Cole and I went to see Laurie Berkner with a group of dear friends yesterday. It was my first kids’ rock outing, the first time I’ve taken Cole to a show that wasn’t a festival. It was a beautiful day. In fact, without a drummer and enough amplification, Berkner couldn’t compete with the weather, the fun of playing with his friend Eli, and the joys of chasing bubbles. Cole sat with me for maybe two songs. Then I don’t know if he heard a word Laurie sang after that.
Berkner is a smart songwriter: not genius, but melodic and, as Cole would say, engaging. She’s definitely the most accessible of a slew of newish acts that are re-creating children’s music. I was on a panel about this at South by Southwest; I also wrote a story on it for the Herald in December. A couple of parents have been asking me if there’s good kids music out there. Here’s a list of CDs I recommended with that story. I would add to it both albums by Uncle Rock and the Sippycups’ CD (Uncle Rock, aka Robert Burke Warren, and Sippycup Paul were both on the panel).
* New Orleans Playground (Putumayo Kids): Includes such classic bayou tunes as Ya Ya and Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, for the young at heart.
* They Might Be Giants, Here Come the ABCs (Disney Sound): Educational can be weird.
* Wee Hairy Beasties, Animal Crackers (Bloodshot): Clever, fun, folksy, but not cutesy.
* We Are . . . the Laurie Berkner Band (Razor & Tie): Noggin-watchers’ favorite lady of song.
* Elizabeth Mitchell, You Are My Little Bird (Smithsonian Folkway): Folk, rock and reggae songs by Neil Young, Francosie Hardy, etc., gently and smartly reinterpreted.
* Jack Johnson and Friends, Sing-a-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George (brushfire): For the little jamsters.
* Dan Zanes and Friends, All Around the Kitchen (festival five): The former Boston rocker (Del Fuegos) pioneered the current wave of kid rock; his several CDs mix classics and originals.
* All Together Now: Beatles Stuff for Kids of All Ages (Little Monster/V2): Tasteful, modern renditions of Yellow Submarine, Birthday, etc., packaged with a book of poems and trivia.
* The Backyardigans, Groove to the Music (Nick Records): Some of the best musicians in New York play on these songs. Just beware of the munchkin singers.
* Lil Jams, Vol. 1 (GMG): Hip-hop hits sung by kids in not too cloying a fashion.
* Jack’s Big Music Show, Season One (Nick Records): A decent sampling of Nick Jr.’s favorites, including Berkner, Milkshake, and Sweet Honey in the Rock.