A couple of years ago a couple of kindie artists I know went and put out one of the finest folk Albums I have heard in a long time. Fooled everyone in to thinking it was a “Children’s” album and then went on to win a Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2012. On an album full of great songs (Thousand Star Hotel being my personal favorite) Along for the Ride truly stands out on the CD Can You Canoe? It totally embodies our philosophy that good music knows no age and is one of the finest songs I know of lyrically and musically. Back in 2011 Joe and Justin went on a trip down the Mississippi to write songs for an album and shoot a DVD. What I and many people don’t know is that they had most of the songs written before they even left. Seems the Okee Dokee Brothers are big fans of preparation. In fact when they are getting ready to record an album they like to have 30-40 songs ready before they even start recording. Both Justin and Joe each commit to writing 3 pages a day in their song journals when preparing to record an album. That’s a lot of writing! In doing this they try to “eliminate the cliché and look for the original.” This also takes off the pressure of them having to come up with ideas while on the trip and instead allowed them solidify the songs they already had and then come up with a new song or two. Joe said the trip down the river “really solidified the imagery” in their songs. Especially the case in Along for the Ride when you’re talking about Huck (Finn), Tom (Sawyer) and Becky (Thatcher). The song itself started out in the Spring of 2010 in Minnesota and didn’t get finished till Winter 2011 in New York. The journey of the songwriting sort of parallels the journey of the song. Originally it started it with a completely different music but it didn’t work. Joe (this songs primary songwriter) liked the imagery of Odysseus and Peter Pan and some of the lyrics and the idea of traveling. He was also on a personal journey at the time reflected by the words in the song. The theme of the first version started out much more one sided and apologetic. But the idea of relationships is about being an “active participant” as Joe said. The idea you gotta meet each other half way and not just “Come along for the ride.” So the dynamic of the song changed as did the music. He then bounces this stuff off of Justin as they always do. Working verses, rewriting, finding the heart of the song though collaboration. Once in a while they’ll bring in a finished song but usually it’s through the partnership the song finds a home. Joe talked about writing 100 songs to find the two worthy of recording. To work in your craft with the idea of finding excellence in a song. When they finished the trip and validated the imagery on the songs they brought it to record at No Parking Studio with who else but…Dean Jones (I’m thinking there’s a future interview there). Dean offers them two directions. Go real simple, stripped down acoustic and bare bones. Looking for a buttery sound, minimal but full of sentiment or… Go with the full rock production (different than rock sound) meaning drums, piano, organ, etc. make it BIG which is the direction they chose. They also do a cool trick of playing the verses at one speed and then slow up the chorus parts. This causes the ear to focus even if the listener is not aware making the chorus feel more laid back. Knowing they wanted a female voice on the chorus they ask their friend Rachel Loshak who’s a terrific singer (Joe has a great story about recording with her) and she really helps bring out chorus as well. They get Jeremy Mage on Piano and he does a terrific job of laying the foundation for the song. I really love how the song starts acoustically small and the sound grows bigger as the song grows, finishing with the full band after starting with a simple acoustic guitar. Dean (Jones) said the key was to be fill the song without it becoming cheesy. That it be simple but full. To have great music behind the lyrics and not over shine them. I’d say they succeeded. It’s really a timeless classic of a song which reaches out to listeners of any age. They have the emails to prove it. From Grandparents to 6 and 7 year olds singing along at it’s a magical song that really reaches into the heart of the listener. Don’t take my word for it. Go have a listen for yourself and let your ears go Along for the Ride. Be sure to catch them live at the Old town School of Folk Music this Sunday, February 9th at 11am. They promise to play the song as well! They also have a new CD and DVD set to be released later this year. What more could you ask for! Go support a kindie artist today!
Listen to Along for the Ride here on Spotify and then go buy the CD on their website or the single on iTunes so they can keep on making great records!
