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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Album Review: "Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes" by Andy Z


In mid-October, as Toddler X and I were preparing to set out on a road trip to Disneyland with some pals, a small package arrived in the mail. Inside, courtesy of our friend Andy Z, I found a new copy of his Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes CD. An hour later, as we climbed into the car, I popped the CD into the player -- and proceeded to listen to it for the next seven hours straight. As crazy as this might sound, I didn't mind at all.

Why? Well, Andy's album is simply fantastic. Yes, it's always exciting to discover a new song, but it's impossible to deny that there is something so comfortable and familiar about hearing songs that you've known since childhood. Indeed, most of these are songs that your parents (if they were raised in the U.S.) probably knew from their childhoods, and in many cases, their parents before them. They're part of the American cultural experience, and it's so much fun to watch the next generation begin to sing along.

Some of my favorite songs -- not just children's songs, but songs, period -- are included on the CD, and Andy definitely does them justice. The album starts with "This Land is Your Land", which I think is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and Andy's rendition is excellent. I love that Toddler X has learned the lyrics and loves to sing them aloud -- on our afternoon walks around the neighborhood, we'll often stroll, singing it together.

Also falling in the "favorite songs, ever" category is "You Are My Sunshine", and again, Andy does it justice. I have to admit, I hadn't heard the ending of the third verse before, and almost laughed the first time I did -- it's a little threatening and vindictive --- but the song overall remains lovely.

But perhaps my ultimate favorite on the CD is a song that goes exactly the opposite direction -- not soft and gentle, but hilariously goofy. Andy's version of "Turkey in the Straw" will make anyone tap their foot and sing along -- it's simply delightful. It's perfectly executed, and parents and kids alike will love this song. (By the way, Andy created a music video for "Turkey in the Straw", and it's hilarious -- check it out on YouTube.)

The album's other "classic songs and traditional tunes" are totally enjoyable as well, and it's so much fun to watch Toddler X singing along to "Oh My Darlin' Clementine", "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," "Oh Susanna," or "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain," just as Mr. X and I did when we were kids, our parents before us, and our grandparents (the ones who were in this country, at least) before them. Songs like this really do establish a sense of continuity between generations, and it's wonderful to have them all together on Andy's album.

There are also a few songs on here that I wasn't familiar with before, but now I just love. The first, "Shake a Friend's Hand", is upbeat and kind and just a pleasure to listen to. Just the first few notes let me know I'd be a fan. "Shake My Sillies Out" is a fun, energetic song that goes well with bouncing and dancing around the kitchen (as does "All Around the Kitchen", of course).

Admittedly, there are a few songs that didn't, if you'll pardon my pun, strike a chord with Toddler X. He really doesn't like "Ghostriders in the Sky" -- I honestly think it scares him -- and I have to say that it's not my favorite either, with Johnny Cash's version coming up in my head as I listen. Toddler X also asks me to skip "Don't Fence Me In" -- I'm not sure of the reason for that one, but he always wants to move on to "You Are My Sunshine" beyond it. But besides that, the album is hit after hit after hit with both Toddler X and his parents, and we've really enjoyed having it in our music collection.

This is, in my opinion, a must-have kids album, particularly if you like singing along to songs you know and love. It's a great mix of calm and upbeat, and all are handled well by Andy.

And the grand finale? A fun version of "Happy Trails" to send you off into the sunset -- until your toddler requests that you start the album again 20 seconds later.

You can purchase Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes (and Andy's other albums) on Amazon (the MP3 download is only $8.99!), at CD Baby, or at any of Andy's shows. You can also check out Andy's website and Facebook page to find out about upcoming shows (we've seen him four times -- he's great in concert!).

In summary, I highly recommend this album for any family with young kids. Enjoy!

Note: Andy provided the CD to me for free, but the opinions here are purely my own. It's just a darn good album.

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