Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kid Pan Alley--Kids' music we can all love


With the mission, "inspiring kids to be creators, not consumers," you have to love Kid Pan Alley even before you listen to the music that this project brings to life. But give their CD a spin and you may become a true fan like me.

Kid Pan Alley brings together professinal songwriters, musicians, and kids to create new music. This Grammy-nominated collaboration has produced over 600 songs with 12,000 children. Imagine what this opportunity means for those kids--to bring this kind of artistic creation into their school day. The results are fabulous. I have had Kid Pan Alley Nashville spinning in my car CD player for a month now. I didn't want to give it just a cursory review, but I really wanted to see whether this music would make it onto my family's must-play list. It has. I am always on the lookout for music that kids and adults can both enjoy, and Kid Pan Alley Nashville is the only kid-oriented CD that I occasionally play when I am actually alone in the car. When my daughter is there, we listen to it a lot, with her serving as DJ, requesting "Put on track 17...track 10" as we sing along together.

The songs on Kid Pan Alley Nashville range from a gorgeous lullaby, "Whispering in Spanish," written in collaboration with a bilingual second-grader, to the hilarious bluegrass song, "Extra Hand," to the rock cut "No Fair" recorded with Will Hoge. (My favorite lyric: "The fair only comes to town once a year...IT'S NO FAIR!")

Get in a kids' frame of mind to enjoy a silly, catchy song like "Stinky Socks"...but any adult with a heart has to love songs like the hauntingly beautiful melody "Rainforest" sung by country artist Darrell Scott. "Rainforest" illustrates how music made through collaboration can transcend the boundaries of any one genre. The song opens with melancholy woodwinds and strings but builds to a Sgt. Pepper-worthy climax of joyful brass.

The songs are most successful when the elements of the kids' collaboration are brought to the forefront. The only misfire for me is the song "Download it All for Free" which is perfectly listenable, but communicates a preachy adult message, warning kids that if they download songs without paying the artists the music will go away. It comes across as a sermon against technoloy and globalization that lacks an authentic kid angle. That's the exception to the rule on this wonderful collection.

I look forward to listening to other Kid Pan Alley albums. If you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift for families whose kids are too old for The Wiggles but not yet ready for "High School Musical"--or whose parents are just too weary of overhyped commercialism and are looking for a more authentic kid music experience--you can't go wrong with Kid Pan Alley. The music is available therugh CD Baby, Barnes and Noble.com, or the iTunes music store, where you can download the music in good conscience.

Check out Kid Pan Alley's own website to learn more about the founders' vision and the creative process that goes in to making this wonderful music.

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