Swedish and American songs for kidz - and a stunner of Scottish music to accompany a book.
Let’s start with the unusual before moving on to perhaps more typical albums for the children’s music genre, this time from the US and Sweden. I am referring to a brilliant instrumental Scottish album, and this might be the first occasion that a review is appearing both here and in FolkWorld’s main CD reviews.
It all started with Scotsman Grant Kennedy writing for his own children during lockdown a story for his own children, about the character of “Mr Goose” – about the importance of taking risks and developing personal resilience. I do not have a copy of the book, but from the website it appears that it is beautifully illustrated by Scottish artist Louise McBride. According to the website, the book is accompanied by a range of educational resources, and is already in use in primary schools in Ayrshire.
First there was the book, but then came the idea of a music and audiobook version of the book. Grant Kennedy approached Craig Espie, fiddler in the Scottish folk rock band Skerryvore, to work on a musical accompaniment to the book – and here we have an album of brilliant new instrumental Scottish folk music, played by a stellar cast of the finest of Scotland’s folk scene, to accompany the children’s book. Craig Espie chose for each of the characters in the book an instrument (and a new tune) to represent the creature.
For example, Hector the Hawk is a concertina (played by Talik’s Mohsen Amini), Foxy is a guitar (Anna Massie), Skerryvore’s Scott Wood has directly two characters – on whistle he is Fudge the Dog and on pipes Captain Drake, a banjo is Ned the horse (played by Dallahan’s Ciaran Ryan), and Sarah McNeil’s beautiful clarsach sounds represent the swans. For his own instrument – the fiddle – Craig chose Mr Goose himself.
All tunes have been recorded in a session context, cover a wide range of styles, and are fun to listen to for young and old. The album features many more top musicians, including James Lindsey (Breabach) on double bass, David Foley (Rura) on flute, Innes White on guitar, and brilliant bodhran player Martin O’Neil.
There’s a music-only CD which is reviewed here – but for the young family members, there is an audiobook version which includes (short) narrations provided by broadcaster and Manran-member, Gary Innes, as well as the tunes. Families will want to have the set, including the book. And once the children have grown out of the book, they can fight with their parents who is allowed to keep this superb music CD.
From Scotland we head east, to Sweden, to introduce an album suitable for Swedish-speaking children, I would say, under 10 years old: “I en stad – mer musik för barn och deras vuxna”, by Nils Berg and Kalle Carmback. The songs have appealing arrangements, with a mix of jazz and indie pop, featuring flute, tenor saxophone double bass, piano, drums and synths. The songs seem to cover a range of topics – and to complement the songs, there is a dedicated website (ienstad.se) with audio-stories to expand on the topic of the songs. Wonderfully presented, good music, and great idea to add the audio stories. Well worth for Swedish parents out there to check out.
Last not least, we are off to America, for an album of English children’s songs: Let Love be Your Guide is the first duo album by children’s music artists, Dan and Claudia Zanes. With Dan being an award winning childrens performer and Claudia, of Haitian-American background, being a music therapist and vocalist, their combined force is outstanding.
With the songs on this album, the duo wanted to respond to both the 2020 corona virus pandemic and the Black Live Matters uprisings – to use their own words: “the songs describe the new terms of togetherness – how we understand it, how we build it, and how we strive for more”. The songs are optimistic and bring home messages of how deal with the challenges of today. Presented in a style that blends American folk, gospel, rap, R&B, pop and Haitan folk song, the music is appealing and is something an adult will very happily listen to also while their youngsters are not at home.
Photo Credits: (1)-(3) Covers, (4) Craig Espie, (5) Scott Wood, (6) Mohsen Amini, (7) Gary Innes (unknown/from website).