Summer is here! For many families, summer break means more time to relax, spend time with family, and explore new things. This summer, my kids signed up for the local dive team, and are stretching themselves by learning how to flip off the low dive. My new adventure this summer is learning how not to panic when they do.
Hopefully your summer explorations mean you have some time to check out new music for your family, and there’s plenty to dive in to! (See what I did there?)
First up, Grammy Award winning The Okee Dokee Brothers are back with their third release in their adventure series albums. This time, they head West with Saddle Up: A Western Adventure Album, which was released May 13.
The Western theme suits the vocals and essence of the Okee Dokee Brothers very well. This album, with its easy going tempos, embodies that feeling of singing around a campfire in the wild West, surrounded by cowboys while eating baked beans.
For this concept album, the Okee Dokee Brothers headed out on a 30 day horseback trek along the Continental Divide, visiting camping sites and five national parks along the way. Their encounters and experiences inspired the tracks on this album which weave bluegrass, cowboy folk and Mexicali folk into a tapestry of heartwarming songs that we’ve come to expect from the brilliant minds of Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing.
One of the great things about this band is that their love of the outdoors oozes through their music, inspiring listeners to head outside and discover their own adventures.
Like their previous albums, this one is gorgeously produced and the first track provides an excellent example in the waltz “Saddle Up,” a track that motivates listeners to get up and start the journey.
The Okee Dokee Brothers’s peppy version of “Don’t Fence Me In” with the loping change of tempo in the bridge will surely get your boots tapping. “Jackalope” has an “old western movie soundtrack” feel with its steel guitars and twang, describing the animal myth and the power of believing in something you cannot see.
Several tracks stand out on this album, but considering this is the Okee Dokee Brothers I’m talking about, is that any surprise? “The Great Divide” is this album’s “Can You Canoe?” and “Along For the Ride.” Soaring harmonies promise to cross what ever obstacles divide us in order to see the other side and create unity.
The honky tonk “One Horsepower” is another one of my favorites, applying automobile terms to actual horse power. “Somos Amigos,” featuring Carlos Medina, is another standout, and its quicker tempo and accordion solo make me miss living in San Antonio. The theme of this tune? Life is better when shared with friends.
“Sister Moon and Brother Sun” is another favorite of mine, and showcases the Okee Dokee Brothers’ ability to compose some of the most gorgeous melodies in family music today. The track begins with Native American singing, then begins to tell the tale of Mother Earth and how world was made.
“The Legend of Tall Talkin’ Sam” features beautiful harmonies with Rosie Newton. The simple banjo and percussion accompaniment of “Hard Road to Travel” incorporates fast, rolling lyrics that make a nod to “Old Coat” by Peter, Paul and Mary. “Shootin’ Star” encourages famous old west sharpshooting legends to trade their guns for guitars.
“Last Lullaby” has a sweet and tender melody that makes it a perfect closer. “Cow Cow Yippee,” “Good Old Times,” “The Grass Is Always Greener,” “Lead a Horse to Water” (with John Sebastian) round out the album.
Saddle Up: A Western Adventure Album also comes with a DVD documentary of the Okee Dokee Brothers’ journey through the West, filled with music videos and great educational information, and videos that capture how much these two guys enjoy traveling with each other and making music. Be on the look out for a full-length movie of Saddle Up streaming on Netflix in June!
Completing the whole experience, the Okee Dokee Brothers have released a hardback picture book of all three albums. CAN YOU CANOE? AND OTHER ADVENTURE SONGS (Sterling Children’s Books) captures the cross-country journeys with illustrations by Brandon Reese and celebrates the beauty of being outdoors.
To start your summer off right, I’m offering to give away a copy of this book to one of my readers! All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter widget below by Monday June 21 at 11:59pm EST. Open to all contiguous U.S. residents.
Charity and the JAMband delivered EARTH on Earth Day, April 22. Lead by Charity Kahn, the San Francisco-based Charity and the JAMband have been performing together for 15 years. Their latest album includes 10 original songs that have a spiritual foundation, promoting the power of love and mindful living.
The folksy instrumentation with Charity’s cheery, clear voice places this band in the same camp as artists like Suzi Shelton. Younger audiences will likely enjoy this album better than older listeners, but the messages are universally appropriate for all ages.
