Friday, 22 September 2023

Gig Review - The Little Wattlebird Band at the Pirate Playground, Scarborough

Have you ever been to a gig that overlooks the sea? Well, that's exactly what occurred quite recently when Vanessa and I were enjoying a Sunday morning stroll along Scarborough Beach. We were fortunate enough to come across The Little Wattlebird Band, performing live at the Pirate Playground.

This dynamic duo presented their music with dexterous musicianship and superb harmonies throughout. The setup was quite modest with a small PA, an acoustic guitar and a ukulele providing the sound, and two vocals leading the way from the front. The harmonies were particularly effective in that they didn't move in and out of the song but continued throughout, Simon and Garfunkel fashion. Not the easiest thing to do, but highly effective.

The set featured mainly originals with a few covers thrown in for good measure, all performed in the band's own inimitable style. The performance included some real standouts such as the charming "Birds in My Neighbourhood" and the intriguing "Ladybird" which really captured the imagination of the relatively sparse but highly engaged audience. The delightful "Pearly Shells" and the sprightly "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", also hit the target, although there wasn't a cloud in sight. Other standouts include the enticing "Little Magpie-Lark" a gentle ballad, highly descriptive and perfect for such a fine, sunny day.

The sprightly "Octopus's Garden" was delivered with both confidence and expertise, as were some of the other more familiar songs in the set including "Walking on Sunshine" which gently picked up the tempo and had the kids bopping along in delight. Despite the lack of live bass and drums there was plenty to dance to here, but the main strength of the set lies in the way they effortlessly create a delightful atmosphere for the surrounding spectators.

Many of the songs featured lyrics which captured the mood of the day; perfect for a band who write songs about the beauty of nature. Songs such as "Ride in a Cloud" or "Make a Rainbow" aptly suited this wonderful event, as was the somewhat nimble "Blue Banded Bee Buzz" providing additional colour harmony and warmth throughout.

The band finished off with the superb "Nature's You and Me" which really summed up the entire experience. Songs about nature, sung with breathtaking harmonies, and delivered with the kind of warmth and charisma often missing in many live performances. The Little Wattlebird Band are a relatively new act, and like all new artist could really use your support, so be sure to check them out on YouTube and Spotify, where you will find a treasure trove of melody and lyrical inspiration for the whole family to enjoy.

The Little Wattlebird Band - the sound of nature.

Saturday, 16 September 2023

EKM - Top 20 Kindie Songs From Around the World

I've listened to so much superb children's music since starting this blog back in 2013. So just for fun I decided to put together my Top 20 favourites (in no particular order). If you haven't done so already I hope you'll take a listen as I've also collated them into a Spotify playlist for ease of listening. Enjoy!


1. Poco Drom - Gee Up! (UK)

2. Splash'N Boots - Go With The Flow (CAN)

3. Tiptoe Giants - Catch a Kiss (AUS)

4. Spikey and Friends - Surfing Dolphins (AUS)

5. Gustafer Yellowgold - New is the New Old (USA)

6. Claudia Robin Gunn - I Love The Rain (NZ)

7. Music With Michal / Tiptoe Giants - Fireworks (NZ/AUS)

8.They Might Be Giants - Birdhouse in Your Soul (USA)

9. The Not-Its! - Haircut (USA)

10. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band - Thingamajig (USA)

11. The Little Wattlebird Band - Homemade Christmas Tree (AUS)

12. Marsha and the Positrons - Alien in an Ambulance (USA)

13. The Relative Minors - What Goes Around (CAN)

14. Itty Bitty Beats / Claudia Robin Gunn - Start My Day With A Smile (NZ)

15. Kids Imagine Nation - Future Dinosaur (USA) 

16. The Jimmies - Taddy (USA)

17. Twinkle Time - It's Ok 2 Be Me (USA)

18. Kymberly Stewart - I'm a Robot (USA)

19. Woody's World - Good Morning (AUS)

20. Nick Cope - Wobbly Tooth (UK)

Saturday, 2 September 2023

Album Review: It's So Sunny - Shawny

The exciting news hot off the press is Shawny, the bright new talent from Montreal in Canada, has just released his debut album It's So Sunny. Short, succinct and to the point, featuring just seven songs, Shawny has released an album that will no doubt brighten up the darkest day. An artist who writes fun, meaningful songs is always in demand, and these songs speak for themselves, with their delightful brand of melodic optimism.

