Frances England’s career may be at an awkward age, but she’s making a smooth transition.
England is a skilled “kindie” musician - that is, an independent artist who does children’s music.
As her own kids have grown, her material has likewise aimed at an older audience: So her latest, “Blink of an Eye,” is for kids up to age 12, which is awfully old for “children’s music.”
Yet “Blink of an Eye” is really suitable for all ages – indeed, it would be wasted on “just” kids.
Produced by Dean Jones, who also brings everything from Moog to banjo to the mix, the consistently well-composed release is a gorgeous hybrid of folk and mature pop, rich in acoustics and replete with surprises, from the playful ramble of “Move Like Saturday Night” to the music-box ditty “Day You Were Born.”
England captures the wonderment of the lyrics with a mellifluous voice worthy of mainstream hits, breathy and open as she sings about themes adults (as well as children) should be able to relate to, whether she finds “a little place in the sun where the dragonflies hover like helicopters” (on the gracious “Place in the Sun”) or ponders the open sea with, “Do you wonder what’s under there … farther than anyone can see?” (on the near-lullaby “Salt Water Spin”).
Best of all is her sublimely harmonious duet with fellow kindie artist Molly Ledford, “Bicycle Built for 2,” which is bolstered by electronic energy and hangs on the charming promise, “You take care of me, and I’ll take care of you.”
Occasionally the simpler lyrical reach betrays her demographic aim, as does her too-clear enunciation that sometimes makes her sound more like an enthusiastic schoolteacher than a Top 40 singer.
“Blink of an Eye” is great stuff nevertheless, more thoughtful than most children’s music and easy on the ears.
Meanwhile, England is on the brink of releasing her first album for adults – “Paths We Have Worn,” also produced by Jones and set to debut Sept. 3.
If “Blink of an Eye” is any indication, it should be great.
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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