Often magical, but not always quite there
Reviewed April 2010
By Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family
Smithsonian Folkways: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Going where fellow folkies John McCutcheon and Nerissa and Katryna Nields have already bravely trod, Sarah Lee Guthrie (yes, daughter of Arlo, granddaughter of Woody) has released a collection of what is loosely termed family music.
Attempting to straddle the worlds of children's music (think Sharon Lois & Bram or Raffi) and adult folk, both McCutcheon's Four Seasons project and the Nields' recent "Rock All Day / Rock All Night" and "All Together Singing in the Kitchen" probably come a bit closer to creating kid-friendly music that's intelligent enough for mom and dad to also enjoy than does Guthrie.
When Guthrie finds herself forced to compromise, she seems to lean more in favor of mom and dad than the wee ones.
Still, there are some fabulously wonderful moments here. "Don't I Fit in My Daddy’s Shoes?" and "Cuz We're Cousins" are both instant children's classics, while "Bright Clear Day," "Fox and the Goose" and "Go Waggaloo" all feature lyrics by Woody set to new music by Sarah Lee. Hard to argue with any of them.
But "Oh How He Lied" is a bit too close to tabloid news to be a true children's song (and having kids sing harmony vocals doesn't make it a kids' song). And "If Mama Had Four Hands" is definitely aimed more at the parents than the wee ones.
Give Guthrie credit for trying to create something new. When she's spot-on, it's utter aural perfection and if she occasionally comes up short, it's not for lack of trying.
Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).