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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Listeners Of All Ages Will Clap Their Hands Together For Shelton’s ‘Hand In Hand’

Courtesy: Suzimusic, LLC

Early this month, family entertainer Suzi Shelton finally ended a nearly four-year wait for some new music when she released her new album Hand in Hand.  Her fourth full-length studio recording (her 2016 holiday covers record only boasts 5 songs, so it clearly is not a full album), this nine-song, 29-minute record succeeds in part because of its varied musical arrangements.  This will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical themes presented throughout the record are just as varied.  They will be discussed later.  The album’s sequencing puts the final touch to the album’s presentation.  When all three elements are joined, they make Hand in Hand a record that is sure to leave listeners joining their hands in united applause.

Suzi Shelton’s latest full-length studio recording Hand in Hand is another successful entry from the veteran family entertainer.  That is proven in part through the varied musical arrangements that make up the album’s body.  Case in point the juxtaposition of the pop-centered arrangement at the core of ‘Can You Feel The Power’ to the gentle, almost tropical vibe of ‘River Come Down.  The two songs present two wholly different genre specific sounds.  The same can be said of every other song on this record.  ‘Put Your Hands in the Air,’ the album’s opener, boast a certain pop sensibility that might conjure thoughts of certain Christian bands.  Of course that might be in part because of Shelton’s refrain of “make a joyful sound.”  Odds are she wasn’t going for a Christian comparison, but that line and the song’s musical arrangement together lead at least this critic to make that comparison.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s just an observation.  The song’s lyrical content will be discussed later.  Staying on the topic at hand, Shelton doesn’t stick to that one style.  ‘Ladybugs’ is a fun, light-hearted bluesy piece that will appeal to listeners of any age.  The keyboard and ukulele at the center of ‘Never Let You Go’ is more kid-friendly, but still fun in its own right.  Much the same can be said of the arrangement at the center of ‘The Grass Is Always Greener.’  ‘Raindrop’ boasts a keyboard-centric arrangement that will easily appeal to any grown-up who grew up a fan of similar sounds from the 1980s.  Yes, Shelton even jumps back to the 80s in this album’s musical side.  ‘Blue Fin’ an n easygoing jazz arrangement that will appeal to the fans of that noted genre while ‘We Shall Walk’ – the album’s finale – goes back to the album’s more kid-friendly leanings.  Considering the constant change in the album’s musical arrangements, as shown here, it should be clear why the record’s arrangements are so critical to its presentation.  They offer music that while maybe not for everyone per se, will appeal easily to a wide range of audiences.  Keeping that in mind, it does more than enough to make the album worth hearing.  They collectively are only one way in which this record proves itself worth the listen.  The lyrical themes presented throughout the record vary just as much as its arrangements.

Since we ended with the record’s finale in discussing its musical arrangements, we will start there in the discussion of its lyrical themes.  Shelton has composed here, a song that focuses on the importance of community and unity.  It’s a statement that is easily accessible and thankfully doesn’t feel preachy, either.  She sings here that “we shall love/One another/Everyday/Deep in my soul/I dream/That we shall walk/Hand in hand/Everyday.  In a certain sense, it harkens back to the words of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as she sings about “no racism, no judging anymore”.  What’s really sad here is that this is a message that today’s adults need to hear just as much as children, as is evidenced on the news every single day.  ‘Can You Feel The Power’ is another positive piece in regards to its lyrical content.  This song is one that works to instill a sense of peace and love in her listeners.  She sings here, “It’s your choice/To be yourself/To  be great, to be fine/To grow from inside/Let’s go/Now is the time to spread your wings and reach up high for you/And the new generation of movers and shakers/Let’s stop with the haters/Be kind/Show all the world the greatest can start when you lead with your heart/Can you feel the power/The power that’s inside you/Let the power take you/Where you want to go.”  She goes on to sing about spreading love and hope while continuing to present her message of self-confidence.  It’s a wonderful message that again, adults could benefit from hearing just as much as children, which again is such a sad statement.  Adults shouldn’t need these reminders, yet apparently they do need said reminders, so kudos to Shelton again for presenting this message for every listener.  ‘The Grass Is Always Greener’ presents its own important message that once again, older listeners could benefit from hearing just as much as children.  That message is a reminder that we should be happy with who and where we are and not always want to be something and somewhere else.  That’s because…well…the grass isn’t always greener.  Shelton doesn’t go into a full on speech about that, but adults especially will understand.  That being the case, this song makes for a great starting point for a discussion between parents and kids about being happy with themselves.  Who knows, even adults might walk away from said discussion with some enlightenment of their own in the end.  It’s just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves to be just as important to its presentation as its musical arrangements.  While both elements are undeniably key to the album’s whole, they still are not its only important elements.  The record’s sequencing rounds out the most important of its elements.

The sequencing at the center of Hand in Hand is critical to note because it is just as important as the album’s songs and its lyrical themes in ensuring listeners’ engagement and entertainment as the album’s songs and lyrical themes.  From start to end, the album balances its energy just enough to in fact keep listeners engaged and entertained.  It starts gentle and flowing in ‘Put Your Hands in the Air’ before changing things up but still making them easy on the ears with ‘Ladybugs.’  The genres are totally different, yet both have a certain smooth vibe and energy that will definitely keep listeners’ ears.  ‘Can You Feel The Power’ continues that light energy, before the album eases off even more with the soft yet still happy ‘Never Let You Go.’  ‘The Grass Is Always Greener’ brings the energy levels back up a little bit without going too far in the process.  ‘Raindrop,’ with its 80s-keyboard infused sound pulls things back just a little bit again while ‘River Come Down’ changes things up again with its light tropical sound.  What’s interesting here is that the album’s energy stays stable through it all even here.  The light, jazzy arrangement of ‘Blue Fin’ continues the happy feeling established in ‘River Come Down’ before moving into the slightly more energetic album finale that is ‘We Shall Walk.’  What’s interesting here is the song feels almost like it wants to throw back to the days of the civil rights era with its overall approach.  That adds even more depth to that energy.  It has that vibe without being full-on like the songs that were made so famous from that era.  Rather, it is far lighter, but still boasts its own energy thanks to its horns, clapping, choruses and bass.  Keeping this in mind, and the obvious balance of energies present throughout the album, it should be clear why the sequencing of Hand in Hand is so important to its whole.  As with any album from any genre, without proper sequencing, it would be so easy to just skip through an album, and in turn perhaps miss certain high points.  Thanks to the time and thought put into this album’s sequencing though, it’s clear that listeners are far less likely to skip any of its songs.  To that end, the album’s sequencing proves just as pivotal (and positive here) as the album’s songs and their companion lyrical content.  When all three elements are considered together, they prove Hand in Hand to be a record that will leave listeners raising their hands in applause all together.

Suzi Shelton’s latest full-length studio recording Hand in Hand is another successful effort from the veteran family entertainer.  That is especially the case considering that four years have passed since the release of her last album, Smile in my Heart.  It boasts a variety of musical styles that in themselves are sure to keep listeners engaged.  The same can be said of its lyrical themes, which adults will hopefully take to heart just as much as their younger counterparts.  The album’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Each element plays its own integral part to this record, as has been pointed out here.  All things considered, they make Hand in Hand, in the bigger picture, one more record to add to this year’s list of the top new family music albums.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Hand in Hand is available online now along with all of Suzy Shelton’s latest news and more at:







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