"It's So Sunny" kicks off the album superbly, with what sounds like a mandolin taking centre stage, alongside a singalong chorus that is simply irresistible. The vocals are clear and direct, and the music serves to really hit the spot with its emotionally uplifting chorus. The perfect song for a sunny day, which we get a lot of out here in Queensland.

"Ollie Ollie Octopus" has already had over 7,000 streams on Spotify and deservedly so. A charming ditty, which describes in some detail the life of the octopus, and in particular how he always 'lends a helping hand'. Ollie meets a number of delightful characters on the way as he goes 'swimming with his friends in the ocean sand'. Essentially a song about kindness, and the importance of helping others.

"The Silly Dance" surprisingly announces how 'I don't like to dance', essentially 'because everyone is looking at me'. In this world however, Shawny provides numerous examples of how we can 'do the silly dance', so that any self-consciousness out there can be dispelled.  The artist then goes on to reveal how much fun dancing brings, and how we can miss out on so much fun if we somehow fail to get involved. I'm sure Mick Jagger would agree.

"Hiccups Are Forever" begins with a vibrant piano competing for space with an acoustic guitar, before the drums really kick in. A sprightly song, delivered with an almost country feel. The song also boasts a delightful melody which I had swimming around my head all day.

"The Day the Colours Went Away", is more laid-back, and has a more melancholy feel. The song exudes charm and warmth and carries a sentiment that could sit quite comfortably on a Donovan album.  The vocals sound a bit like the Bee Gees, particularly in their sixties period.

"I Love Me (L.O.V.E)" describes how we deal with adversity, and the importance of loving oneself. Essentially, the artist explains that 'it's not always easy', and 'sometimes I'm too hard on myself'. Nonetheless, the essential idea is that if we love ourselves it doesn't matter what others think, and 'we can sing this song to help us through'. In the age of FOMO where young people are increasingly trying to negotiate their way through a complex world, this song succeeds in expressing a much needed sentiment.

I reviewed the song "Justin Time" on an earlier blog if you would like to check it out; a superb track, catchy, infectious and guaranteed to have you up dancing in time to the groove. I believe most of the songs on the album have already been released as singles, which is a good way to go where Spotify playlists seem to rule the airwaves. Shawny clearly has his fingers on the pulse, not only does he know how to come up with catchy songs for kids, he also understand how to market his music very effectively.

Shawny - here comes the sun.

Sunday, 27 August 2023

Album Track Review: Captain Festus McBoyle - Dance Like A Sea Anemone


Captain Festus McBoyle and his motley crew are a band on a mission who have been bringing their own particular brand of musical mayhem to appreciative audiences for almost a decade. The music is both melodic and whimsical, and despite the alarming sense of chaos, this is family entertainment at its absolute best. The band have already received multiple music awards, including finalists in the International Songwriting Competition, which is some achievement. 

The band's latest album, Look Wot the Cat Dragged Incontains fifteen original songs of considerable depth, humour and imagination. With highlights including the sprightly "Lockdown Ditty", the reggae influenced "Seaweed Song", the enchanting "Ode to the Universe",  and the somewhat melancholy "Bubble", there really is something for everyone here. 

The absolute standout for me is "Dance Like a Sea Anemone" a fabulous three chord ditty guaranteed to cheer you up on the darkest of days. It's almost impossible to stay sitting down when you hear this song, such is its breathtaking energy and potent execution. 

The song clearly benefits from a lively upbeat rhythm and is delivered with breathtaking energy. The verse is quite sparse with drums, bass and acoustic guitar dominating the sound. The pre-chorus introduces a distorted guitar adding further dynamics along with a reciprocal vocal which is very effective. The chorus also includes a distorted guitar as we are encouraged to 'dance like a sea anemone'.

