Sound Bites: New Music for June

It’s that time of the year. School is letting out. Pools are open. Kids aren’t complaining of boredom. Yet.

But I know it’s coming soon.

My kids have a half-day left of school, and I will be spending those last precious hours trying to book camps and outings  to keep us occupied. Because lazy days of summer are fun for the first month, and then, we slowly start to implode as a family.

The past few years, we’ve crafted a Summer Bucket List, full of activities to do, places to visit, and things to see when we’ve exhausted the neighborhood pool and playground. We’ve started working on this year’s list already, and I’ve got one more thing to add to it:

Listen to awesome new music!

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June is busting with all kinds of fabulous family music, and I am so excited to share some of it with you.

Eric Herman released Party Animal this past week, an album that delivers songs full of whimsy and quirkiness in a delightful package.

Eric Herman "Party Animal"The album boasts a hearty range of musical genres such as blues, country, rock and pop, and also features members of Recess Monkey, Chris Ballew (who you might know as either family musician Caspar Babypants, or the lead from The Presidents of the United States of America) and DidiPop.

Starting the album with “Up All Night”, Herman illustrates how adept he is at crawling in to a young mind and expressing those thoughts, hopes and thrills. “Up All Night” is a song about that all too familiar goal to stay awake until midnight for New Year’s Eve, though, probably even more familiar, not being able to make it.

Herman’s ability to create songs from a child’s point of view also shows in upbeat songs like “Party at My House,” “The Bicycle Song” and the energetic “November 1st.”

Funky tracks like “The Best Parts” and “A Million Ways” play nicely with quirky tunes like “Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon)?” and “The Strange and Mysterious Fate of Mister Teddy Bear”

Rounding out the album is the track “Alive,” a charming life-affirming celebration of Herman’s deceased wife, who passed away in 2013.

Eric Herman’s Up All Night is available on his  websiteAmazon, and iTunes.


GRAMMY nominated musician Brady Rymer creates songs filled with humor, optimism and love. If Brady Rymer could call me every morning and sing to me as my alarm clock, I guarantee I’d have an awesome day.

Brady Rymer "Just Say Hi!"He’s back with The Little Band That Could for his seventh album Just Say Hi! A wonderful mix of musical genres, his latest album is the perfect summer soundtrack.

The title song “Just Say Hi!” sets the tone for the album, offering encouragement to listeners to meet new people and introduce yourself.

“Get This Party Started,” “Dance Till I Drop,” and “Gettin’ My YaYa’s Out”” are tunes that will easily jumpstart those morning pajama dance jams. Rymer showcases his range and mastery of different genres with the catchy ragtime jazz tune “Red Piano Rag,” as well as the zydeco sounds of “My Home.”

Mellower songs like the velvety “I Spin” and “Ice Cream Girl” beg you to relent to the lazy ways of summer and relax. Rymer displays his playful side with songs like “Pet Song,” a tribute to all those pet care takers that starts by sounding like Barry White but takes a Prince detour somewhere along the way.

“Tomorrow’s People” features a star-studded list of guests including Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell and Recess Monkey, and could easily be the “We Are the World” equivalent for the kindie music circuit.  Hearing all of those beautiful voices singing hopes for a bright future makes me all warm inside. And yes, Brady, I feel that better days are coming, too. 

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could releases Just Say Hi! June 17th.


Mister G "The Bossy E"And to help me not make the same educational struggles with my kids that I did last summer, Mister G will release his literary themed album The Bossy E just in time to get your summer brain back in gear.

Mister G (a.k.a. Ben Gundersheimer) sounds cut from the same cloth as my son – a lover of books and reading – and it shows in this album with his use of literary references and devices.  With his love of books in songs like “Love to Read,” “More Books for Me” and “Everything’s Free at the Library,” Mister B’s album could be the theme song for summer reading clubs.

The title track, “The Bossy E” educates listeners on how adding an “e” to the end of a word can change the sound to create a new word.  It’s a fun surf rock tune with guitars, saxophone, organ, and of course, lots of reverb.

And Mister G has released a new video for this tune, TODAY! Check it out:

“Aisle 3” (sounding similar to Matthew Sweet to me), about a kid stuck at a store with his parents and imagining what he could be doing instead, demonstrates Mister G’s songwriting chops with its sophisticated and catchy hook.

