Did you know that Star Wars was really just a western set in space? Seriously, the whole thing could have been set in Colorado and it would have worked. Farmhand and grizzled old hermit meet cowboy and go off to fight the government while trying to save the scrappy saloon owner’s daughter? Yeah, it works. This is why today, May the Fourth, is the perfect day to tell you how much my family is digging the new The Okee Dokee Brothers album, Saddle Up. Joe and Justin have taken another trip, this time to the great Continental Divide, and they have returned with another perfect album of songs for kids, adults, cowboys, wookies, and pretty much everybody else. (Saddle Up releases May 13th)
- Saddle Up – One rule of album writing is that your opening track should be one of your best, and you might think about naming the whole album after it. This is no exception to that rule. “Saddle Up” is a great album opener, inviting us to go along on the journey with a tune that you will be singing the whole way.
- Jackalope – Is this the western equivalent of a snipe hunt? The brothers go off looking for the mysterious creature in this fun and funny track, although even they can’t help wondering if they aren’t on a wild goose chase.
- One Horsepower – This one wins me over with its clever wordplay. Driving cars is swapped for driving cattle, and their one horsepower vehicle gets them where they need to go. And the music takes us where we need to go too.
- Sister Moon and Brother Sun – The most beautiful song on the album is also the most catchy, and how often does that happen? The track starts (and ends) with tribal music from the Navajo people and tells some of their stories in a bittersweet dance. The duo really finds their inner Pete Seeger on this one, and I mean that as a compliment of the highest degree.
- Good Old Times – Maybe I am biased, because I heard them do this tune live before the album was released, but I have loved this song for a long time. The message that life goes on after “the good old days,” and that we might be in those days right now, is such an important message.
Of course, if Country Western music doesn’t do it for you on Star Wars day, then you might try instead to fight the power of empire with a little Reggae music. If you want to hear the best Reggae album for children I have ever heard, check out One by Aaron Nigel Smith. Celebrating the powerful themes of love and acceptance, this album will have your toes tapping and your heads bopping. And yes, I know you only have one head, but you know what I meant. (One is available now!)
- One – See, Aaron Nigel Smith gets it too. He named the album after the strongest track. Okay, yeah, it’s the 2nd track, but that’s all right. This song is what reggae is all about. One song can change can the world, and so can one person.
- Natty Dreadlocks – Love who you are. Love your hair. Love curiosity, specifically regarding what is under those giant floppy hats. This song makes me smile, and also helps explain what dreadlocks represent. Spoiler alert: what they represent is love.
- Jamaican Market Place – This is a great version of a traditional Jamaican folk song. As this slow jam chugs along I can almost see the women carrying their heavy loads to the market.
- Hammer – Speaking of Pete Seeger (we were speaking about Pete Seeger, weren’t we?), here is an actual Pete Seeger song, but done in a reggae style. Wow. What a great fit. It actually seems quite natural when you think about, and this is a standout track. From the beat, to the harmonies, to the children’s chorus, I could listen to this all day.
You know, now that I think about it, Star Wars is really more punk rock than anything else, don’t you agree? It’s so counter-culture, and yet now so embedded in our popular culture than you forget how it was predicted to flop, how its fans were mocked as fringe weirdos, and how important it is now to everything that came after it. Yeah, Star Wars is punk rock. That means we should take a moment to listen to some tracks from Stardust, the third album by family rock group Chibi Kodama. The whole family gets in on the music making action, and I am reminded quite a bit of early Green Day as the raw sounds take us into outer space. (Stardust releases May 27th)
- Boredinary – Good job guys, open with one of your strongest tracks! This is an ode to adventure, railing against the “boredinary.” Yes! New words! Portmanteaus! I love it! Plus, it rocks hard. I need a little adventure too, guys.
- Daydreamer – The beats start hard, the whistling kicks in, and then we get a story of bringing your dreams to life. This daydreamer doesn’t have his head in the clouds, he just uses what he saw there to play and create back on the ground. I want to play too!
- Moonlight Dance – This one starts out like something out of Star Wars and goes on to sing a song of nature at night. I’m down for that dance.
- Different Like Me – Hey, guess what! Turns out we are all weirdos, just in a different way. I think we maybe already knew that about ourselves, but sometimes it’s good to hear a reminder that everybody else is the same. Meaning different. Get it?
- Stardust – Oh, there you are, title track! Down there at the bottom. Are you still excellent? You are? Oh good. Because we are made of stardust, and we are alive. And we rock.
Since we are talking about Star Wars today, we need to speak about one of the most evil Sith Lords in kids’ music today, Red Yarn. Why is he so dastardly you ask? Well, his latest album is called Wake Up & Sing, and it is all about getting up in the morning. You know how I feel about mornings. How could such a thing be celebrated?! And yet this modern day Roger Miller manages to imbue the idea of waking up in the morning with such energy and verve that it is impossible not to smile and sing. This is why he is so evil. (Wake Up & Sing is available now!)
- Beautiful Day – The album starts out with this song that perfectly captures the sleepy feeling of juuuuuust waking up. But then he says we should get out of bed! That makes no sense. Why wouldn’t we want to just stay in bed, enjoying this peaceful track?
- Wake Up – Oh, I see. We are not getting a choice. This Woody Guthrie tune starts out slowly so we are tricked into thinking we can stay under the covers for a few more minutes, but the build is so gentle and unstoppable that before we know it we are dancing around our bedrooms.
- I Had a Rooster – You know that classic children’s song about the rooster? Well it turns out that it is actually my favorite song, and I had no idea! Seriously, I even love the animal sounds. But it’s the doodley doodleys that really get me. Hashtag earworm. I’m not kidding.
- Clap Your Hands – This is another song that you probably already know, but have you ever heard it like you were at a Bluegrass Hoedown Hootenanny? No? You really should.
- Okay, this is ridiculous. I’m literally just going down the album track by track, and ever single song is my favorite. If I keep this up I am going to be here all day telling you about every single thing that Darth Red Yarn sings. I don’t have time for that. Just get the album and listen to it for yourself.
Do you know why my kids love Star Wars? It’s not the swashbuckling adventures or the space action. No, they just think it is funny. They love when C-3PO and R2-D2 argue. They love Han’s quips and eye rolls. They love the silliness that they can find in it. So if you love all things silly and fun you might want to pick up Michael and the Rockness Monsters‘ self-titled debut album. “Michael” is Michael Napolitano, who has been making music for “Preschool of Rock” for a while now. He has broken out of the preschool mold and is now making music for all ages, and thank goodness for that. (Michael and the Rockness Monsters is available now!)
- Pirate Song – The silliness starts right away with this opening track that is a perennially hilarious joke (at least at my house) where you mix things up on purpose to make your children laugh. And the track even includes the laughing children for you! Also, it is about pirates, which will be very useful for my September 19th playlist.
- Cosmic Vacation – Okay, I’m finishing up my (admittedly loose) Star Wars theme with this tune about imagining that we are in another galaxy, and isn’t that what today is all about?
- Dinosaur Haircut – But hey, just because I’m done with Star Wars doesn’t mean I’m done with Michael and the Rockness Monsters! I certainly can’t end before telling you about this silly track that cracks my kids up every time they hear it. It’s pretty slow, which sometimes my kids are not into, and yet the image of the guy giving a dinosaur a haircut transcends tempo apparently.
- Single Digits – Hey Vermont friends! Listen to this awesome song about how stupidly cold it is all the time! Cracks me up anyway…
Thanks for reading, and I hope you check out some of these great albums, all of which were sent to me for review totally for free! Yeah, my life is great. Happy listening, and May the Fourth be with you!