Best New Children's Music 2012 / OWTK Kindie Album Reviews

Coal Train Railroad CD Review


The Sound: Jazz.  Straight up, honest-to-goodness grown-up jazz music with kid-friendly lyrics.

In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: Hayes Greenfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker

Best Moments: I simply swoon over “Snuggling Suits Me Just Fine”.  My heart warms up a few degrees every single time I hear Katy Bowser smile while playfully saying, over top the instrumental bridge, “So it’s really fun to snuggle when you’ve got a buddy / and there’s some warm laundry / ’cause your mom did some laundry / and there’s some warm laundry / that’s the best” and I nod emphatically at the start, when she asks “Hey / Are you chilly? / ‘Cause I’m kinda chilly / Wanna snuggle?” Were a super snuggly bunch as it is, the girls and I, and we’ve adopted Coal Train Railroad’s “Snuggling Suits My Just Fine” as our new theme song.

You’re going to hear a little bit of Peggy Lee and Ella on “Just the Juice, Jack”, a tune with a melancholy piano/voice opening that leaps into action to quench your thirst for sweet, 100% real juice jazz.  It’ll likely become your kid’s favorite jazz number, or at the very least, introduce to them a novel new way in which to request a glass of apple juice in the mornin’.

You’ll likely never hear a kid say “I’ll take a nap / and after that / the world’s always a nicer place it seems”, but it’s so very true.  “I Need A Nap” is an elegant lullaby, a smokey tune that makes perfect use of the brushes on the cymbals and toms in creating this scene: a dimly lit club, a small stage, dark red velvet curtains in the background, and a single, hazy spotlight shining down on just Bowser as she croons your kids to sleep.  At least that’s what I see when I hear “I Need A Nap”.

With “What’s Mine is Yours”, Coal Train Railroad show off their Bossa chops. Bowser channels her inner Astrud Gilberto delivering this gem of a sharing/playing together song.  Sultry, clever lines such as,  “there so much more to keep us occupied / when our imaginations combine”, make the well-worn subject matter way more than just bearable.  Put “What’s Mine is Yours” right before “Corcovado” on your iTunes playlist and smile as you shuffle across the house.

Bonus Thoughts: Pick up a free 2-song sampler from Coal Train Railroad by either by telling 5 folks about ’em or paying what you want for the pair of tunes.  Fair enough deal, me thinks.

Okay, Time to Wrap it Up with a Nice Little Bow: Coal Train Railroad have made the best jazz album for kids that I’ve ever heard.  Katy Bowser’s voice is questionably great and the playing of Chris Donohue, et al. is outstanding throughout the 9 tracks, and with all that their Coal Train Railroad CD has everything you want from a jazz record – it’s snappy, cool and classy.  It also has some characteristics you may not expect from, or generally associate with, a fine jazz album; songs that are funny and charming, and with lyrical content most children will have a context for (juice, bellybuttons, snuggling, nap time, and a budding independence).

Despite coming from an indie rock background, Coal Train Railroad’s debut disc is, in many ways, the album I’ve been waiting for since starting OWTK 3.5 years ago.  It’s a CD I can spin during a dinner party, at nap time, in the car, with or without the kids around, during the girl’s bath time – pretty much at any time of day or night and in anyone’s company.

In other words, it’s versatile and beautiful.  I absolutely love this album.

*Coal Train Railroad’s s/t CD was provided to OWTK for review. The opinions expressed above are unbiased and true – no arm twisting took place in the review process.

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