Other standouts on the album include the bossa nova grooviness of “Video Games, and “Standing on Top of My Head”, which is musically my favorite song on the album with its rolling melody and quirky lyrics.

Mister G’s The Bossy E will be available from his website (, Amazon and iTunes on June 24th.

And there you have it folks, just some of what we’re planning on listening to this month. The only thing left to cover as I close the books on another school year is this last pop quiz. What are YOU planning on listening to this summer?

NEW The Okee Dokee Brothers: “Through the Woods”

I have always loved the process of making art, more than the art itself.

As a choreographer, I far more enjoyed the experience of exploring an idea in the studio than having it polished, finished and performed.

And I’m a total geek when it comes to hearing how other artists make their work.  I’m the slowpoke that reads all of the plaques at an art museum.  “Behind the scenes” DVD extras are my favorite.  There’s just something irresistible to me about understanding how an artist took a kernel of an idea and then created something beautiful.

I prefer seeing art as a journey, rather than a destination.

Like The Okee Dokee Brothers.

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duo-closeupThese guys? They’re all about process.  And the result is music that is rich, grounded and enamoring.

Embarking on their second “Adventure album”, GRAMMY winning The Okee Dokee Brothers, comprised of Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander, spent a month hiking and camping along the Appalachian Trail.  The result is the highly anticipated “Through the Woods.”

As soon as I cracked open the stunningly gorgeous CD, I already felt like I was on a journey.  Not only does Through the Woods consist of a CD with 15 original and traditional songs, it also contains a supplemental DVD with a film that illustrates the story of The Okee Dokee Brothers’ trip, beautifully shot and edited.

One fun note:  I love that the liner notes disclaim, “No electronic insturments were used in the making of this album.”  And upon listening to the album, anything electronic would seem as out of place as zebras in a dog run.

Lansing and Mailander have gathered a slew of GRAMMY winners of American folk music and “mountain musicians” to play just about everything but the kitchen sink, though I have no doubt the Okee Dokee Brothers could pull that off too. Pots, pans, a log drum, a tomato box; they all make an appearance.

through-the-woods-album-cover-nospineThrough the Woods is an album of discovery, love and adventure.  The Okee Dokee Brothers’ distinctive melodies and lighthearted energy fall easily on young ears, especially with songs like “Echo”  and “Black Bear Mama.”

“Riddle and Rhyme” is a fun tune with short lines and sharp rhymes that tingle in your ears and mouth.  And you can’t get any more fun than with “Jamboree”, one of my favorite songs on the album.  Its celebratory vibe is full of a warm and welcoming energy and spirit,.

“Big Rock Candy Mountain” weaves tales of a magical place, full of sunshine, surprise, and sugar.  And then there’s the trio of songs that I like to call The Cousins: “Fiddlestick Joe”, “Ruby Jane”, and “Hillbilly Willy”.  These songs paint portraits of characters full of history and personality.

To say this is a children’s album is a huge understatement. The Okee Dokee Brothers’ sophisticated harmonies, smooth production and encompassing lyrics could easily translate to adult music. Songs like “Baby Mine” and “Evergreen” are sweet love songs that could land themselves on my next anniversary mixed CD. (Yeah, you read that right. I still do that kind of thing.)

Gems like “Tiny Little Life”, “Out of Tune”, and “Lighten Your Load” provide listeners observations and contemplations about life, offering the kind of sound advice that comes with having taken a transformative trip.

“Walking with Spring” seems to echo The Okee Dokee Brothers’ adventure’s motto, and gets me excited about lazy summers of exploration and wonder.

Perhaps the standout tune of the album, though, is the title track, “Through the Woods”.  Reminiscent of their “Along For the Ride”, it showcases not only their smart writing but gratifying harmonies that could rival the Indigo Girls.

The Okee Dokee Brothers have hit their latest album out of the park. I’m definitely playing this album while we’re hanging by our fire pit this spring, or wherever our summer journey takes us.

And you can, too!  I’m giving away a CD to one of you lovely readers!  All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter widget below by 11:59pm on Friday, May 23rd.  Open to anyone 18 and over in the contiguous United States.

Good luck, and may you enjoy your journey!

