Saturday, September 24, 2016
You've Got Me from Sara Lovell (A Review)
I've been a mom for over eighteen years, which means I've listened to thousands of hours of kids' music. There are many tunes I wish I could delete from my memory, but there are some songs from as far back as Luke's infancy that I find myself seeking out digital downloads of (now that time and technology have rendered the cassette tape from the player once attached to his crib obsolete). You've Got Me from independent recording artist Sara Lovell, available in both CD and digital download formats, has the potential to be one of those albums that you're still humming long after your child has grown up.
When Luke was born, I swore we were not going to be one of those families whose child took over the radio and everything you heard was "The Wheels on the Bus." I think music appreciation needs to be cultivated just like that of literature: always provide quality works that are approachable but challenging, and while "Itsy Bitsy Spider" has its place, it shouldn't be the pinnacle of what a child hears. We played everything from Bing Crosby to the Beatles to Billy Joel -- mainly what we liked is what he heard. When he was four or so, Luke received a copy of a Wiggles CD from Australian relatives. He fell in love with the group (and so did we) because the songs were kid-friendly themes and lyrics but with grown-up musical arrangements. As the years have gone on, we've carefully curated our collection, adding artists such as Laurie Berkner and Trout Fishing in America, who also specialize in kid-friendly songs that won't make Mom and Dad want to duct tape their ears shut. You've Got Me may be a brand new release, but its combination of youthful topics and adult melody and rhythms launches it into the realm of these classic artists.
I love how You've Got Me mixes different genres of music. The first track, "We Get Up in the Morning," is an acapella gospel rhythm that starts your toes tapping right away. "Dance Like There's Music Music In Your Pants", track five, is a classic samba beat that I dare you to resist dancing and shimmying with. (Is it terrible to admit I put this one on repeat for a 20-minute car ride...and I was the only person in the car?) The set list follows the natural balance of a day, interspersing upbeat melodies with gentler arrangements, allowing for a natural flow that becomes neither frantic nor stagnant. Lovell's songs, filled with smoky 1920s jazz, lilting calypso, and bluegrass-style harmonies, easily flow from one to the next. "Off to Bed We Go" has a classic Fred and Ginger foxtrot feel, and the disc ends with "Night Night Golden Sun," where a classical-style piano and strings ensemble gently smooth the end of the day.
Though the titles and lyrics are kid-friendly, they are not insipid. Sara puts words to the world of imagination where children live, but without cutesy wording. Track two, "Furry Alligator Puppy," is a silly song recounting the "night before's" dream, but uses grown-up phrasing, such as "It was something really strange, a really crazy adventure," and ideas like "I was flying like I was swimming." Fanciful themes such as the play world of a beloved stuffed rabbit and a sock puppet monster party are explored, and balanced with gentle yet brief reminders of what is off limits ("Don't play the piano with your nose...") or expected ("Give it lots of exercise, give it lots of love and your body will be happy..."). I also appreciate how Sara enunciates the words clearly -- it's frustrating when you sing along to a record and later find out the artist isn't singing the "right" words, isn't it?
Because of its balance, it would be a perfect baby shower or new baby gift -- it won't wear out its welcome before Baby is big enough to dance along. Its rhythm will bring out the natural musicality that younger children have, making them dance along almost involuntarily. Slightly older Damien has taken to belting out lines between math problems, and even Celia and Matthew were caught grooving along in the backseat as we drove home from karate. (A flustered Celia said, "What?? She's saying "¡Bailamos en la calle!" and that's what I'm doing!") I think this is going to be one of my favorite albums, no matter how old they grow!
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