The middle eight takes the pace down a notch before really launching back into the chorus with incredible gusto. Despite the lighthearted approach the vocal delivery reminded me a little of the legendary Steve Harley in his prime. The music finally comes to a grinding halt with a magnificent power chord providing the musical backdrop over a brief tribute to Chris Knox, who appears to have been something of a hero to the Captain.

All in all a wonderful song, highly melodic, engaging and easy to dance to, one of many wonderful songs from this album, which takes you on a musical journey unlike anything you have ever heard.

Captain Festus McBoyle - rollicking fun for all the family.

Sunday, 20 August 2023

Album Review: Marko Polo - Aqua Phonic

Mark Pagano, also known as Marko Polo, is a singer-songwriter and teaching artist from St Louis, Missouri. His catchy tunes and intriguing themes have enabled him to connect with families throughout the world. Mark has also amassed a considerable amount of media coverage over the years, and deservedly so, as he is one of the hardest working musicians in the genre.

"Aqua Phonic" is his second release as a solo artist, and as the title suggests features amongst other things a range of songs celebrating the impact water has on our overall wellbeing. Essentially a concept album, where we get to "Follow the Water" on an intriguing journey of melody and imagination.

The opening track "We Are Water" is fairly funky, with bass and drums sparring with an electric piano in true seventies fashion. The groove is infectious, with perhaps shades of Steely Dan on display, as the lyrics highlight the importance of water with an almost scientific expertise. The main appeal of the song lies in its anthemic chorus a real standout, effectively informing a sceptical populace as to how 'we've got to respect it'. 

"Axolotl" describes this extraordinary amphibian in all its glory with a sound somewhat reminiscent of the Pixies, with its driving bass line and Kim Deal type harmonies.  The lyrics elaborate on both the appearance and wellbeing of this salamander, with the chorus belted out with as catchy a refrain as you are ever likely to hear.

If any of you goths out there are wondering, the answer is no, "Sirenia" doesn't refer to the innovative rock band from Norway, but instead describes this interesting mammal that inhabits 'an ocean of possibilities'. The song has more of a reggae feel, but this time speeded up with a tight percussive bass and drums providing the necessary space for the jabbing keyboard to really cut through.

The artist then transports us to the "Bottom Of The Ocean", where we get to hear about creatures that 'glow in the darkness'. Again, the rhythm is quite tight and percussive with inspired lyrics that help us experience 'the glow in your soul'. A very original song that floats in and out of your conscious mind, mesmerising the listener with cool expertise.

"Coral" is quite dreamy and almost psychedelic in its approach. Introducing a clean guitar, and the type of sound effects that beautifully capture this dreamlike scene. This time, we get to hear descriptive verse in true poetic fashion, where the word coral is sung repeatedly amongst an array of instrumentation that delights the senses throughout. 

"Walrus Sings" in true Beach Boys style, features scintillating harmonies alongside an 'unforgettable melody' and a driving bass line. Sharp, succinct and to the point, the song also features a sweeping lead vocal which glides across the track providing the required singalong hook. Marvellous!

"Follow The Water" does exactly that, as we get to embark on this musical journey, where an eighties sounding drum pattern propels the song forward as the music glistens and shines in true aquatic style. About half way through the arrangement we are treated to the arrival of the sublime vocals of Claudia Robin Gunn adding further charming overtones to the song. The song has a nice laid-back groove, with an acoustic guitar taking centre stage, as the music ebbs and flows in a kind of exotic flourish.

Last but by no means least, "Drip Drop" glitters and sparkles throughout, with its clean guitar, bouncy rhythm, and crystal clear vocals. The somewhat restless arrangement continues to surprise as the music shifts in different directions throughout the song. The music further benefits from an infectious melody, adding a certain cerebral and intoxicating charm throughout.