Quick Sound Bites for May

Okay, YES I realize that we are past the mid-mark of May. Like many of you, the end of my kids’ school year looms near, and with it, a surge of parties and school events, life-sucking meetings and things to organize.

Thankfully, some sweet new family music has been released to get me through the final push.

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For starters, the Sugar Free Allstars released a single “My Daddy’s Record Collection” on a stunning vinyl 45 in honor of national Record Store Day (which was April 19th. Yes, call me a procrastinator. I can take it).


Photo courtesy Sugar Free Allstars

Pulling the 45 out of the album jacket brought up all kinds of nostalgia about my childhood music experience. The sad thing was my kids were like “what the heck is that?”  as they stared at the record. And I didn’t even have anything to play it on. I need to fix this. STAT.

But, I digress.

“My Daddys Record Collection” is a perfect mix of funk and pop, with it’s delicious baseline and groovy organ. Listening to this song makes me start wiggling like Cliff Huxtable and do this weird thing with my eyebrows that I’m sure looks smarmy, but makes me feel soulful. SFA’s classic “Banana Pudding” appears on the flip side.

You can buy this track on their site, iTunes, and Amazon, and check out the song on this video here:


And if that didn’t make you all warm and fuzzy, Malaysian-American, multi-talented artist Zee Avi’s latest album, and first for families, Zee Avi’s Nightlight certainly will.

Her tune “Bitter Heart” won me over a few years ago, with her rich mesmerizing sound, and it’s a voice beautifully suited for children’s music as well.

This lady knows how to take an existing song and make it her very own. Zee Avi’s covers of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas, Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game”, The Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun”, and Michael Jackson’s “Ben” will change the way you hear these songs forever. Her voice was made for songs like “Dream a Little Dream.”

But perhaps my favorite cover on the album is “Rainbow Connection”. Move over, Sarah McLaughlin’s version of this Muppet classic, there’s a new favorite rendition in my town. “Nightlight Medley” weaves in lullabies from many cultures in to one poignant goodnight song.

You can buy Zee Avi’s latest at her store, on iTunes, or on Amazon.

And rounding out the crop is Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, back with a new Spanish language album, Aqui, Alla that varies in timbre and mood, keeping you both on your toes, and tapping them.

jpegIt’s smoothly produced, with songs that remind me of something out of a Quentin Tarantino flick, (“Órale!”) or of strolling near La Vajita in my once-hometown of San Antonio, to songs that sound so distincly “Lucky Diaz” to me like “La Pequeña Araña” (Itsy Bitsy Spider) and “Cantaba La Rana” with their infections melodies and tempos.

“El Cucuy”, with its boogeyman intro, has an underlying darkness unlike Diaz’s others, but don’t worry, it’s not so scary when presented with Lucky’s warm vocals. The bouncy doo-wop of “Vamos a Contar” teaches counting in Spanish, “Tú Eres Mi Amor”, speaks of love, and the final Track “De Colores” builds to a big celebratory crescendo.

The album’s title track “Aqui, Alla” begins with a hauting guitar solo similar to something the late Jeff Buckley might have crafted.  The song ponders the thoughts “Where do we come from and where are we going? We are from here and we’re from there as well.”  Thoughts that perhaps many second generation Mexican Americans, or for any second generation immigrant for that matter, may ask themselves.

Find Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band’s latest album on their site, iTunes, and Amazon.

Here’s hoping these tunes get you through the rest of May.  On to summer!

A Mother’s Day Playlist

Hey Dads out there, this one is for you. (Okay, Mom’s, you can certainly read this too!)

Are you looking for a super sweet gift idea for Mother’s Day? (Ahem…in case you didn’t know, Mother’s Day is THIS SUNDAY, May 11th). Well, if you haven’t helped your kids with gift ideas, and want to avoid the barren Mother’s Day aisle at Target, I’ve got something that will make you the Winner of Mother’s Day gifts.

Mother's Day Playlist

My good friends over at Sugar Mountain PR have put together an awesome, and I do mean AWESOME playlist of some amazing family musicians. And they’re letting you download it, for free.

That’s right. FREE. Get your CD burner ready, download this fantastic playlist, and give the gift of music this year. With heart-tugging tunes by some of my favorite musicians like Danny Weinkauf, Suzi Shelton, and The Okee Dokee Brothers, the mother in your family is sure to be touched by this musical gesture.

