By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Most parents find it difficult dealing with the sounds emanating from their young child's room. The yearly onslaught (especially during the holidays) of products geared toward the wee ones can be daunting to say the least. What follows is a guide through the minefield of pre-adolescent music, one that might allow parents to actually enjoy what their children are listening to and also still provide the necessary hip quotient for the child to stay square with his peeps.
Wee Hairy Beasties includes Jon Langford and Sally Timms of the Mekons, and the pair bring their twisted, British take on Americana to the little ones on Animal Crackers. Cuts such as "Flies on My Taters," "Housefly Blues" and "Road Safety Song" are funny and honest without a hint of condescension. The songs of Langford and Timms take the concerns of a youngster and shoehorn them into the back-porch rockers that have come to be the pair's forte.
More topical and a hell of a lot more conventional is New Orleans Playground, a compilation CD featuring songs from across several decades by some of the city's most famous musicians. Clifton Chenier, The Meters, Dr. John, Fats Domino and Buckwheat Zydeco are just a few of the familiar names who romp through tunes that should appeal to the young soul. Dr. John's "Row Your Boat" and Zydeco's "Skip to My Blues" are definitely sing-along material while Domino's "Whole Lotta Lovin'" might raise a few awkward but crucial questions.
Released last year but just now gaining wide release is Celebrate the Difference from noted Austin roots singer Terri Hendrix. Produced by the legendary Lloyd Maines, Celebrate is a bit heavy on the hokey sentiment and could easily be featured on NPR's Morning Becomes Eclectic, but who says kids can't be politically correct? Songs such as "Get Your Goat On" and "A Place in the Choir" actually have meaning to go along with their infectious melodies and top-notch playing.
And if you really want to go multicultural on your progeny, pick up More Kids' Pow-Wow Songs from Native American drum ensemble Black Lodge. You just haven't experienced life to the fullest until you hear this Grammy-nominated quintet's take on the themes from Sponge Bob Square Pants and Scooby Doo. The wailing and chanting alone might make your child appreciate the hell he or she has put you through.