Posted in family, Kindie, song reviews, songwriting
Tagged becky thatcher, Can you canoe?, Dean Jones, folk, Grammy, huck finn, kindie, Mississippi, music, No Parking, Okee Dokee Brothers, Old Town School of Folk Music, River, tom sawyer
The other day on Facebook a really good conversation thread about Kickstarter was started by Jeff Bogle of Out With The Kids fame. He was inquiring why musicians needed to raise so much money to make a CD these days. Many great replies from Zooglobble, The Rock Father and others. It was a very valid question. Why is it, it takes 10K to make a CD. I know a couple things about making a CD having produced 2 in the last 5 years (and not much more). While making music is free… Recording it can be a bit expensive. Unless your a talented engineer as well as musician (see Todd McHatton) and have your own studio (which is a sizable investment in itself) you are going to have to pay someone to record your band. Now how much depends on who you hire and how long it takes. Do you pay a set rate or are you paying hourly? Is the band ready to play the songs? Do you need to hire musicians and or singers? How much to Mix? Master? Are you traveling the recording studio (I know a lot of folks travel to record with Dean Jones) or is it local. Are you paying for a producer or self producing? How much does he charge (I’ve been quoted 5k for a producer). The whole idea of making a record is to make the best music you can and get it to your fans and make some money so you can do it again. Phew! Recording is a lot of fun but paying for it sucks. Recording costs ranges from 30 – 100 dollars an hour. You can get weekend rates, some places have a flat fee and others discount for pre-paying for large blocks of time. Know this. You get what you pay for and a good engineer is priceless. No matter how good you are live recording is a completely different animal and the guy recording you is critical. Know your budget and expect some costs you didn’t consider. Know that mistakes will be made and re-recording is a reality. Some bands record the bass and drums and then lay tracks over that. Poochamungas usually record as a band with my vocals and guitar as a scratch and then fill them in later. This works for us because it’s more energetic, efficient and cost effective. Then we add vocals, additional guitars, etc. Then after recording there’s the oh so important mixing part. Some people specialize in only mixing. This is also critical to your sound so get someone who knows what they’re doing here as well. Know that hearing in things in the studio is different than hearing things for gigs. All of the above takes time, effort and money. This leads to success or failure. Mistakes usually means spending more time and money. Lets not call them failures but learning experiences. Which then leads to success. Which happens when your creating art. Which is what making music is… ART. I know very little but I know this. If your goal is to just sell records you get lousy art. But if you go out to make great art you may get to sell some records (Which by the way for kids artists means pressing CD’s and more money). Making great art takes time and time costs money. For some it cost more than others. Is 10k unreasonable. Depends on the perspective.
In all the work with PR, booking shows, rehearsing, entering contests and mailing CD’s, etc., because of the CD release. You tend to forget why you started the whole thing to begin with. The music. I’m late to the game having started playing guitar at 30. My fingers don’t work as they should after a lifetime of athletic abuse but the fact I can strum 3 chords and make sounds that make sense brings me joy. The fact that the band takes that music and lyrics and brings life to it for others amazes me and makes me grateful. To share that fun with others is why Poochamungas play shows and make recordings. Tonight I’m listening to the Frances England recording Blink of an Eye and she gets it. The sharing of fun, hope and joy. I am forced to listen on my headphones instead of the stereo as my wife watches TV in the same room. What a great sonic experience. This is an album that deserves the headphone treatment. With life running by you forget how good it is just to sit and listen to someone else’s expression of joy. Things like the happy bass line, snapping fingers and whurlitzer on Move Like Saturday Night.( The fact she talks about the love of music in the song says it all.) Her dive into poppy electronica on Bicycle Built for Two (with Molly Ledford) is a whole lot of friendship fun. But my favorite is the driving rythmic beat of guitars and simple percussion on Little Wings. The visual I associate in my head with the unnatural speed of my own young children running around. “Take it from me she runs like a cheetah…” Frances sings. Truer words could not be spoken. Of course she had this produced over at the happiness factory run by Dean Jones (seriously dude take a break! You earned it!) This is really a great album. Not because it gonna win, or won any awards but because she made some great music to share with the world. Please go buy it so she can earn enough to make the next CD of great music. Thank you Frances for the reminder that the music is the thing. The link to buy the CD is below.
This CD was sent to this reviewer and the opinions expressed are his own.
Posted in CD reviews, family, gigs, marketing, Recording, song reviews
Tagged Children's, Dean Jones, Frances, kids, kindie, Molly Ledford, music, Poochamungas
The word has gotten out that we here at A man, a band and a plan… are reviewing songs and CD’s. The good news is that someone is reading our blog. That’ I am successfully spreading the word of kindie which is part of the reason I write here. But now Publicists and bands are sending me material as well. The bad news is I now have more stuff to review and listen too. Up till now most of the kids music I listened to was acquired via CD swap. One of mine for one of theirs. Especially at the now defunct kindiefest. The Poochamungas have traded with the likes of Joanie Leeds, Little Miss Ann, Johnny Bregar, Kurt Gallagher, The Hipwaders, Joanie Leeds, The Boogers, Rollie Pollie Guacamole, Story Laurie, Recess Monkey, The Not-Its, and many others. This is a great way to build a childrens music library of high quality tunes. Plus no pressure to listen right away. We here at Poochamungas HQ like listening to lots of music and to buy all that music would be cost prohibitive. But now they are mailing CD’s with expectations! The pressure oh my goodness… THE PRESSURE!!! (a bit overdramatic) As Ross Perot used to say “Here’s the deal We promise to give everything a listen. If it’s exceptional we shall review it. Whether it’s a song, CD art or the entire package. Excellence should be its own reward but we’ll gonna try to help spread the word on this thing we call kindie. Plus I’ll try to spread the word on works you may not have heard of but are excellent and should be heard. That’s the deal. So to get started…
groovin in the garden
As I type this I’m listening to a CD by Laurie McIntosh aka… Story Laurie. I acquired it while hanging with a bunch of musicians, on a beautiful Brooklyn night, hotel rooftop, during kindiefest (cue sad music). The CD is solid with a mixture of traditional songs and originals (Dean Jones produced) but the song I really like is Grandma Said. Just a Uke, groovy bass line for attitude, drum shuffle and Lauries knowing vocals. This is a song that takes you to moments remembered with Grandma. A child asking thousands of questions and Grandma not knowing. Which is ok because someone is listening which is what kids really want. Someone to be interested. The close of the song is perfects as Laurie sings Grandma saying “But Those were the best questions she’d ever heard”. Nice affirmation and it’s a song I wish I had written. So go to the link below and by the song. Buy the CD. Support artists so they can continue to make music for us to enjoy!
