Photo Credit: Maja Suslin/AFP/Getty
Adult rockers doing cannonballs into the kiddie music pool is nothing new (see: Dan Zanes, They Might Be Giants, Jack Johnson and, more recently, Barenaked Ladies). Check out a handful of adult-to-kid artists making impressive splashes this year.
1. Ziggy Marley officially joined the kids' music community this summer, after years of voice over and soundtrack work for kids' TV and film. His aptly titled CD “Family Time” features a host of familiar names, such as Paul Simon on the uplifting “Walk Tall” and Willie Nelson on Woody Guthrie’s “This Train.” I love that Marley reached out to established adult-to-kid artists Elizabeth Mitchell and Jack Johnson, having each lend their talents to the album. Substantial contributions from established, well-known artists combined with high quality reggae music makes “Family Time” a great time.
2. In the mid-90’s, The Coctails were every college-rock fan’s favorite jazzy lounge act. John Upchurch and Mark Greenberg of that Chicago band have resurfaced behind one of the most refreshing kids' albums of the year. Under the moniker John and Mark’s Children’s Record (curiously the name of the band and their debut CD), the pair have written and recorded a collection of 11 original folk tunes that sound a lot like early Bob Dylan, if he’d been writing songs for Sesame Street. The sepia-toned “Colors” may end the year as my favorite kid’s song of ’09. The theater of the absurd-ish “Pat the Alligator Lady” is pure delight for little ones ages five and under.
3. Nearly a decade and a half since Jewel exploded onto the pop music scene, she too has meandered into the world of children’s music with her latest CD, “Lullaby.” The 15-song, sleepy-time effort features Jewel’s familiar, soothing vocals on such classics as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”
4. Robert Schneider is known by fans of independent rock music as the energetic front man of The Apples in Stereo. To the kids of those fans, however, he is Robbert Bobbert and together with his Bubble Machine has released a tight, upbeat set of tunes that pay homage to The Beatles, Bill Haley, The Comets and The Beach Boys. The influences are evident on the kiddie anthem “We R Super Heroes” and the jukebox hit “Hey Little Puppy.” There are also rumors of a new animated television show based on his kooky inventor alter ego.
5. Many other rock stars are finding their way to the kids' music genre through the wildly hip Yo Gabba Gabba! The Shins, Mates of State, and the Ting Tings, among dozens of other bands have already contributed songs to the show. Season 3 of Yo Gabba Gabba! will feature “Nature,” an unreleased song from indie rock giants Band of Horses. The popular Nick Jr. show is proving a viable platform for cutting edge adult bands to dip their toes in the water, testing their appeal to the single digit set.