The album begins with the ethereal “Keep a Green Tree In Your Heart” based on a Chinese proverb with a melody that reminds me of Balinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place On Earth.”
From there, the album makes a 180 degree shift to the rocking guitar intro of “Share Your Love” (which promotes being kind and respectful as a sign of love) and the rock-pop chorus feels like a nod to the Bangles. Love plays an important role in the album, and appears in other songs like the groovy “Shine,” and “We Love Everyone,” which encourages sharing, peace, kindness, tolerance and respect backed by an upbeat tempo and hand claps.
There are several songs on the album that pay tribute to and appreciation for the planet we inhabit. “Earth Day” opines that every day should be earth day. Perhaps a nod to The Lorax, “We Speak For the Earth” (sounding slightly Breeder-esque or Liz Phair-ish) sings about the connection we all have to each other. “I Am the Earth” continues on this theme with a simple piano and drumbeat accompaniment, feeling more like a chant with its repetition (but could perhaps be a little shorter).
“Sing a Summer Song” demonstrates the “jam” in JAMband with its solo breaks and flute feature. The song gives a shout out to all of the summer staples like gardening, grass, insects, and weather patterns.
The breathing meditation, visualization and affirmations of “Pebble Meditation Song” are drawn from the work of spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh. The lullaby, supple melody and simple guitar of the reassuring and comforting “Little One” makes this track my favorite on the album.
The Secret Mountain releases a new classical music book and CD focused on water themed compositions in Amazing Water, written by Ana Gherhard (a concert pianist at the Mexican National Conservatory) with illustrations by Margarita Sada. An array of composers from the 17th century through the present are featured, who were inspired by oceans, lakes and rivers to write captivating, lush compositions that cascade, ebb and flow, and are as powerful as any body of water.
The 20 excerpts are performed by world renown institutions such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, La Scala Chorus and Orchestra, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
The accompanying 68-page hardcover picture book acts as a vibrant look at music history through three centuries. It includes a listening guide with composition notes for each piece of music, biographies of the composers, and a glossary of musical terms for those who want to learn more about the complex essence of each composition.
The tracks are just short enough to hold a young audiences attention, but not long enough to get “drowned” in an evening-length symphony. I could easily see a teacher playing this album in the background during a science exploration of water’s properties, or in an art class with students are working on their own version of “Water Lillies.”
There are a few easily-recognizable compositions on the album, including “Alla Hornpipe,” one of my favorite pieces by George Frideric Handel from his Water Music suites. “Barcarolle” (an excerpt from Jacques Offenbach’s final opera “The Tales of Hoffmann”) may be familiar to some listeners as well, with its mysterious beginning and rich voice of opera singers.
The variety of compositions show that water can take on many personalities such as strong and powerful (the tumultuous “Scheheradzade:” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), playful (“Water Games” by Maurice Ravel), full of adventure (“Setting Out to Fish” by Silvestre Revueltas), or all of these at once (“Play of the Waves” by Claude Debussy).
Rain and storms are prominent themes in many compositions such as the piano composition of “Gardens in the Rain (by Claude Debussy), or the brooding swells and crashes of notes in “The Storm” (by Ludwig VanBeethoven) that create movement and energy to sound like a thunderstorm.
More contemporary, modern, non-traditional or avant garde compositions include “Sea-Nocturne (…For the End of Time)” by George Crumb, whose dissonant, eery start and amplified flute, cello and piano sounds like a whale chorus; the percussive “Rain Tree” (by Toru Takemitsu), which builds in intensity and instrumentation; and “The Drop of Water” (by Fernando Sor) whose dripping guitar notes create a serene and deceptively simple composition that is one of my favorites on the album.
Other tracks on the album include “And the Winds Joined Battle” by Giacomo Carissimi, “The Moldau” by Bedřich Smetana, “Scene by the Brook” by Ludwig Van Beethoven, “Christ Our Lord Came to the Jordan” by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Gondoliera’s Song” by Franz Liszt, “Agitated by Two Winds” by Antonio Vivaldi,“On Sunday Morning” by Benjamin Britten, “The Trout” by Franz Schubert, and “Water Clock” by Mario Lavista.
Disclosures: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. Full Of It is a participant in the iTunes Affiliate Program. If you click on some of the product links above, I will receive a small commission which in turn helps run this site. Don’t fear, I only recommend tunes that I think you’ll love!