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A New Year’s Milkshake

by Kathy O’Connell

If the New Year’s bounty is any indication, 2007 will be a good year for family music. Adults will be delighted by the range and variety of music being marketed to families. You just have to know where to look!

You don’t have to look far to find Milkshake these days. The Baltimore-based duo of Lisa Mathews and Mikel Gehl have become a staple on TV’s Noggin. Even though they’ve expanded into a five-piece band (as heard on “We Got a Band”), Milkshake maintains their distinctive sound on their latest CD, Play!

That sound revolves around the voice of lead singer Lisa. It’s a perfectly imperfect voice, with a sense of wonder that comes through clearly in their (mostly) original songs. The songs on Play! focus on movement, imagination, and a healthy dose of the album’s title. It takes special musicians to give new listenability to “Home on the Range,” just as it takes special spirits to celebrate all forms of movement, from “Bowling With You” to “Plant a Garden.”

Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr. makes an appearance on “Baseball.” This CD has wide appeal, but best serves the tutu-wearing, instrument-shaking base of very young girls, as well as boys, who have made Milkshake a huge success. www.milkshakemusic.com.

Education and Goofiness
John Hadfield is located just a bit up the road from Milkshake’s Maryland. This remarkable performer and all-around goofy guy is the pride of Newark, DE, but his music reflects experiences of kids everywhere. There’s a heavy dose of humor on his latest CD, Robot Monkey Head, starting with the Devo-tinged title cut.

Hadfield seamlessly segues to some fine bluegrass twang singing about “Uncle Tony’s Dentures.” There’s a great use of tuba on “I Like Beans,” the food that’s “good for the heart,” but whose side effects are “flatulence and fumes.” This is not a CD for the faint of heart or humorless.

In “Bad for the Road, but Good on Chicken,” Hadfield takes a celebration of salt a step further by “salting” the song with good nutrition information. For that is the truth of John Hadfield — he mixes a healthy dose of education with the incredible goofiness of his songs.

Keith W. Heckert delivers an outstanding sax performance on the indescribable “Stink Monkey.” Check out all John Hadfield’s CDs, along with his live science shows at www. johnhadfield.net

Horses & Cars
It’s hard to imagine an album more narrowly targeted than Rebecca Pitre’s Take a Ride! This self-produced “collection of songs for horse lovers of all ages” hits its target audience with some fine bluegrass on songs such as “Appaloosa Song” and “Parts of the Bridle.”

While I usually shy away from albums that are so strongly focused, I loved this album. I guess there’s still a horse-crazy little girl lurking inside me. That’s the audience for “Take a Ride!” If you share your life with a kid who loves horses, saddle up to Take a Ride! At www.whoabuddyproductions.com

At the other end of the spectrum from Rebecca Pitre’s bare-bones production, there’s Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. Lightning McQueen’s Fast Tracks delivers on its promise of “revved-up road tunes” inspired by Cars. As narrowly focused as Pitre’s horse album, this CD is silly and fun, and if you have a little NASCAR fan in the house, this might be a great gift.

Kathy O’Connell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of the Peabody-award-winning Kids Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN 88.5 FM.