Here’s the complete list of participating artists and their song contributions:

The Not-Its • “Motorcycle Mom”

Lisa Loeb • “No Fairy Tale”

Brady Rymer • ”Ice Cream Girl” and “Red Piano Rag”

Danny Weinkauf (with Laurie Berkner) • “Our Love Fits”

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band • “Tu Eres Amor”

Suzi Shelton • “Mama’s House, Daddy’s House” and “Smile In My Heart”

Zee Avi • “Mockingbird”

The Okee Dokee Brothers • ”Black Bear Mama”

I know…right?  Pretty great roundup of artists and songs, if you ask me.  Consider it my Mother’s Day gift to all of you fellow Mom’s, Mama’s, Mommy’s, and Mami’s out there.

Want to take advantage of this perfect Mother’s Day gift?  You can download these songs here:


Happy Mother’s Day!

New Music by Suzi Shelton: “Smile In My Heart”

Not to brag or anything, but I used to have a reputation of being an Ice Queen.  And no, I don’t mean like Elsa.

I mean, I could see the sappiest, tear jerker of a movie and not get in the least bit misty.  I would sail through weddings without even needing to stock tissues in my purse.  And I certainly never choked up while listening to music.

That is, until I became a mother.

Now that I have given birth to and take care of two little people who have turned my world upside down and made me see life differently, I’ve become a softie.  Heck, I couldn’t even make it through that during the Winter Olympics without dabbing my eyes a bit and faking a yawn as a lame attempt at covering my emotions.

And then, I hear songs like “I See You For You” off of Suzi Shelton’s latest family album, and I get all blubbery.

Suzi Shelton

Seeing the world through the eyes of your child, and seeing your child for the simple beauty and joy that they are is something I get now that I’m a parent.  And Suzi Shelton, a parent herself, has penned some songs that mimic my heart’s hopes and aspirations for my own children.

Smile In My Heart CD - coverAward winning family musician Suzi Shelton has just released her third solo family album, “Smile In My Heart”.  With a voice that is clear and strong, Suzi Shelton sings tunes that speak to both young children and parents of young children.

While the lyrics and content of her latest album are a bit too “little kid”-sounding for my brood, Suzi Shelton’s latest album is perfect for kids in the 2-4 years old circuit. She reminds me of Laurie Berkner in the way you can actually hear these two musical gems smiling when they sing.

While “I See You For You” is my favorite song on the album, there are several tracks that get my heart all mushy and warm.

“Smile In My Heart” is the touching title track of the album, with strings adding a nice warmth to a song about spreading love.  The first time I heard it, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my daughter when she asked where she was before she set up camp in my uterus.  Surely, Suzi Shelton probably could have answered my daughter’s question much more eloquently than I did.

Another standout on the album is “Tomboy In a Princess Dress” which addresses my favorite little girl combination of toughness and femininity.  “Let Your Light Shine”, sung with Michael Messner, is an inspiring and empowering song about dreaming big, opening up to your heart’s desires and not giving up.

The album also includes songs with a variety of sounds and styles.  “It’s a Beautiful Day “ transports me back to the days I wore bellbottom corduroy pants and bounced around on our velour couch to The Brady Bunch’s “Sunshine Day”.  The breezy tune “Wings Of a Bird” has a bit of a calypso feel to it, and the Appalachian folk song “Jubilee” lends itself to toe-tapping and dancing.

Suzi Shelton cover’s “Ice Cream Man by Jonathan Richman (remember him from Something About Mary?) in an ode to that diary king of summer, complete with a fake-out ending and rocking reprise.

“Go, Fire Truck, Go” was co-written by one of Shelton’s 4 year-old students and gives little ones plenty of room to interact in call and response style, with prompts to go and stop.  The video is pretty adorable as well!

Rounding out the album are the fun tracks “Banjo Pickin’ Girl”, “Pony Boy” and “Cinnamon Bear”.

If you’re lucky to live in New York, be sure to check out Suzi’s lineup of shows in Brooklyn this May:

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m giving one lucky winner a copy of Suzi Shelton’s CD!  All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter widget below by 11:59pm on Friday, May 9th.  Open to anyone 18 and over in the contiguous United States.

And to all of you mothers out there, hope you have a fantastic Mother’s Day!