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.

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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Putumayo’s Latest Collection Is A Must Have For Any Lover Of Latin Music

Courtesy:  Putumayo World Music

Courtesy: Putumayo World Music

Putumayo is one of the most well-known and respected labels in the world music community.  It has been introducing listeners to great sounds from around the world for more than two decades.  And late this summer the label, which is in this critic’s eyes (and ears) one of the leading labels in the world music community, proved yet again why it is such a highly revered company when it released its latest collection of songs Vintage Latino.  Vintage Latino is one of the best of this year’s new crop of offerings within the realm of world music.  The twelve-track record is a virtual musical love letter to a bygone era; a simpler era.  It instantly transports listeners back to that time and leaves them yearning for that era.  It’s just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable.  It will be discussed shortly.  The history lesson of sorts that is provided in the pages of the compilation’s companion booklet adds to its overall effect.  Listeners learn about the acts featured across the disc and the various musical styles that each played along with even more interesting historical tidbits.  In direct connection to the history provided to listeners through the collection’s companion booklet, Putumayo adds to the vintage effect by adding in a recipe for an actual Borrego Mojito in the back of the booklet for older listeners.  For those that aren’t familiar with the history of the mojito in general, it is a drink that originated in Cuba.  It has grown and is presented in a number of variations today including the Berrigo Mojito, which in many cases includes a slice of grapefruit.  In the case of this recipe, the grapefruit is replaced with a slice of lime.  All three noted elements are equally important in their own right to the overall success and enjoyment of Vintage Latino.  Altogether, they make this collection one that any true Latin music aficionado should have in his or her own music library.

Putumayo’s latest Latin music collection Vintage Latino is a compilation that every true Latin music aficionado should have in his or her own music library.  The main reason that it is such a must have and hear is its presented songs.  Twelve classic Latin tunes are presented across the course of the record’s forty-minute run time.  The central aspect of the songs that makes them so enjoyable is the very fact that they will instantly transport listeners back to a bygone era of music; a simpler time.  If listeners just close their eyes and let themselves take in the music, they can see those old night clubs that dotted the Cuban streets way back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s with their elaborately painted and decorated halls and dance floors, the candlelit tables, and waiters in their finest outfits, and bands up on stage entertaining everyone.  There are also images of small groups of musicians playing on the streets.  Considering the number of Latin music albums and compilations available to listeners today, few of said collections are able to create such a welcome sense of nostalgia.  On another level, the songs introduce listeners to a handful of different musical styles that exist within the realm of Latin music.  Those musical styles include the bolero, danson-cha, son, and others.  They make for a good starting point for any music theory and more specifically college level Latin music class. This is just one of a number of reasons that Vintage Latino is well worth the listen by any fan of Latin music. The history lesson of sorts included through the collection’s companion booklet adds even more reason for Latin music fans to check out this new release.

The companion booklet included in Putumayo’s new Latin music collection is just as important to its overall presentation as the music itself. That is because it isn’t just a bunch of liner notes assembled to fill out the booklet. Rather listeners get a history lesson of sorts. Each of the compilation’s songs is accompanied in the collection’s booklet by a brief yet concise history on said songs and those that recorded and performed them. And there is a lot of interesting material contained within the pages of the booklet. For instance, there is mention of the influence of Tito Puente’s big band on Republique Democratique Du Mambo in crafting its sound, including that featured in the song ‘Cha Cha Cha Para Ti.’ Just as interesting is the history of Trio Zamora’s ‘Chinita.’ Listeners will learn in regards to this song that if not for the efforts of a pair of Jewish immigrants, it might have been lost to history along with so many other of the trio’s compositions. There is an equally rich history behind ‘Besame Mucho,’ which is one of the most well-known Latin compositions in the modern history of music. It is just one more example of why the history presented within the pages of Vintage Latino’s is just as important to the record’s overall presentation as the songs that make up the body of the record. Together, both elements give listeners a full, rich experience that every listener will enjoy and appreciate. They still are not all that makes the overall presentation that is Vintage Latino so enjoyable. Putumayo has added an interesting bonus to the overall presentation in the form of a Borrego Mojito recipe for older listeners in the back of the booklet. It rounds out the reasons that listeners will like this latest LP from Putumayo.

The music and history that make up the body of Vintage Latino are both equally important reasons for Latin music fans to add this latest collection from Putumayo. While both are of equal importance, they are not all that make the overall presentation so impressive. The bonus Borrego Mojito recipe included in the back of the collection’s booklet rounds out the presentation. While it doesn’t include a history of the mojito or its many variants–the mojito was in fact born in Cuba sometime in the 1500s—the very fact that one of the classic cocktail’s variants has been included here is in itself an interesting addition to the compilation. After making the drink, which often features a slice of grapefruit (the grapefruit has been replaced by a slice of lime here) audiences can turn on this record and feel even more like they have been transported to those old Cuban clubs that originally made the songs featured here so beloved. Together with the songs in question and their companion histories presented within the pages of the record’s booklet, the presentation in whole proves to be a wonderful new collection from one of the leading names in world music and a collection that every Latin music aficionado will want to have in his or her own home music library.

Vintage Latino offers lovers of Latin music so much to enjoy. It offers twelve classic songs that collectively make this record come across as a love letter to the era in which they were originally recorded and to the songs themselves. The companion histories that accompany the songs add even more interest and enjoyment to the record. The Borrego Mojito recipe featured in the back of the record’s booklet rounds out the whole experience. Sitting down to enjoy this variant on the classic cocktail, which itself was born in Cuba, while listening to the record’s featured songs makes for a listening experience that will make listeners feel completely as if they have been transported back to that great time and place. The experience in whole will leave listeners agreeing that Vintage Latino is a must have for any true lover of Latin music. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Putumayo’s online store at http://www.putumayo.com/shop/vintage-latino/. More information on this and other titles from Putumayo is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.putumayo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Putumayo

 

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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

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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

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