Putumayo Kids’ Australian Playground Is A Fun Musical Trip Down Under

Courtesy:  Putumayo World Music

Courtesy: Putumayo World Music

Australian Playground, the most recent release from children’s label Putumayo, is another fun collection of songs for the whole family.  The record boasts ten songs that celebrate the land down under and its rich cultural heritage.  What really makes the compilation in whole truly interesting is that while it celebrates Australia and its people’s culture on a lyrical angle, the collection’s musical side mixes some Australian musical elements with a much more varied sound from other cultures.  Case in point is the compilation’s opener ‘Marrtjina (Let’s Go).’  The song, which was written and performed by The NEO and Garrangali, is a reggae-style song that still has an ever-so-slight Men at Work influence within itself.  There is also a Dixieland piece in ‘The Road to Gundagai’ performed by The Band of the South Australian Police.  This piece will have listeners of every age up and dancing along with its fun sound.  And of course, the album closes with the famed Australian standard ‘Waltzing Matilda.’  This beloved song is performed by Lazy Harry.  Harry switches up the song ever so slightly but stays largely true to the original.  The only major difference between this take and the original is that the song’s later chorus sections are omitted in favor of the primary chorus between verses.    These songs are just small glimpses into what makes Putumayo’s Australian Playground a fun musical experience for the whole family.  The album’s remaining seven songs each offer their own enjoyment in the grand scheme.  Collectively, all ten of the songs included in this compilation will have listeners of every age singing along together with every listen, imagining the whole time that they are themselves in the gran Australian outback.

Putumayo’s new album Australian Playground is one of the more interesting compilations that the label has released so far.  The reason for that is the manner in which the songs included on this record balance the celebration of Australia and its people’s culture with the various musical genres from around the world.  One of the key examples of that balance comes right off the top in the album’s opener ‘Marrtjina (Let’s Go).’  The song mixes that celebration of Australia and its people’s culture with a sound that clearly has Jamaican roots (I.E. reggae) for a song that makes one heck of an opener.  The laid back, beachy vibe of the song’s music alongside its positive lyrics will most certainly have listeners of any age grooving along on those last family trips before fall arrives or in their own homes.  The song’s vocalist sings in classic reggae style, “Come on everybody let’s wake up/Time to get ready for a shake-up/What’s up/Get up are you ready/Come on let’s go/We get up in the morning time/We head down to the water line/ Dip your lip/To take a sip/Come on everybody let’s take a trip/Guitar strapped around her waist/Not a moment left here to waste/Standing with a smile on her face/Just for you/Sacred place/Whoah.”  He goes on in the song’s second verse to sing, “We go now/We moved in style/As we walk past someone/We’ll make them smile.”  It’s just a fun, upbeat song that will put a smile on any listener’s face as they dance and groove to the fun, hybrid tune.  It’s just the start of the enjoyment offered to audiences on this record, too as evidenced by another of the album’s highest of points, ‘The Road to Gundagai.’

‘The Road to Gundagai’ is another great example of the balance between multicultural music and the celebration of Australian culture exhibited on this record.  The song’s musical side presents a fun Dixieland sound that is just as apt to have listeners of all ages dancing along as the album’s opener.  The song’s lyrical side gives another little glimpse into life in the land down under with the band’s vocalist singing about life in the more rural regions of Australia’s vast lands.  He sings, “There’s a track winding back to an old fashioned shack/Along the road to Gundagai/Where the blue gums are growing/And the Murrumbigee’s flowin’/Beaneath that sunny sky/Where my daddy and mommy/Are waiting for me/Then no more will I roam/When I’m heading straight for home/Along the road to Gundagai.”  Even those that might not be familiar with Australia’s layout can easily see images of a duty old shack at the end of a deserted road, rusty old broken down truck inside, sun shining down on the shack as a river flows gently nearby.  That vivid imagery set alongside the song’s Dixieland sound (which is anything but Australian in root) enhances the song even more and makes it a fun tune that loses none of its charm no matter how many times it’s played.

