Every once in a while a kids album comes along that just shines above the rest as a rare gem – that perfect combination of material, brilliant arranging, stellar execution and wonderful intimacy that will make a kids album become part of our culture as a society, and definitely a touchstone for kids lucky enough to have this in their library, for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, it will be passed down the generations, becoming a small part of the family history.
Tumble Bee is the first family music album fromLaura Veirs. It truly is a work of art, bringing our heritage as a society to another level, crafted with care and thought. Musicians of national and international stature lend their talents: Colin Meloy (Decemberists), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Bela Fleck and Brian Blade (drummer for Bob Dylan) among many others.
And what can one say about Veirs’ unique contribution? Her voice lends an innocence that will resonate with families and young kids, inviting, sweet, clarion and soothing. This is the voice of a mom, rocking a baby, dancing with a child, and playing with the kids. Well, a very hip mom.
The songs, culled from Veirs’ and Martine’s own research into the vast wealth of the Smithsonian Folkways collection, covers a wide range of folk songs, from early 20th century work songs to the ballads of Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Peggy Seeger and Harry Belafonte. The title track, an original by Karl Blau, fits right in with the mostly jaunty traditional songs.
Especially captivating is the dreamy quality of songs like “All the Pretty Little Horses”, the intimacy of “Prairie Lullaby”, the quirky angularity of the title track.
That’s not to say it’s all just sweet and dreamy. There are fun and fanciful songs to get your kids moving and singing along. Bela Fleck’s contribution is some awfully tasty banjo playing in “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O”. Love me some great banjo playing. Enjoy “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O”
A traditional work song will get everyone up on their feet. “Jump Down Spin Around” takes a familiar song and adds more fun with a chorus, some stops, and whoops that make the ultimate tongue twister even more serpentine.
I have to say, from a production standpoint, there’s just so much to enjoy in this record: stuff like attention to things that often get overlooked – like dynamics (the loud and soft of the music). It’s such a pleasure to hear changes in dynamics, instead of whole songs performed at one volume or intensity. Changes in rhythm, interesting bridges, changes in texture within songs and from one song to the next, wholesale changes in instrumentation, songs in different keys…I could go on.
The point is that all of these things are what go into making music classic, timeless and interesting every time you listen to it. That’s why classical music endures, and why “classic” music does, too. This record will be a classic.