The Fids & Kamily Awards

Terri Hendrix - Fids & Kamily Award WinnerThe Fids & Kamily Awards
by Bill Childs

Late last year, two family music bloggers (Stefan Shepard of Zooglobble.com and Amy Davis of TheLovelyMrsDavis.com ) and myself organized the “Fids and Kamily Awards.” Inspired by the Village Voice’s annual “Pazz and Jop” awards, F&K is a compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. You can check out the full list of nominees and winners at www.fidsandkamily.com.

Read on to discover the top vote-getters …

meltdown.jpgJustin RobertsMeltdown!

I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned Justin’s music already in these columns; he was one of the first family musicians we found and remains a favorite. This is his fifth album and easily his best, thanks to impressive production and instrumentation that bring a polish to the upbeat pop-rock without it becoming slick. It thoroughly deserves the top spot. I defy you to listen to the title track and its Modern English shout-out (“I’d stop the world and melt down with you”) without bopping your head. Justin, who used to be in the Twin Cities band Pimentos for Gus, is now based in Chicago but plays in the Twin Cities regularly; go see him. www.justinroberts.org

11.jpgElizabeth MitchellYou Are My Little Bird

The latest kids’ album from Mitchell (of the grownup band Ida) doesn’t break any huge new ground over her previous records, and that’s just fine. These are intimate, warm, and more or less perfect songs. The addition of her daughter singing just adds shivers. (Good shivers.) Her cover of Lou Reed’s What Goes On, and Little Liza Jane is, in its own small way, amazing. www.youaremyflower.org

Dan Zanes - Catch That Train!Dan ZanesCatch That Train!

No big surprise to see Zanes up here on the list. The former Del Fuego released a satisfying CD in Catch That Train!, with a collection of diverse styles that never feels forced. Listening, you might start to feel that you stumbled into an impromptu jam session among your friends, if your friends happen to be incredibly talented musicians and songwriters. Plus: Trains! www.danzanes.com

Frances England - Fascinating CreaturesFrances EnglandFascinating Creatures

I wrote about this record last month, and can’t say enough good things about it. Fascinating Creatures, and the Jellydots’ Hey You Kids!, about which I’ll write next month, were my top choices. Frances, by the way, is the singer about whom my son Liam says, “I like her voice a half-and-a-quarter.” I don’t know what that means, but it’s apparently good. www.francesengland.com

Wee Hairy Beasties - Animal CrackersWee Hairy BeastiesAnimal Crackers

Wee Hairy Beasties could reasonably be called a supergroup, at least by people who spend too much time in indie record stores. It’s got members of the Mekons and Waco Brothers, plus Kelly Hogan and Devil in a Woodpile. Luckily, they’re a good supergroup (this is no Bad English or Asia). Animal Crackers is chock full o’ country (alt- and otherwise), swing, blues, and other songs that you and your kids will eat up. It’s on Bloodshot Records, which previously released the slightly subversive The Bottle Let Me Down compilation (also worth owning), and this, too, has a slight edge to it. www.bloodshotrecords.com

The Sippy Cups - Electric StorylandThe Sippy CupsElectric Storyland

The Sippy Cups previously released a record of live covers made kid-friendly (“I Wanna Be Sedated” became “I Wanna Be Elated,” for instance) and an EP of originals. Nothing on those releases prepared me for this CD, which is completely original and completely addictive. It’s the kids’ album you’d expect if you created the ultimate kids’ music creature by combining Love, Ben Kweller, Fountains of Wayne, maybe a pinch of They Might Be Giants and an ‘80s arena-rock band, say, INXS. (I’m assuming here that you have a very powerful and odd genetic laboratory. I accept no responsibility for injuries or quirky singing zombies resulting from your efforts.) www.thesippycups.com

The Jellydots - Hey You Kids The JellydotsHey You Kids!

No album this year had a better opening song than the Austin, Texas-based Jellydots’ “Bicycle,” evoking the joy of being on a bike, whether you’re a kid or a grownup. And who hasn’t wanted to ride a bicycle in the sky? The album (a compilation of the band leader’s Doug Snyder’s best songs from earlier releases available only at shows) is high-energy but not hyper, with lyrics that your kids can relate to and that will make you smile. As I noted, this and Frances England’s are my favorite albums of the year. www.thejellydots.com

Charity and the JAMband - Rock Your Socks OffCharity and the JAMband – Rock Your Socks Off

Another Bay area artist, Charity Kahn, a classically-trained pianist, flautist, vocalist, and butter sculptor (okay, I made the last one up), formed the JAMband after her movement and music classes were hugely successful. And this record is all about movement – you and your kids will be clearing the furniture and dancing. The music is, as you might think, essentially a kid-friendly jam band (no 25-minute “Dark Stars” here) with terrific performances. It’s tough to get the vibe of a jam band in a studio, and even tougher to make jam bands fun for kids, but it happens here. www.jamjamjam.com

Mr. David - The Great Adventures of Mr. DavidMr. David – The Great Adventures of Mr. David

Most reviews of this CD have made Dylan comparisons, and that’s about right. While most kids’ albums are, lyrically, pretty direct, you can think of The Great Adventures of Mr. David as Baby’s First Pynchon – this is complex and interesting stuff, and sometimes obscure. The instrumentation is eclectic, and the music matches the lyrical style, with shades of, again, Dylan, but also of My Morning Jacket. It may take a few listens (and that may be more listens than your kids want to give it), but it’s worth it. www.mrdavidmusicworks.com

Terri Hendrix - Celebrate the DifferenceTerri Hendrix – Celebrate the Difference

Based outside Austin, Texas, Hendrix’s Celebrate the Difference is her first formal foray into kids’ music, though she’s been playing music that most everyone can enjoy for over a decade. This record wanders genres, from fairly traditional folk to country to to reggae to punk to what the Asylum Street Spankers’ Wammo, another Texan, calls hick-hop in “Get Your Goat On.” While that kind of variation in genres usually makes for a wide variety of mediocrity, Hendrix seems completely at home in each one. The lyrics are straightforward but not condescending, with a lot about farm life and goats. I never realized that goats could be such a source for lyrics, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. www.terrihendrix.com

The remaining finalists (out of nearly sixty nominees) were:

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About the author:
Bill Childs is a law professor in western Massachusetts. He and his seven-year-old daughter produce a kids’ music radio show, “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child,” weekly; check it out at www.sparetherock.com. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com and tell him other artists he should know about.

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