Australian Playground closes out with one more of the country’s musical standards in the form of ‘Waltzing Matilda.’  The song, performed by Lazy Harry, is just the singer/songwriter and his guitar.  The layering of his vocals to create harmonies adds to the song’s enjoyment especially in the song’s chorus in which he sings, “Waltzing Matilda/Waltzing Matilda/You’ll come-a waltzing Matilda with me/And he sang as he watched/And waited till his billy boiled/You’ll come-a waltzing Matilda with me.”  The song itself is a fun little story for listeners as it presents quite the story.  The story in question revolves an out of work man out walking in the countryside.  He happens on a sheep and stuffs it in his bag when he just happens to be caught red-handed by local authorities.  Instead of being caught, the man jumps into the river at which point it’s assumed he drowned as the song states in a late verse, “And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong/Who’ll come-a waltzing with me?”  It’s actually a pretty dark story when one stops and thinks about it. It’s basically about a man who is out of work and down on his luck who ends up drowning in a river after trying to evade police who catch him trying to steal a sheep.  So keeping that in mind, the laid back vibe of the music creates a wholly different feeling, despite that darkness. Sort of like so many American songs and nursery rhymes, it makes one wonder how it could possibly be a children’s song. That aside, it’s still definitely interesting in its own right. It might be okay for older children. Younger listeners don’t have to know about the song’s seemingly dark story. Keeping that in mind, it still makes for one more interesting addition to the compilation in whole. Together with those other songs noted here (and those not noted), Australian Playground proves to be a collection of songs that listeners of all ages will appreciate and enjoy for one reason or another.

‘Waltzing Matilda’ is definitely not come across as the happiest of songs when one really sits down and analyzes the song’s lyrical content. Its musical content though is so infectious that one can almost overlook that seeming lyrical darkness. The playful vibe of ‘The Rod to Gundagai’ and ‘Marrtjina (Let’s Go)’ more than make up for that song. Their fun mix of music and lyrics will have listeners of all ages dancing and singing along. The same can be said of so many of the compilation’s remaining songs, too. Collectively, all ten of the songs included in this record make it a fun listen for listeners of all ages in their own special way. They make this record one that will be just as enjoyable in the classroom or the living room. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Putumayo’s website at http://www.putumayo.com/australian-playground. More information on this and other releases from Putumayo is available online at:

Website: http://www.putumayo.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Putumayo
Twitter: http://twitter.com/putumayomusic

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

American Playground Another Enjoyable Compilation From Putumayo Kids

Courtesy:  Putumayo World Music

Courtesy: Putumayo World Music

Putumayo Kids has taken young listeners all around the world all from the safety of their own homes and classrooms thanks to its series of compilations featuring music from different regions of America and Europe.  With the release of its latest compilation, American Playground, Putomayo continues that well-established tradition this time by examining a number of children’s favorites set to bluegrass, folk, and gospel settings. 

The ten track compilation includes a solid mix of folk, bluegrass and blues pieces along with a trio of adaptations of hits from Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and jazz composer Irving Berlin.  The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ stands out as it’s the only jazz piece on the compilation.  But it is still an impressive rendition of the jazz classic nonetheless.  The pairing of Aaron Watson and Elizabeth McQueen for the song is especially interesting considering that both singers are more versed in country music than jazz.  Had listeners not known this, they would never have known that the pair had no background in jazz.  This is in itself a tribute to the choice of artists and songs picked for the compilation’s sequencing.  Watson and McQueen’s take on Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a solid interpretation of the jazz classic.  It is impressive enough that one wonders if Putumayo will eventually release a compilation of jazz standards for both kids and their parents.  There is rumor that another album is due out before 2013 is over.  So it would be interesting to see if that in fact becomes the alleged new compilation.

The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a nice touch to this compilation that is otherwise centered largely on roots music.  Of course the roots music compiled for this release is enjoyable in its own right, too.  The cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is a fitting and touching song.  It shows a side of Dylan that many casual listeners might not otherwise have known about.  Most people know Dylan for his protest songs.  This song is the exact antithesis of those works.  Singer/songwriter Randy Kaplan makes the song even more interesting with his rendition of the song both with this musicianship and his voice.  He actually sounds very similar to a young Bob Dylan with this record.  Its slight gravelly sound and gentility perfectly complements what sounds like a mandolin used in the place of a guitar.  He gives the song a whole new meaning with his rendition that is still powerful in its own way.  It is one more enjoyable piece that parents and children alike will enjoy.

The cover of Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is another high point to this instantly enjoyable record.  It’s not the last, either.  The compilation closes out fittingly with a cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’  After taking listeners on a musical journey across the country on the previous songs, this song is a good bookend companion to the compilation’s opening number, ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.’  Listeners are taken from up high in the mountains in the compilation’s opener, down to the plains, looking up at the blue skies and across the heartland to the final notes of Guthrie’s classic song.  Younger listeners won’t catch it.  But older listeners might catch that one specific line was removed from this rendition of the song.  Why that was done is anyone’s guess.  Even with one specific portion of the song omitted in this rendition—intentionally or not—it doesn’t lose any of its enjoyment.  Along with the remaining material on this compilation, it serves as just one more impressive addition to what is an overall enjoyable compilation for listeners of all ages.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the Putumayo online store at http://www.putumayo.com/americanplayground?section=kids

Parents and kids can keep up with all of the latest releases from Putumayo and Putumayo Kids online at http://www.facebook.com/putukids, http://www.putumayokids.com, and http://twitter.com/putumayokids

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.