When the Mini Artsplorer was born, a good friend sent me a couple of children’s CDs with a note that said, “you’re going to need some music that you can stand to listen to!” I loved her selections, but I have to admit that, since then, I haven’t been great at adding to our collection of family music that we can all “stand to listen to.”
With that in mind, I thought that this year on Artsplorers, I’d make it a mission to discover new children’s and family music, and share it here with a monthly album review I’m calling “Listening Ears On!”. I’d like to focus on Australian artists, though I expect I’ll cast my net further afield from time to time. Up front, I’ll let you know that negative reviews aren’t my thing – I’m more in the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, hold your tongue” camp here, so if the reviews seem overwhelmingly positive, that’s because I only want to share things I think your family might enjoy.
So, if you love a living room dance party as much as we do, let’s get our listening ears on! I’m starting with one which endeared itself on first listen – Angie Who’s Littlefolk.
You know that feeling that hits all of us parents out of the blue – the one where you see your child in an ordinary moment and are just overtaken by how much you love that little beast, how perfectly perfect, wild, and beautiful they are, and how you wish you could freeze time right there?
Angie Who’s Littlefolk album is like stepping into that moment, in song.
Littlefolk is a gentle folk offering, weighted by Angie Who’s honey rich vocals. The bulk of the sixteen songs on the album are original, with a handful of classics like “Shortenin’ Bread,” “Skip to My Lou,” and “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” The entire collection sounds like something that could have come from my childhood. Or even my mother’s.
The album opens with “Hey Sun,” whose lyrics “hey sun, hey moon, hey stars, I’d catch you if I had really long arms,” could be a child’s conversation with nature or, just as easily, a metaphor for any of our hopes and dreams. Better yet, if it’s both.
I’m particularly fond of the second track, “Travelling Band,” which casts the family unit as its own little traveling band. With a nearly-5 year old who starts school in mere weeks, it has been crossing my mind that one of these days, I won’t be able to pick my little girl up any longer; so the refrain “some day you’ll be too big too hold, one day my baby I’ll be pretty old” hit me right in those Mama feels. Who’s solution to “treasure these days” together as a travelling band is such a joyous notion. It’s easy to sing, so a perfect one to get stuck in your head for snuggles together.
Songs like “Let’s Take a Walk” and “Running and Jumping” celebrate the simplest pleasures of childhood as the best ones. “Chicken Dinner” is a banjo-driven barnstormer that might even convince your kid to eat dinner. And, you can put the kids to bed with a gospel touched “Hush Now,” and the intimate “Lavender’s Blue” and “The Land of Nod.”
I love “Heart of Mine” and “My Cup of Tea,” which, though stylistically different, are both are love letters from a parent to child. Somehow, Angie Who has put the most tender feelings we have for our children into two songs that are bursting with heart, but devoid of sentimentality.
If you love roots music, I think you’ll find Littlefolk is at least as much an album for adults, as it is for children. I would listen to this album without my children around (though, be warned, you may just find yourself lost in daydreaming about how much you love your sweet children, if you do). And, when I played this for my family for the first time this week, we spontaneously grabbed hands for a country dance before bedtime. This songs on this album are ageless enough in both style and sentiment that I think this album is going to grow with my family for years to come.