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

Many Hands Helping Families in Haiti – CD Review

I sorta cannot believe that I haven’t written about this already, as it may be the most ambitious and worthwhile kindie music project of 2010. It also may be one of the finest.

The Many Hands ‘Family Music for Haiti’ CD is a compilation featuring some of the best and brightest, from the past and the present, of the family music universe. Dean Jones, of Dog on Fleas, dreamed up this glorious idea of an album so that he might be able to have an impact and deliver aid to the earthquake-ravaged island nation, but even he probably didn’t imagine the sheer volume of high-quality artists willing to contribute outstanding, almost all new & previously unreleased songs. While the album surely has a Hudson River/NYC bent to it (Jones is from that region of the country and, naturally, has a connection to many of the artists in and around there), Many Hands is a musical endeavor worthy of the national recognition it will most certainly receive in the coming weeks and months.

Who’s on the Many Hands CD? Oh, pretty much nobody…except for Pete Seeger, Dan Zanes, They Might Be Giants, Elizabeth Mitchell, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Recess Monkey, Frances England, The Deedle Deedle Dees, Dog on Fleas, and Lunch Money.  And don’t forget about Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Uncle Rock, Randy Kaplan, Caspar Babypants, Gustafer Yellowgold, Grenadilla, and Jonathan Coulton (and even more!).  Pretty amazing, no?

(And I didn’t even mention the name Emily Curtis, the singer-songwriter who contributed what may be the best song of the bunch – the chorus will melt you! The song leads off the album and sets the table beautifully.)

Maybe more amazing is just how good all the songs are. Really, there isn’t a single dud among the 22-tracks. And the Dean Jones arranged track order is superb, a real treat delivering waves of audible pleasure as if you were positioned on a beach on a smokin’ hot day soaking up the cool water repeatedly rolling over your feet and legs. The amazing music comes at your ears in a similar fashion, crashing with bombast then receding with a quiet serenity. The block of tunes from Zanes’ cozy “Tonight, Tonight” through Jonathan Coulton’s spirited “The Princess Who Saved Herself” is about as good a set of disparate tunes gets. As a compilation, Many Hands works so brilliantly because there isn’t a constant “we must help Haiti” message, in fact there is no obvious, beat-ya-over-the-head message at all. That said, any listener paying attention to the music is going to feel closer to those sharing in the listening and, maybe, even closer to and more empathic towards those families struggling in Haiti.

In addition to the superb 59-minute disc (due on 8/10), there are a half dozen Many Hands record release concerts scheduled from coast to coast – adding to the release’s aura. The one extra live event not on the official calendar was a 4-band gig at XM studios in Washington D.C. earlier this week.

Robbie Schaefer of XM Kid's Place Live introducing the Many Hands CD

Recess Monkey, Uncle Rock, Grenadilla and Dog on Fleas convened in the nation’s capital to record a 1-hour concert featuring songs from the Many Hands CD, as well as other originals from each band. OWTK had the distinct privilege of attending this live recording on Monday, 7/20. – the only “press” or general public in the room.  The Mrs, Bear and Mouse, my two 12-year old nieces, and I enjoyed an afternoon of musical collaboration between some truly talented folks. I feel so awash with joy that I got to witness this recording (the airing of which will be, I believe, during the weekend of August 14-15), that I honestly cannot properly put it into words right now.  A big thanks to Robbie Schaefer, Dean Jones and the rest of the XM-crew and Many Hands family for allowing us to be a part of the special day.

Dog on Fleas & Grenadilla at XM's Many Hands Concert Recording

I have a couple dozen photos from this session posted in an album on Facebook. Check those out here.

All proceeds from the sale of the CD and from the concerts will be directed to The Haitian People’s Support Project.

Many Hands is an instant family heirloom of a CD, worthy of being passed on to future generations. It’s also a lovely slice of the children’s music world in 2010, comprehensive in it’s scope yet tight-knit at the same time – heck, that sounds like the kindie scene itself! Consider purchasing Many Hands when it comes out this August. I’m pretty certain that many, if not all, of the songs will delight you and your kiddos.

*Many Hands 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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