Sound Off!

Songs of Friendship

by Kathy O’Connell

Ruthie was the neighborhood kid who always interrupted playtime to run home crying with hurt feelings. I thought of her while listening to the self-titled CD from The Dream Jam Band. This is a band deeply in touch with their inner cranky child.

The opening song, “Jumping to Conclusions,” perfectly captures the “push me, pull you” of kid friendships. Hard-rocking synth sets a nice rhythmic tone for a complaint about folks “calling paper cuts contusions.” The song stops just short of being mean-spirited to turn toward nice “follow your dreams” advice.

The Dream Jam Band is a lot of fun, leaning heavily on the rock side of the musical spectrum. The lone female in the five, Francine, brings on the twang in “Playin’ in the Band,” singing about the “kitten with a fiddle” and “the flea with a flute.” It’s silly fun for little ones.

“Bike” is a musical collaboration between the band and Mozart that takes a “Beethoven’s Wig” approach of mixing classical melodies with kid-friendly lyrics. It’s painless and fun musical education. The Dream Jam Band features some spirited players, including New York rocker Willie Nile. This multi-purpose set includes a DVD of the band’s videos. www.dreamjamband.com

Everyday Fun
Friendship fuels Ellen and Matt’s title track on Best Friends, a lovely love song to a very important relationship in a kid’s life. “Sometimes Mom don’t understand; sometimes Big Brother just can’t lend a hand.” That’s when your “Best Friend” comes through.

Ellen and Matt’s promised “emotional journey” gets physical with “Bounce,” a fabulously silly workout song consisting mostly of “bouncy bouncy bouncy bounce…and stop.” The onomatopoeia keeps coming with the “slurp” of the Ramones-ish “Juice Box Rock.” My favorite song uses rock rhythms to voice the animals’ complaints while the Los Angeles Zoo is “Under Construction.”

Bringing fun to everyday occurrences and occasional disappointments is a great way to please a young audience. Ellen’s low-range vocals and friendly delivery open the CD strongly with a kid’s wish, after a hard day, to “Eat My Dinner.” I hope Ellen and Matt’s busy family life inspires a lot more great music! Ellen and Matt are at www.ellenandmatt.net

Brazilian Beats
Kids respond to rhythm with the same openness they bring to everyday life. That’s how I explain the success of Putumayo Kids’ series of “World Playground” CDs. Brazilian Play- ground continues the franchise’s tradition of bringing a world of music to young ears. These non-English songs transcend language barriers to entertain kids with songs designed just for them.

The album starts softly and sweetly with Gui Tavares’ “Pancada,” surprising to my expectations of an album full of bossa nova. I finally got my bossa nova with Marissa’s “Alo-Alo,” then found my feet tapping to the swingy “Eh! Sanfornero” from Paulinho Guima.
Back to more traditional sounds on “Forro No Escuro,” a song that would feel at home in the mountains of South America. Putumayo Kids CDs are at www.putumayokids.com

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.