I don’t suppose it is a coincidence that, in mulling over the stack of items I have been sent for possible review two weeks before the election, I was drawn to something called “Blue and Red Make Purple.” The news has been talking about the “purple states” lately (could Texas become a purple state?!) but what they really mean is an equal number of red and blue folks. Are there any purple people left? The internet would have me believe not. On the other hand, music is so purple you wouldn’t believe it. The blending of sounds, voices, instruments, and styles is exactly what this country needs right now. And unlike our current election cycle, Jennifer Gasoi provides something for everybody with this Storybook and Music CD from The Secret Mountain.
First of all, the illustrations by Steve Adams are beautiful, whimsical, and include a lot of bears, so we are already biased for them. Bears playing guitar, bears holding money, bears playing cello, bears blowing kisses to a goat, these pictures have all the bear goodness that a bear-loving fella could want. I guess the bear is on a road trip across the country with his animal friends. Seems legit. And these paintings accompany the lyrics and the stories that go with the songs, which we should probably talk about for a minute.
Every song on this album is in a different style, starting with bluegrass and doo-wop; moving through blues, folk, jazz, and cajun; stopping by klezmer, dixieland swing, and roots; before ending up at gospel and calypso. Yeah, that’s quite a musical journey. And yet it never seems disjointed. The album works as a whole, seamlessly blending the various styles into a consistent and pleasing style. The album ends with a song of multiple styles called “The Purple Man,” which is slightly unfortunate if one has recently been watching Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” on Netflix, but rest assured that this Purple Man is very different from the villain on the television show. This one likes dancing.
I suspect that your favorite tracks will largely depend on which musical styles you are already drawn to, since there are no objectively bad songs included. There are just ones that you will find catchier than others. Here are some of my favorites,
LITTLE BLUE CAR (Bluegrass) – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: your first track had better be one of your best. Otherwise you’ve lost my attention immediately. Luckily this album starts off with some rollicking road trip rhythm that turns every parent’s car nightmare (your children are in the car and they have somehow gotten hold of musical instruments) into an uptempo bluegrass jam that no one will mind hitting “repeat” on.
DIFFERENT KIND OF RHYTHM (Blues) – There seem to be a lot of musical styles that include the color blue. Where are all the red musical styles? Why doesn’t anyone ever play the reds? Seems gerrymandered to me. But then again, how can you complain when you are tapping your toes to the tight harmonies and kicking beats of this song about doing your own thing?
DIDGERIDOODLE (Dixieland Swing) – Not only does dixieland swing already combine two musical styles on its own, but Jennifer Gasoi adds in a new sound to this mix with the didgeridoo. I don’t know if I can explain to you how much I love listening to this Aboriginal instrument growing under the swinging jazz. Just trust me. It’s awesome.
ALL JOIN HANDS (Gospel) – Why do I love gospel music so much? Is it the choir? Is it the call-and response that often pops up? Is it the embedded feeling of community found in so much of the music? Is it the spine-tingling key change that you just know is coming? This track features all of those things as it tells us to all join hands. And if you are looking for the perfect post-election tune for a red and blue nation looking for a little purple, this just might be it.