-long career. They offer so much relaxation. Case in point is the avian-based song ‘The Well-Tempered Wood Thrush.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Winter’s Dream,’ which comes late in the album’s 68-minute run, supports the noted statements in its own unique way. It will be discussed a little later. The same can be said of ‘Sweet Home,’ which also comes late in the album’s run. Each of the songs noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. When these songs are considered with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole becomes a record that Winter’s fans and easy listening aficionados alike will appreciate.
Paul Winter’s latest album Light of the Sun is a work that will appeal easily to his longtime fans and to easy listening fans in general. That is proven from the record’s opening to its finale. Each of the album’s featured songs proves that in its own unique way, not the least of which is the nature-themed composition, ‘The Well-Tempered Wood Thrush.’ Winter used the calls of the noted bird to create this composition. His work on the saxophone is a near response to the bird’s call. The subtle addition of the cello line adds a nice modern classical touch to the alongside the use of what sounds like a cajon drum. The continued bird calls throughout the song ad such a happy, unique touch to the composition that when each element is joined together, the picture that is painted by the whole is so rich. Listeners can see in their minds, images of the bid in question, and a quiet, warm, forested setting, a warm breeze blowing through the trees as the sun shines high above, only a few clouds in an otherwise blue sky. The emotional impact of the imagery is so welcome and will put a big smile on any listener’s face. It is without question, one of the album’s most notable works. ‘Winter’s Dream’ has its own positive impact on listeners, too.
One can only imagine, in listening to ‘Winter’s Dream’ what he was perhaps dreaming that led to this gentle, easy listening style composition. It immediately lends itself to comparisons to works from the like of Chuck Mangione, Kenny G and Yanni. That is evidenced through the balance of the keyboards and Winter’s own performance on saxophone. One has to assume that Winter was either playing in a very high register in this piece or in fact using a soprano saxophone for the composition. That aside, the song in whole paints a picture at least in this critic’s mind, of perhaps a romantic situation. The gradual crescendo helps to paint that picture of the building emotion in the situation. The addition of the organ to the composition as it builds adds another layer to the work, enhancing it even more. What is even more interesting is its clear ABA format as it returns to its “A” section as it nears its end. The relaxing finale to the song leaves listeners with such a positive mindset. The feeling will leave listeners agreeing why this song stands out and as to how much it stands out in the bigger picture of the album. What’s more, it will leave even less doubt as to why the aforementioned audiences will appreciate the album in whole. Even with all of this in mind, it still is not the last of the album’s most notable works. ‘Sweet Home’ is one more admirable addition to Light of the Sun.
‘Sweet Home’ evokes all of the imagery that its title implies throughout the course of its four-minute-plus run time. The gentle piano emits such a warmth and happiness. It is that person returning home after being away for years – maybe someone who has been away at college and is home for the holidays for the first time, or maybe a relative who has not visited returning home for the first time in as much time, and finding the welcoming arms and smiles of family. It is everything that listeners think of when they think of a Hallmark movie regardless of the time of year. It would fit perfectly into the soundtrack of one of those movies. The emotion that it evokes in listeners is something that will resonate with those audiences long after the song ends. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s works, the whole of the album’s body makes it a record that Winter’s fans and easy listening fans alike will agree is as good as any of Winter’s existing albums.
Paul Winter’s latest album Light of the Sun is a work that will appeal equally to his longtime fans and to easy listening fans alike. That is proven through its relaxing musical arrangements, which will in fact warm listeners’ hearts, minds, and souls. Each of the songs addressed here supports the noted statements in its own way. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album becomes a work that will appeal equally to Winter’s longtime fans and easy listening fans in general. It is scheduled for release Friday through Living Music. More information on the album is available along with all of Paul Winter’s latest news at:
Early in 1996 folk singer Pete Seeger released what has since gone on to become one of the most important albums of his career in the form of the self-titled record Pete. The 18-song collection was lauded by both critics and audiences alike. That is because its simple approach both musically and lyrically harkened back to the earliest days of his career. It took audiences back to what were some of the most pivotal years in America’s development with those sounds and themes. It wouldn’t be the only time that the seminal album would see the light of day. It was re-issued in 2007 in full for a new generation of audiences. And now next month, it will be re-issued once more courtesy of Living Music. The upcoming re-issue is a step up from the album’s 2007 re-issue. That is because not only does it present Seeger’s classic album in whole, but it also includes a complete hour-plus concert that Seeger held at the 1982 Living Music Festival. It rounds out the album’s presentation in its upcoming re-issue. All things considered Living Music’s new re-issue of Pete proves in the end to be a piece that any of Seeger’s fans will want to have in their own music libraries.
