Although some childrens-music performers skate by with inferior skills to “regular” musicians, the genre’s talent pool is also swimming with considerable aptitude from acts that create music that satisfies parents as well as kids.
Then there’s the rare band like Hullabaloo, which will often have some adults forgetting “Rasie a Ruckus” is even aimed at children.
It’s not just that the duo of Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer (and their guest performers) deftly breeze through the “kid-folk” arrangements on their 10th release, and it’s not just that their clever lyrics don’t condescend to lowest-common-denominator hooks for kids. Rather this music — and even some of the lyrics — pop with mature appeal. For instance, on the rolling country of “Say Yes,” our kid hero tries to impress his wary mother with a top-shelf vocabulary request she can’t refuse as Denyes sings, “This current kerfuffle’s caused us both undue distress/Please accept this mea culpa for my contentiousness/It would cause me great elation if you’d kindly acquiesce.”
Also, the remarkably well-executed Americana of the title track brims with all the eager expectations of a party song for the 18-and-olders — minus references to drinking and courting, of course. And the dreamy ballad “Favorite Day” is arguably an adult song from a child’s perspective as the kid sweetly recollects a perfect day at the beach: “I painted you this picture, I call it ‘My Favorite Day’.”
Refreshingly smart innovation crops up elsewhere, as in the infectious spring of “Dad Upside Down,” which points out the words “sis,” “mom” and “dad” are the same frontward and backward, but upside-down sis “still spells sis,” mom “spells wow” and dad is “just a mess.”
Unfortunately, Hullabaloo sometimes gets mired in songs aimed at very young children — with lines about swinging like a chimpanzee (“Look at You”), biting a sister (“Bit Her”) and green beans (“Green Beans Everywhere”), though the music always flows with top-rate musicianship.
Yet overall, Hullabaloo is like the Pixar of kid-folk bands, treating its all-ages audience with dignity and taking nothing for granted.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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