Friday, February 27, 2009

Trout Fishing in South Florida

Today I get to tackle a long overdue review for Trout Fishing in America's latest release, Big Round World. As is noted on their website, this album was a 2009 Grammy Nominee, so I'm not the only one who is buzzing about TFIA's music.

Cover Art:
The "earthy" theme and bright colors really got the kids' attention. "I really like the CD. It's shaped like the earth," one nine year old student noticed. There were some constructive suggestions from the students, however, "I like it, but it would have been a little better if it had little animals going around the world holding hands." I was excited to read that the packaging was printed with natural ink and the cardboard was recycled. This was noted by one ten year old girl, "It really goes with the album title because it is recycled." Towards the end of our review session, one student noticed Ezra's blue, dangly earring. This small detail split the group. Some, sadly, poked a bit of fun at Ezra, "By the way, nice earing." Although at least one student found it appropriate to the theme, "I like your earing. I think it is blue for the earth. All in all, the most frequent comment about the cover art was, "Colorful!"

By now the children are used to listening carefully to the lyrics, and pick out songs and ideas that they respond to. "My favorite Jeans," was an instant hit. "They remind me of myself because I love my favorite jeans because I love jeans," was how one ten year old girl put it. One eight year old girl really responded to the theme of the album, "I think they make me think of saving the world. It's funny," she then put the word "hero" at the bottom. This may tie in with the "Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks" song. Another, younger classmate simply wrote the letters "M.L.K." in giant letters across the page. She also commented, "It reminds me of Obama." One song left one nine year old scratching her head, "I was wondering why the song "Five" is named that if it's number fourteen [on the album]?" The lyrics were definitely inspiring. In the words of one eight year old student, "I think the words are unbeatable."

Not surprisingly, just like Donny and Marie, the kids thought Big Round World was a little bit "country" and a little bit "rock and roll." I am always amazed at some of the ideas that the kids come up with, "It reminds me of a relaxing day and laying in the sun," one six year old noted. Another student though of "Canoeing down a river with a bunch of floating pants, LOL!" Perhaps she was referring to the "Favorite Jeans." Again, TFIA got some suggestions from the students,"It would have been cooler more if you had a loud bangy drum solo. I like the rock songs a lot! I wanted to dance!" I think the best summary of the album came from one six year old girl, "It sounds like Rock and Roll, and I'll tell you what Rock and Roll is!"

One ten year old girl noted the blend of different styles of music on BRW, "It is Rock, Country and kind of Punk. Also, I love it." Coming from a completely different angle, her eight year old classmate said, "It reminds me of Ghostbusters." Now, I have to say that this comment took me by surprise. Ghostbusters? Wasn't that my generation? If you read the review of Mama Doni, you'll recall that my students have a strange fascination with "hobos," and one student's comment was "[It reminded me] of a hobo." 

Age Range:
I would say the average response for who would like BRW was anyone from 2 to 100 years old. Some of the older students (the "tweens") felt they were a little too mature for TFIA and their age range was roughly 2-7. Still some got very specific in this section "6-21" or "3-40" or "3 months to 75 years." I did have two students write "5 to..." and then a 1 followed by countless zeros. "Do you think you'll live that long?" I asked. This lead one girl to suggest "From 2 until they die." A bit morbid, but I understand what she was trying to express.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: 
I was excited to do a review for Trout Fishing in America, since they have been one of my favorite children's group since my Massachusetts days. The musicianship and production of their music is impeccable! As a graduate from a small, liberal arts college in New England I am steeped in Folk/Rock, Hippie, Jam-bands. TFIA borrows from the best of this genre and adds their own spin. 

I get such a positive and hopeful feeling from this album. The students really picked up on this. The themes of environmentalism and unity that are expressed capture the current zeitgeist of hope. No wonder, even the youngest students, thought about Obama. While others noted "Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks," is a perfect song to listen to during Black History Month.

From a production standpoint, this album marks the first time that Ezra and Keith recorded at the Trout House studio. They are also both credited as "producer" on Big Round World. To my ears, it has imbued the music with a unique personality and a clear sense of space. I can close my eyes and imagine the room where they recorded. I also appreciate that both members of TFIA are multi-instrumentalists and played most of the tracks themselves. I applaud Trout Fishing in America for this great album. They've been at it for 32 years and clearly still have got "it."

Kid Quote of the Day: "Look Mr. Nick, I made you quarter notes!" ~Francesca (age 3)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Even in South Florida

Greetings from the sick ward at Singing in the Bathtub. I have a list of potential blog posts that I have been meaning to write, but a relentless cold and chest infection have put me out of the game for a bit, and I am just now catching up. It seems that everyone is sick now-a-days. Even if South Florida, where the sun is shining and the weather is warm, people get colds!

