Tag Archives: Recordings

Dadnabbit Interview: Morgan Taylor, a.k.a. Gustafer Yellowgold

There’s never any shortage of cartoon characters in family entertainment, but few of them possess the unusual, undeniable appeal of Gustafer Yellowgold, the friendly, bug-eyed alien from the sun who arrived on Earth five years ago and has quickly achieved kindie rock star status. With his latest adventure, Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock, coming out on March 1, we decided now would be the perfect time for a chat with his creator: musician and illustrator Morgan Taylor.

So let’s talk about Infinity Sock.

Yeah! What’s going on with it? (Laughs)

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Gustafer records is that they’re not only mellow — as you often point out — but that they’re also gentle, which makes a big difference, I think. And I also appreciate the fact that they don’t pander musically, either to kids or to parents.

I don’t — yeah, I don’t think that does any good, to pander. It’s not in my nature — I’m not even thinking about whether I’m doing it or not. Maybe I sensed that kind of thing in music as a kid, so I try and avoid it now.

I know you’ve said that you spent a lot of time listening to AM radio when you were a kid, and that influence is pretty apparent in your work. But do you remember listening to any music geared specifically to kids?

Yeah, I actually did, and the older my son gets, the more my memories of it resurface. I had a lot of the old book-and-record combos from Disney, like Br’er Rabbit and Snow White, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. And the music from Sesame Street and The Electric Company, of course. There was a lot of great music on those shows. Continue reading

CD/Book Review: Trout Fishing in America, “My Name Is Chicken Joe”

Trout Fishing in America – My Name Is Chicken Joe (2009, Secret Mountain)
purchase this book/CD/DVD (Amazon)

Trout Fishing in America celebrates its 30th anniversary this year — and the fact that you most likely didn’t know that, but have never heard a lick of the roots duo’s music, explains why they won’t be commemorating the occasion with a lavish boxed set, sold-out arena tour, or all-star tribute record. They will, however, be taking a fond look back at some of the most popular songs from their multiple forays into kids’ music with My Name Is Chicken Joe, a beautifully made ersatz best-of that sets their song “Chicken Joe” alongside some eye-catching illustrations from artist Stéphane Jorisch to create a handsome, albeit plot-free, book to go along with the 11-track CD. And if that isn’t enough to make you whip out your wallet, there’s also a DVD containing a “Chicken Joe” music video of sorts.

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If you’re a member of the Dirty Linen crowd, you’re no doubt already very familiar with Trout Fishing in America, but if you aren’t yet among the enlightened, My Name Is Chicken Joe functions as a perfect gateway into their children’s music. Though it cherry-picks old favorites from the catalog, Joe feels as cohesive as a really well-made new album. The songs are all as wonderful as you’d expect from a band that’s earned four Grammy nominations, all grounded solidly in deceptively simple folk arrangements and topped off with gentle, positive messages about kindness, personal identity, friendship, and family.

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(There are a couple of detours into mildly negative territory with “Why I Pack My Lunch” and “Boiled Okra and Spinach,” but they’re about having to choke down the food your parents pick for you, and who can’t sympathize with that?

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A lot of kids’ records claim to contain music that parents can enjoy even when their children aren’t around, but My Name Is Chicken Joe really is that kind of album. Songs like “My Best Day,” “Something Sweet,” and “Count on Me” are worth having in your collection no matter how old you are. If you’re any kind of fan of roots music — and I’m talking stripped-down bluegrass stuff as well as AAA favorites like John Hiatt — or you know kids who might be, purchase this set without fear the next time a birthday or other special occasion rolls around.

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CD Review: Daddy a Go Go, “Come On, Get Happy”

Daddy a Go Go – Come On, Get Happy: The Best of Daddy a Go Go, Volume 1 (2009, Boyd’s Tone)
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I had never heard of Daddy a Go Go, the kiddie-rockin’ alter ego adopted by singer/songwriter/stay-at-home-dad John Boydston, before opening the envelope that contained Come On Get Happy, but that’s just simple ignorance on my part: Boydston has released six albums of kids’ music since 1998, won multiple awards, and earned press in publications like Newsweek and the Washington Post. For lucky album number seven, Boydston has decided to collect and remaster 15 of his greatest “hits,” including “Daddy’s Diaper Blues,” “I Think I Might Be a Dog,” “Nana Nana Boo Boo,” and “Pink Floyd Saves Hugh Manatee,” a song so stupidly titled I almost threw away the CD.

I’m glad I didn’t, because Come On, Get Happy is really pretty charming. My friend the Lovely Mrs. Davis has designated Boydston a member of the “goofy dads” genre, which is true, I guess, except that I find Daddy a Go Go a lot less goofy than much of the kids’ music I listen to. And really, pretty much the entire genre is goofy — some of it is obnoxiously overt, and some of it is less caffeinated, but I don’t think I’ve listened to a single children’s album that didn’t make liberal use of cornball humor. In that context, Come On, Get Happy is really pretty sedate; musically, I’d liken it more to NRBQ than most children’s music (and yes, I’m aware that the Q has released a kids’ record). Given that I’m a huge NRBQ fan, it should come as no surprise that I really enjoyed most of these songs (notable, unsurprising exception: “Pink Floyd Saves Hugh Manatee”) — they have the pleasantly lo-fi production aesthetic of a lot of the great old indie rock records of the ’80s, which is weird, given that Boydston didn’t start recording them until the ’90s, but whatever. The album also highlights Boydston’s taste in covers, which ranges from the obvious (the title track) to the wonderfully semi-obscure (Harry Nilsson’s “Best Friend”). Continue reading