Friday, September 6, 2013

Music Feeds the Soul

Sandra Boynton
One of the great things in life is watching a child fall in love with a song. When that happens, nothing else exists. The child instinctively starts moving to the beat and singing whatever he or she thinks the words are. Sandra Boynton's Frog Trouble gives children a songbook filled with likely candidates for a lovefest, and it includes the words so they can sing along with the CD with confidence, and with her signature animal characters to amplify the fun. 

What child wouldn't fall for Dwight Yoakam's ballad of a dog named Hank ("I've Got a Dog"), who howls to his crooner-owner's "lonesome song" and doesn't come when he's called, yet sticks by his human's side. A plucked string imitates a canine whining sound, and the spoons performed by Peter and Gordon Scott evoke the do-si-do of the best friends' dance. The Fountains of Wayne extol the virtues of "big trucks and little trucks and long trucks and tall," for "delivery or long-haul." A "downshift" in "Trucks" lowers the key for the singers, while a command to "throw it into fifth" leads to a modulation up. In the songbook, a pig in shades sits at the wheel of a red pick-up filled to capacity with apples. Later in the songbook/album, more than a dozen of Boynton's porkers star in Ryan Adams' wistful interpretation of "When Pigs Fly." 

Boynton and Ford vary tempos and tones beautifully. They follow up the soulful "Heartache Song," performed by Kacey Musgraves, and "When Pigs Fly" with a honky-tonk tune called "Broken Piano" (sung by Ben Folds) and the hilarious "Copycat," for which kids will attempt to keep pace with lead singer Brad Paisley trying to shake off the relentless feline chorus sporting identical hats and green guitars. For children who love to dance with partners, Boynton includes the choreography for "The Alligator Stroll" (a chicken crashes the reptiles' line dance).

In Boynton's equivalent of liner notes, which adults--especially teachers and musicians--and aspiring young singers and guitarists will regard as a treasured process log, she reveals that Alison Krauss was the first artist they signed to the project, for the elegant "End of a Summer Storm." The musicians' stellar work on this selection led Boynton and Ford to request that they play the entire album. With the variety of voices, moods and rhythms, these musicians provide the through line, along with Boynton's playful illustrations and design. You may also enjoy Boynton's TEDx Talk about working on the album.

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