Living Music’s latest re-issue of Pete Seeger’s seminal 1996 album Pete is a piece that every Pete Seeger fan should have in his or her own personal music library. That is due in part to the musical arrangement presented in each of the album’s featured compositions. Each arrangement is pure, classic folk at its finest with Seeger switching between banjo and guitar throughout the course of the album’s sixty-three minute run time. He is joined throughout the record by the beautiful tones of The Union Baptist Church Singers & The Cathedral Singers as well as a handful of musicians who add even more depth to each arrangement. The arrangement of the songs and even their production makes any potential amplification nearly unnoticeable. This includes David Finck’s work on bass throughout. Finck’s bass line melds seamlessly into each of the songs in which he is featured. Again, this is thanks not only to his talent and the songs’ arrangement but to the work of Paul Winter and Tom Bates behind the glass. The end product of the album’s run is a listening experience that even considering its musical arrangements alone, will take listeners back to another era of America’s history. Not one of the arrangements makes that trip feel forced at any point, either. Keeping this in mind, the musical arrangements featured in this record serve as a solid foundation for the record. This is especially the case for those that haven’t heard the album in years and for those that will hear it for the first time, period. It is just one of the album’s most important elements, too. The album’s lyrical themes are just as important to note as its musical arrangements.
The musical arrangements that are featured in Pete are undeniably important to the album’s presentation. That is because of their ability to transport listeners back to another era all by themselves. Each arrangement feels that organic. They are not the album’s only key elements. The lyrical themes that are featured across the album are just as important to its presentation as its musical arrangements. They are everything that the late singer’s fans had come to expect from him at that point in his career. There are socially conscious songs such as the British standard ‘The Water Is Wide,’ ‘To Everyone In All The World,’ and ‘All Mixed Up’ set alongside the likes of the environmentally minded ‘Garbage’ and ‘Rainbow Race’ and far more presented within the course of the album’s hour-plus run time. Regardless of which song(s) listeners choose as their favorite(s), listeners will all agree in hearing the album in whole that its classic lyrical themes echo right back to that same era to which the album’s musical arrangements will take them. Considering this, the combination of both elements makes the album’s listening experience in whole one that audiences of all ages will appreciate. That is because there is little to nothing like it out there today, even among the more socially minded acts out there today. It is all the more reason for folk music fans and Pete Seeger fans alike to heck out this classic album when it is re-issued next month.
The music and lyrics that are presented in Seeger’s 18 total tracks are collectively plenty of reason for folk music fans and fans of Pete Seeger to add this re-issued album to their own home music libraries. They are not the only reasons that audiences have to pick up the album in its new re-issue. This time out the album has come with an hour-plus concert at which Seeger performed in 1982—The Living Music Festival. Just watching the video is like opening a video time capsule. Today’s younger audiences will marvel just as much as their older counterparts at the fashions of the day. That’s beside the point. Seeger’s performance here, and that of his fellow musicians lies at the heart of the concert. The performance come across in a wholly natural, organic fashion. Yes, it was recorded in 1982. But there is something about the performers’ stage presence and the whole vibe of the setting that will leave audiences feeling like it, too could have come right out of the 1960s and/or 1970s. That is a powerful statement in itself. It shows the ability of Seeger and company to not just entertain audiences but pull them completely into their performances, too. The surprising quality of the concert’s audio and video only adds to that experience for audiences. The footage obviously hasn’t been touched up by any means. Yet it still looks and sounds surprisingly impressive even after roughly thirty-four years. That, coupled with the concert’s set list, and the performers’ stage presence, makes the concert in whole just as important to Pete’s presentation as the album itself if not perhaps more important. No matter which side audiences may take in that discussion, audiences in general will agree in watching the Living Music Festival performance by Pete Seeger and company that the concert is yet another fitting touch to Living Music’s new re-issue of Pete. One could be remiss to ignore the companion booklet that comes with the overall package, too. The booklet offers thoughts from Seeger himself on each of the songs featured here. It’s one more way in which the album feels like a musical time capsule from a bygone era even despite not being that old. The album’s booklet, when set alongside the record’s companion concert recording, and its featured songs, makes the album in whole a record that every folk fan and Pete Seeger fan alike will want to have in his or her own music library. It is , in whole one of this year’s top new CD re-issues.
Living Music’s new re-issue of Pete is one of 2016’s top new CD re-issues. The 18-song album is a record that folk fans and Seeger fans alike will want to add to their own home music libraries. That is because it comes across like a musical time capsule that sounds so much older than it is thanks to its musical arrangements and lyrical themes. The companion concert recording that comes with the album’s re-issue serves to add to that feeling even more. And of course the companion booklet that is included in the album adds its own share of enjoyment to the album. All things considered Living Music’s new re-issue of Pete may not be the album’s first re-issue. But it is still proves to be a re-issue that, again, fans of folk and Pete Seeger alike will appreciate. It will be available June 17th in stores and online. More information on Pete is available online now at: