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

Lori Henriques “Outside My Door” Kid’s CD Review


Way way back in time, in 2004, when we had our first child, the Mrs. and I didn’t know of Dan Zanes, of They Might Be Giants (children’s division), or of any acts in the since-coined micro-genre of kindie music.  I also didn’t know, at least I do not think I knew, of Maurice Sendak’s work.  No, not even Where The Wild Things Are.  And most certainly not Pierre, Chicken Soup with Rice or the absurd, and still creepy to me, In the Night Kitchen.  Thankfully, and in spite of her rather shitty childhood, the Mrs. had.  And part and parcel with an appreciation of those books was a fondness for the musical memories of Carol King’s “Really Rosie“, an album of tunes about and inspired by Sendak’s whacky kid lit.  This literary soundtrack became some of the first music played for the Bear as a wee lass.  Later, even after King’s Sendak songs faded into the background and Justin Roberts, Gustafer Yellowgold, and all of this took its rightful place atop the marquee, I never forgot how lovely those dusty piano ballads were.

And then along came Lori Henriques and “Outside My Door”.

My first impressions were 1) Carol King meets Diana Krall, and 2) wow, this is different for kid’s music.  The 2nd of the 1st impressions, of course, had nothing to do with the trite “wow this is different for kid’s music because it doesn’t suck” but, rather wow this is different because “Outside My Door” features nothing more than piano and voice, and lyrics dripping with wit and vocab-zingers begging to be turned into triple word scores.  Unlike the familiar kiddie combination of middle age white guy + lone acoustic guitar, you don’t hear a lot of folks doing what Henriques does.

I’ve covered this not-exactly-brand-new album a few times now with several songs popping up on my Top 52 “singles” of 2011 and Lori Henriques earning a spot in my Under the Radar 4-pack in the January/February 2012 double issue of Time Out New York Kids Magazine (on newsstands now!).  Still, I wanted to write about this delightfully tidy CD in a more proper way.  And loookee, here we are now.

Best Moments: At several points during “Green Leaf On The Ground”, you’re fearful that the song will collapse in on itself like a multipurpose concrete stadium from the 70’s in mid-implosion, for it is so stark and quiet and lovely with pauses wide enough to park a flatbed truck inside.  But Henriques proves a master at holding it together.  She never lets a note fade to black before being replaced by another gorgeous keystroke, all while her tender voice observes for us the solitary leaf that fell before its time.

There are countless things we must discover and understand for ourselves before we can call it a life.  Well, a satisfying one anyway.  “Something You Learn” is so all-encompassing that it can, in a snappy 2:45, serve as a sort of template for a happy lifetime.  Allow Henriques to be your child’s guide as they learn their phone number, how to pedal, and conversational French for her first trip abroad.  Bonus points given for the inclusion of “ennui” into a kid’s song.

I didn’t have a twin and, because my brothers are 11 and 12 years older, I barely had a sibling growing up.  I don’t need expensive time on a leather couch to figure out that this is why I’ve become infatuated with songs about the brother/brother, brother/sister experience.  Henriques examines her own craving for, in this case, a clone on “If I Had A Twin”.  Again, it is her gracefulness that takes the blue ribbon, ices the cake.  The pauses in her vocals and cavernous spaces in her playing drench this simple wish never to be granted in a warm, albeit somber light.

Okay, Time to Wrap This Up with A Nice Little Bow: It is probably already abundantly clear that I am quite smitten with “Outside My Door”.  It is a darling collection of songs that speak to and about childhood, life, longing, expectations, wishes, and hope with a sly humor and an understated elegance that must be heard all the way through to be fully appreciated.  Rest assured that this is music for little ones, although maybe not whilst inside a moonbounce or jacked up on Pop Rocks; both my girls sing and air-piano along, without fail, every time it’s on – which, of late, has been often.  You don’t necessarily have to light any candles while the album plays, but doing so would probably be real, real nice.

*OWTK received a copy of “Outside My Front Door” for review consideration. The opinions above are honest and unbiased.

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