Kids need music. In fact, we all do. These new children's albums, bright and refreshing, are treats for their, and your, ears. Kids will learn their ABCs and 123s, explore Celtic folklore and sing along with alligators. All should be available on Amazon.com, CDbaby.com and iTunes, to name a few.
"Blink of an Eye" by Frances England; Frances England Music; $13.99.
Released a few months ago but still worthy of a shout out, England's poppy, acoustic album meshes cool indie rock with kid-relatable lyrics, resulting in an original sound that lingers long after play. England, also the singer of an adult album, wins lots of accolades in reviews, including from USA Today, which says her sound is "phenomenal" and full of artistry and heart.
England, herself a mother who wants her music to grow with her children, says "Blink of an Eye" is geared toward a slightly older audience than her previous albums — a perfect sound for the elementary school-aged kid. Eleven originals, produced by Grammy winner Dean Jones, feature guest appearances by "kindie" music luminaries Elizabeth Mitchell, Caspar Babypants and several others.
England makes songs like "Bicycle Built for Two," "Salt Water Spin" and "Look How the Light Dances With Trees," which sparkle and shine.
"123s and ABCs" by Ella Jenkins; Smithsonian Folkways Recordings; $12.99.
Over her long career, Jenkins has won many awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. Her 1966 album, "You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song" is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. She's still got it, folks, and this latest children's album — her 34th! — is a joyful journey into teaching counting and the alphabet in multiple languages — English, Spanish, Swahili and Yiddish. The result is 15 delightful songs and games with multicultural appeal and tons of fun. Classics such as "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" and "Farmer Brown Had Ten Green Apples" will bring smiles and a little education to help open up preschoolers' worlds.
"Mearra: Selkie from the Sea" by Linda Marie Smith; $15.
Carefully crafted with folklore accents, romantic lilts and a beautiful, evocative feel, Smith's album tells the ancient Celtic legend of the Selkie, a mythical seal with the mysterious ability to metamorphose into a human being. Her music — which compares to Jewel, Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan — is soulful and mystical; and her lovely lyrics weave colorful stories of curious places and intriguing people.
"Mearra" first sets the scene in an enchanted world with strings, percussion and synthesizers, and mental images of the sea, sky and rocky coast. Then the music turns to a Nashville country sound, and then to an upbeat rhythm set punctuated by enthusiastic hand clapping. Other songs are heartfelt odes starring string ensembles and electronic sounds, which tell about the mystery of the ocean and Selkie, as humans go in search of Mearra.
A unique and earthy result, Smith's rich folkloric album is a keeper.
"Marsh Mud Madness" by Roger Day; CD Baby; $15.99.
This fun full-length DVD, filmed live at the Savannah Music Festival and the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, stars children's music star Day who introduces students to the fragile plants and animals that live in and around the saltwater marshes and beaches of the barrier islands, and how each one has an important role to play in a healthy coastal ecosystem. Guitar in hand, Day not only stomps in the marsh mud but sings folksy fun songs such as "Alligator in my Refrigerator," "Mosquito Burrito" and "Flushing Out the Estuary."
Akin to Jimmy Buffett and his coastal concerns and low-key, cool, beachy songs for adults, Day's latest musical DVD should be an educational favorite for animal-loving kids and those curious about environmental concerns.
Other truly worthy children's albums include: Rainbow Beast & the Rock Band Land Rockers' "Tales from the Monstrosity Scrolls" is kid weirdness at its best; "The Best Day Ever!" is zesty fun from Baze and His Silly Friends; there's the bluesy cool "Hootenanny" by Jambo; Laura Doherty's sweet and silly "In a Heartbeat"; and finally, Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys' perfect kid indie in "Bubble Ride."
To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.