If you have toddlers around or just love good folk/country-oriented music, I've got something for you.
It seems like only yesterday that Goodnight Songs came via USPS to set me straight about Margaret Wise Brown and her poems for children--- indeed, with her complete body of work, for Ms. Brown was well on her way to being a creator of not just poems but musical compositions and films and a string of other projects which would have turned into what we know today as multimedia. Brown had already struck gold with a number of books geared toward the very young, the most successful having been the book known and loved by thousands and thousands of todays adults, Goodnight Moon, which had many a parent and child sitting in a chair or on a couch together, flipping pages and experiencing the wonder of the world through a child's eyes.
The story behind this new wave of Brown's works has been recounted in many a review so I won't go into it here (If you want, No Depression has also posted my review of the previous volume, Goodnight Songs, which you can access here). Suffice it to say that Brown's cup was overflowing with works-in-progress when she unexpectedly died at the age of 42, stopping what could have been a Willy-Wonka sized enterprise. Goodnight Songs are part of what remains. It is a book with accompanying music CD, you understand, but it is also the title under which the new work, A Celebration of the Seasons, has been published. Technically, Goodnight Songs is the front part of the title (Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons). I wonder. Is this a trend? Will we see and hear more?
I can see no better trend for tots than poems and music made just for them and not of the standard “you are kids” variety. Chatrlottesvillains Tom Proutt and Emily Gary have gone out of their ways to produce an album of songs true to not only the poetry but the child. No "Ten Little Indians" here, friends, but music as accessible to the adult as the toddler. Full blown Americana written and adapted to the Brown works--- a perfect introduction to Music Beyond Barney 101. And why not? In my experience, kids love music and I find combining Wise with well-written and well thought out music is a natural.
Cool thing is, Gary and Proutt, in addition to being accomplished musicians, corralled some of the best they knew to help them out, so you not only get the poems and the songs, you get some of the best musicianship available by the likes of Andy Thacker, Stuart Gunter, Matty Metcalf and Charlie Bell (among others) as well as Gary and Proutt. Musicians who have performed on some of my favorite albums, and not “childrens” albums, over the years. Excellently recorded and geared toward the music itself and not toward the child, as so many of todays albums are.
Again, on this album as well as the first volume of Good Night Songs, the key is the simple and pure voice of Gary and how well it works with that of Proutt. Music to soothe the souls of youths. Music to soothe grownups souls as well.
How good is it? Well, there are a couple of tunes on the album which I will be using as a yardstick example of accordion and pedal steel playing as will I use the entire album in pointing out the disservice we do to children by “dumbing down” music to “their” level. Music is universal and if it is good music knows no age. When you hear this, you will understand. For children from birth to 130.
Goodnight Songs was nominated for a Grammy last year and was weeded out by the powers that be in the long process to the awards program, don't ask me why. I am sure Proutt, Gary and Brown will get another shot this next year with A Celebration of the Seasons. They deserve it.
Of course, it never hurts to have a lyricist of the stature of Margaret Wise Brown. Right up there with Ira Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein. In my world, anyway.