You Little Punk! SOL REPUBLIC Review & Giveaway

It’s that time of the year. Only a few more weeks until Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping season. Coming up with good gift ideas for friends and family isn’t always easy. Well, I’m here to help!

Sol Republic products have a great reputation in our house, so when they sent me a Punk, one of their new wireless speakers, to review as a holiday gift idea, I knew it would be good. Continue reading

Funnier Little Fellas Review and Giveaway

If Matt Clark wasn’t a musician, he could easily find an outlet for his creativity as a daddy blogger.

His songs are like blog posts set to music.

Listening to his latest CD, Funnier Little Fellas, I’m reminded of some of the better dad bloggers out there who turn to the Internet to share all the funny little moments they experience after becoming new fathers.

But Clark isn’t singing just for the moms and dads. He writes his songs for the kids. Specifically, he writes for, and about, his two young sons.

He’s tracking the milestones and obsessions of those earliest years through humor, instruction, and an easy-going vocal style. Clark sings about the simple stuff: Band-aids, tantrums, tickling, and playing at the playground.

Simple to you and me, maybe, but that’s some serious stuff to the preschool crowd!

I really like the children’s artists who are focused on a specific age group. And Matt Clark knows his audience very well.

Toddlers and preschoolers are going to love this CD. If I’d had this disc when my own kids were younger, it would’ve been on heavy rotation in our van.

So, go get Funnier Little Fellas, available for sale at Clark’s website, or at iTunes. You can hear samples at both places.

I just happen to have two copies of the CD to give away to my readers, thanks to the artist himself. If you’d like to win one, leave a comment on this post simply telling me you want it. I’ll pick a winner next week.

Lemonade School

I wrote about David Tobocman’s debut CD two years ago.

It was good. Really good. And it had one song, “Home,” that approached greatness.

That’s a tough act to follow, but Tobocman doesn’t miss a beat on Lemonade School, his second album of kids’ music.

It’s a completely engaging collection of songs played in a variety of styles, from Count Basie-style swing to Beatles-inspired pop. In fact, Tobocman starts off the album with a spirited bluegrass rendition of The Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye,” a daunting task that he pulls off with style.

From there, Tobocman shows off his strength as a master storyteller with clever songs like “Ice Cream on a Hot Dog,” “Mom is a Rock Star,” and “The Neighborhood.”

The showpiece here is the title track, an instant classic about a boy named Horatio, who works hard to develop the perfect lemonade recipe. It’s a fun message about persevering and achieving your dreams that any child can learn from.

Tobocman’s easy-going vocal stylings, coupled with the charming lyrics and pristine production, will appeal to all ages, from toddlers right up through the jaded middle school set.

My family highly recommends Lemonade School. It’s easily one of the best kids’ albums of the year.

You can hear samples, and buy the album, at Tobocman’s website.

Heidi Swedberg’s Play!

I was a fan of Heidi Swedberg long before she sent me her CD to review.

She reeled me in back in the 90’s with her effortless performance in the role of Susan Ross, the sophisticated and ever-patient girlfriend of George Costanza, on the TV show Seinfeld. Since her infamous departure from that show (death by envelope glue!), Swedberg became one of those actors I would always enjoy spotting in various TV and movie roles, from ER to Bones to Galaxy Quest.

So, I was happy to hear that she had recently turned her talents to teaching music to kids.

And that she wanted me to review her debut CD, Play!

I was even happier to find the CD to be just as effortless as her acting. The disc is filled with classic kids’ songs, set to the amiable voices and playful ukulele strumming of Heidi and her band, The Sukey Jump Band.

Songs like “Froggie Went a Courtin’,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and “Muffin Man” are given a complete ukulele makeover, with quirky arrangements and foot-tapping beats. Not to mention plenty of glockenspiel, saw, and slide whistle. Heidi also tackles ballads like “Down in the Valley,” and “Dream a Little Dream” with a simple sweetness that will have your young ones smiling the whole way through.

But Heidi encourages kids to do more than just listen. Hence, the title of the disc.

Yes, you might just have to buy your kids a ukulele so they can play along. Chords and lyrics are even provided with the CD.

She also sells a very reasonably priced ukulele on her website.

Whether they just listen or learn to play, your children will love these songs. They’re perfect for the younger crowd, from toddlers up through the elementary school years.

Of course, you’re never too old to pick up a musical instrument. Why not join your kids and form a ukulele orchestra for your next family sing-along?

To help one of you out, I have a copy of Play! to give away. Just leave a comment on this post telling me you’re a ukulele kind of person.

I’ll pick a winner next week!

In the meantime, visit CDBaby to hear samples of Heidi’s songs.

America’s Our Country

David Tobocman hit one out of the park on his debut CD, Very Helpful Songs, which I reviewed back in 2008.

His beautiful and touching song, “Home,” is one of my all-time favorite children’s tunes. Ever.

So, I’m excited that his follow-up disc, Lemonade School, will be hitting stores in August.

Ahead of that release date, Tobocman is releasing a free single for the 4th of July holiday. It’s a patriotic tune called “America’s Our Country.”

You can receive an MP3 download of the track (I repeat, FOR FREE), by sending an email request to: veryhelpful@earthlink.net

And, of course, there is a video. Enjoy:

Brainy Day

Three years ago we were pleasantly surprised by a very happy kids’ album from Roger Day. Read my positive review of that CD, Dream Big, here.

Roger’s back with a new album, but it’s not so happy this time.

Now he’s gone all brainy on us.