Posted in CD reviews, family, song reviews, Travel
Tagged Children's, Dean Jones, grandma, Hipwaders, Joanie Leeds, Johnny Bregar, kindie, Kindiefest, Kurt Gallagher, Little Miss Ann, music, Poochamungas, Rollie Pollie Guacamolie, Story Laurie, The Boogers
The long road I mentioned yesterday (link here) just got a little longer and harder. I flipped on the laptop this morning to find that kindiefest was over. It has disbanded for reasons unknown and I for one am a bit saddened by this. It was my hope that eventually we could have a similar event in the Midwest, preferably Chicago though anywhere in the Midwest would be fine (hello Jiggle Jam!) Everyone in the kids music world knows the Justin Roberts, Laurie Berkners and Dan Zanes. You also get to meet the Jim Cosgrove’s, Kurt Gallagher’s and Laura Doherty’s. Regional musicians who were plugging away, making a living but all looking for new ideas and sharing their own experiences and you got to meet the ones struggling just like you were. That was the best part for me. Showcase was always a lot of fun, (for the record I did buy the Pizza in 2011 not wanting to have to leave showcase) there were some really worthwhile panels (find your own Mississippi-thanks Molly Ledford!) and the Friday Keynote/meet and greet was always a highlight. I got to meet so many unpretentious great musicians and industry folk like Kurt Gallagher, Sean Hogan, Kathy O’Connel, Jeff Bogle, Dean Jones, Dave Loftin, Paul Butler, Danny Adamson, Joanie Leeds and her future drummer husband (his name is Dan), Jim Cosgrove, Mindy Thomas, Kenny Curtis, Jack Forman, Justin Roberts, Beth Blenz-Clucas, Bridget Rymer, Story Laurie, Stefan Shepard, Bill Childs, Tor, Stephanie Mayers, Mona Kayan, Mista Cookie Jar, Justin Lansing, Joe Mailander, Johnny Bregar, Key Wilde, Chris Wiser, Rod Martin, The Pop-Ups, Laura Doherty, Little Miss Ann, Tim Kubart and the others I have forgotten. I say thank you all for your insight, kindness, advice and laughs. Especially the laughs! I don’t know about you folks but I’m not ready for this party to end. Kindie Chicago 2014? It might happen…
Posted in family, Travel
Tagged Bill Childs, Dan Zanes, Dave Loftin, Dean Jones, Jeff Bogle, Joanie Leeds, Justin Roberts, Kindiefest, Kurt Gallagher, Laura Doherty, Laurie Berkner, Little Miss Ann, Mona Kayhan, Paul Butler, Sean Hogan, Stephanie Mayers, Tor
This weeks song is a beautifully written song about hanging out on the Mississippi River by a couple of guys who fooled the who world by letting them think they were buying a children’s music CD but really got an album of great American Folk music or as Poochamungas say “Good Music Knows No Age.” The fact it went on to win the Children’s Grammy was well-earned. While there are many great songs on The Okee Dokee Brothers CD like the title Track Can you Canoe?, Haul Away Joe, and Brother. The song I wish I had written is Thousand Star Hotel. It’s a simple but eloquent song about camping on the banks of the Mississippi. Starting out with a simple banjo, unfolding to a full orchestral sound and then back to the banjo (produced by Dean jones). It takes you on a complete journey in under two minutes. ” I’m sleeping in a Thousand Star Hotel, Gold leaf pillow for my head, feel like a king on a king sized river bed.” Those are the only words. They set the scene and the music takes you to the grand splendor of a perfect evening along the Mississippi. One of the cool things about this song is there’s a video of them writing the song and going through the process. So go check out the video here and buy the CD. We’ll find another great song soon for Songs I Wish I had Written.
Posted in family, Recording, song reviews
Tagged Banjo, Can you canoe?, Children's, Dean Jones, Grammy, Grammys, Mississippi, Poochamungas, song, The Okee Dokee Brothers, Thousand Star Hotel