Here's a little sneak peak of the some topics I've been thinking about:

Congrats to Bill Harley on his recent Grammy win! Well, he's done it again, Bill Harley was recognized by the Grammy academy for his live recording Yes to Running! (reviewed by Singing in the Bathtub this past fall).

The Mommy Blog Campaign Continues. I have made contact with several more "mommy blogs" who are interested in reviewing Coconut Grove and offering giveaways. I'll have a comprehensive list and a run-down of each of the blogs highlighting my music in a future posting.

The Reviews on Big Round World are in. I had a review session for Trout Fishing in America's latest album Big Round World with my music class on Friday. I am going through their comments and working on the review with the hope that it will be online before then end of the week.

Kid Quote of the Day: "I don't know how, but I got a frog in my throat!" ~Billy (age 5)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Around the Blog-o-sphere

Dear readers, It has finally happened! I just read my first blog-review of Coconut Grove. Upon the urging of my sister, and fellow blogger, I began contacting "mommy review" blogs to build a buzz for my music. Potamus Prefers was the first to take a swing at reviewing and raffling off my CD. You have to check it out:

As for Singing in the Bathtub. I received the latest offering from Trout Fishing in America called "Big Round World." I'll be conducting a student review session this Friday, so look out for an album review sometime next week.

Kid Quote of the Day: "If I had to choose between camping and Universal [Studios theme park], I'd choose camping!" ~Alexander (age: 8)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

St. Valentine's Day, 2009 was not quite as candy fueled as 2008. That was nice. This year, however, I wasn't responsible for students in the afternoon which made all the difference. I'm still not sure if I like this holiday or not. Not because I'm a man, or because occasionally I am forced to wrangle with successively candy high, then sugar crashed students. I like to think of myself as a romantic (Tracey would be the final judge on this one). Perhaps I feel a certain amount of pressure, but I blame the commercial media for that.

All in all, celebrating Valentine's day with young children is a pleasant experience. For some students it's their first extensive writing project. I have my "once a year" pink dress shirt which I sweat straight through this year! That's Miami in February for you. It has turned out to be a lovely day.

I wanted to leave you with my favorite and perennial Valentine's Day activity. I am not sure where "The Warm Fuzzy Song" came from. I learned it at LEAP school second hand. It's cute and I created a Valentine's variation a few years ago. The melody is based on "John Brown's Body" I think. 

The Warm Fuzzy Song
[Students' name]'s a warm fuzzy creeping on the rug,
[Students' name]'s a warm fuzzy creeping on the rug,
He's/She's gonna give a hug,
A Valentine's hug,
[Students' name]'s a warm fuzzy creeping on the rug.

I typically play this one on the hand drum to give a nice beat for creeping around. The motions are pretty self explanatory I guess. I have to watch some of the kids here in South Florida who are wearing shorts so they don't get rug burns, but in general it's a blast. I have a rule that each new student to take a turn must choose another student who has not yet had a turn so the whole group cycles through. 

Kids' Quote of the Day: "I am a little, giant monster that breathes fire that is hearts," ~Kearin (age: 3)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Don't Let The Opportunity Pass You By...

Those who are close to me know that this Fall/Winter has been a trying time. The Arts Academy of Hollywood continues to limp along while the property owner has agreed to let us stay open rent free until March. I had planned to leave the school as of tomorrow, but at least for the time being I'll be teaching private lessons until the doors close for good.

The biggest heart-break that I had been dealing with was the knowledge that my beloved S.T.A.R. students would not be able to help me with my album reviews. I feel that having the kids' point of view made my reviews unique and helpful for the artists who submitted their work. Teaching has always provided me with direct market research for my music, I can tell instantly what works and what does not.

Life being unpredictable as it is, and my new school (the Live! School of Modern Music) not being able to offer me as many hours as I'd like, I will continue to work at the Arts Academy of Hollywood, and I hope to do as many album reviews as I can. HERE IS MY CALL TO ALL YOU ARTISTS OUT THERE!!

If you would like me to review your music in my classroom with my students, please send me your CD ASAP! Though my director seems to think that some miracle will happen, I would imagine that after March, I will not be able to incorporate the elementary school perspective into my reviews. Now is your chance, don't let this opportunity pass you by!

Kid Quote of the Day: "I want to move into school, so I can save on gasoline." ~Saddier (age: 9)