Why Does Gray Matter? is a fun collection of “brainy songs for kids” from one of the smartest kids’ singers around.

Yes, every single song on this CD is about being smart and making the most of your brain. Tracks like “Use Your Noodle,” “It’s a No Brainer,” and “Inside My Cranium,” are funny, silly, and educational all at the same time. What more do you want in a children’s album?

I’m always telling my kids to use their brain to its full potential. Along comes Roger Day to back me up with lyrics like: “There’s not a single answer anywhere you can’t find, When you flex the muscles in your mind,” and “Get your brain in gear, There’s no time for wasting here.”

Day also sings about good “brain foods” to eat, such as blueberries, whole wheat bread, spinach, salmon, and green tea.

Like I said, it’s a very smart album. As Day himself said, “I’m pretty sure it’s the first recording session in Nashville to research WebMD for fact checks.”

And it’s all wrapped up in an exquisite pop/rock sheen that calls to mind the best Schoolhouse Rock tunes.

Why Does Gray Matter? gets the highest recommendation from my family! You can listen to it at Roger Day’s website. It’s also available for download on iTunes.

CD Review: Leeny and Tamara

My kids and I have become rather tough critics of children’s music lately.

We hear more than most people, and after awhile much of it starts to sound the same.

So, we sit up and take notice when something different and fresh arrives in our mailbox.

That’s the case with Leeny and Tamara’s new CD, Sharing The Same Stars. Their music is charming and thoughtful, with hummable melodies, pristine studio production, and countless little touches that will make both you and your kids smile.

Leeny and Tamara first met in the early 90’s at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where they were both songwriting students. Nearly twenty years later, they finally got together to write and perform this amazing kids album.

Their lyrics are geared toward kids ten and under, with topics that both teach and entertain. One of our favorite songs is “Hold It,” a wistful tune about having to pee really bad. We’ve all been there.

Another standout is “I Used To Be Shy,” a thoughtful little tale of overcoming childhood shyness set to a bouncy pop melody. I can completely identify with lyrics like “It may be hard to believe that things can change, With every brave little step you take, Today will be easier than yesterday.”

Most of this album is a mix of piano pop and guitar rock, with a touch of new wave, country, and rockabilly spread throughout. Leeny and Tamara beautifully harmonize from beginning to end.

You can listen for yourself at their website, where they have streaming samples of all their songs.

Leeny and Tamara have produced a wonderful set of songs that will please you and your kids for many years. Sharing The Same Stars receives my family’s highest recommendation!

They were kind enough to send me a copy of this CD to give away to one of my readers. If you’d like to win Leeny and Tamara’s CD, leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick a winner next weekend!

Renee and Jeremy Say C’mon

Even though it’s the shortest month, February always seems to drag. Too far removed from Christmas, not close enough to spring break. It’s a good time for a little musical pick-me-up. Over the next few weeks, I’ll have some CD recommendations for you and your kids.

Today, we’ll start with the amazing acoustic harmonies of Renee and Jeremy.

Renee and Jeremy CDTheir new CD, C’mon, is aptly titled. The dozen songs have a kind of happy urgency about them, like when your kids are telling you, “C’mon daddy, let’s go play!” The energy is infectious.

It doesn’t hurt that Renee and Jeremy sing beautifully together. I was reminded at times of the recent Matthew Sweet/Susanna Hoffs cover songs collaboration. Only, Renee and Jeremy do it better. Their playfully mellow sound is easy on everyone’s ears, and their intertwining voices complement each other perfectly.

This is that rare children’s CD that is truly for all ages. Songs like “Share” and “Right Now” deliver a message of love and patience. You won’t find lyrics about teeth brushing or finger painting. I can definitely see this CD getting head-bobs of approval from both your toddler and your teen.

The Idaho Family highly recommends C’mon by Renee and Jeremy. Visit their website to listen, look, and play (and to find some free song downloads!). You can also find the CD at Amazon, iTunes, and the other usual places.

Cool Christmas Music For You

It’s that time of the year when the holiday music goes on heavy rotation in our CD players and iPods. If you’re like me, you add a few discs to your collection each year. Here are four kids’ CDs that will make fine additions to your roster of cool Christmas tunes:

  • The Hipwaders – A Kindie Christmas
    The Hipwaders have always been inventive and unique. Their fresh take on Christmas includes all original songs, written by lead singer Tito Uquillas, and performed in their usual jangly indie rock style. There are some new holiday classics on this disc!

  • Danny Adlerman, Yosi, & Kevin Kammeraad – …And A Happy New Year
    This is just a fun group of guys singing a fun mix of holiday favorites and originals. A bit of folk, rock, and pop, you can tell from the easygoing style and laughter that these three had a good time making this CD.
  • Various Artists – Putumayo Presents A Family Christmas
    The Putumayo World Music label has always stood for high quality, and they don’t disappoint in this wonderful collection of festive Christmas songs. Highlights include Martin Sexton’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s spirited “Is Zat You Santa Claus?”
  • Paige Stroman – Christmas Lullabies To Create Memories
    Perfect for the quiet times this season, Paige Stroman keeps it mellow as she sings the old favorites, like “Away In A Manger,” along with five new tunes. A beautifully produced CD, this one sounds great all the way through.

You can find all of these CDs at online stores like The Pokey Pup, iTunes, and Amazon. Or click on the links in the above descriptions to get to the artists’ web sites and buy directly from them. I encourage you to check them out!

Disclaimer: Two of these CDs were sent to me by the artists for review.