An interesting album, where the artist manages to transport the listener into a dreamlike state, where the unfathomable power of water is relished and celebrated in true poetic style. The musical approach reminded me a little of one of my favourite Australian bands Spikey and Friends, who made just one seminal album before sadly disappearing. Marvellous work throughout, I look forward to hearing more from this superb artist in the future.

Marko Polo - a drop in the ocean.

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Flash Album Review: Angie Who - One Million Dillions

Who exactly is Angie Who? Good question. Even after carefully scrutinising the artist's website the answer to that question still remains something of a mystery. I did manage to ascertain though that she is a Sydney-based singer-songwriter and creator of family music. It seems Angie is somewhat reluctant to talk about herself; preferring to let her music do the talking. A refreshing approach in this day and age.

I however, was fortunate enough to receive a pre-release copy of her forthcoming album "One Million Dillions", and it certainly didn't disappoint. Drawing on a range of influences including traditional jazz, blues and country she has created a sound that is nothing short of remarkable.

The standout track for me is "Hey Shadow", which features a beautiful melody, exquisite musicianship, and lyrics which complement the song superbly. Here, the artist reflects on the whereabouts of her shadow like she's referring to an old friend. The music incorporates what sounds like a pedal steel guitar, an intricate banjo and sweeping harmonies throughout. The bass and drums close the deal, providing the necessary power and space to lift all the other instruments. Brilliant!

I have it on good authority that the title track "One Million Dillions" was inspired by none other than the artist's son, who came up with this infinite number as a young boy. The arrangement is superb here, with the blend of instrumentation creating the necessary tension for the chorus to really explode. Certainly one for the purists, a real singalong that wouldn't sound out of place on a Joni Mitchell album.

I've always loved the ballad "Catch A Falling Star", and the somewhat gentle approach of the artist on display here certainly does the song justice. Here minimalism is the order of the day, where the instruments on display, provide a vessel for the sweet wine of the lead vocals to emerge. The artist has a truly outstanding voice, and this song really shows it off in its best light.

I can honestly say I've never come across a song that celebrates the importance of "Laces", but here we are. A slightly tongue-in-cheek ditty that informs the listener of an early morning ritual, before we are instructed to 'tie our laces up'. A very endearing song, where an accordion and mandolin exploit the triple meter rhythm to serve up something really special.

There are many other wonderful songs on the album, including, the jazzy laid back "Whaddaya Say", the high energy "Train Is Coming" and the wonderful "Nursery Rhyme Mash", where a selection of familiar nursery rhymes are blended together with seamless expertise. Here a jaunty rhythm carries the day, as the familiar lyrics are reworked to create this mini masterpiece. 

All in all a superb album from a very exciting artist, who has made serious headway of late. She can already boast over 80,000 monthly Spotify listeners and deservedly so. Angie Who is an artist who manages to charm her audience through seductive melodies, haunting vocals and highly dexterous musicianship. She has created a unique and original sound that the whole family can sing along to. I look forward to hearing more from her in the future, and if you, dear reader, would like to hear more from this emerging artist, her new album is out on 18th August, so do yourself a favour and get streaming.

Angie Who - heart and soul.

Thursday, 10 August 2023

Single Review: Dana's Music Playground - Bring On Summer

Dana is an artist who has been recording and performing music for over two decades. In that time she has released seven albums and received numerous awards in the process, as well as critical acclaim from musicians, educators and parents across the globe. 

"Bring On Summer" is her latest release; a song that is absolutely guaranteed to cheer you up, with its delightful portrayal of the imminent arrival of summer. The music is upbeat, melodic and cheerful, and charmingly assisted by the delightful backing vocals on the chorus. I'd be interested to know who her influences are, but I'll take a stab in the dark that maybe the Bangles meet the Go-Go's might not be too far off the mark. The song also features an accompanying video which transports the listener from the coldest to the warmest of days, and does so in fine style.

The musicality of the song is superb throughout, beginning with an explosive guitar riff followed by a sublime vocal and some serious expertise delivered on the keyboard, where a honky-tonk piano drifts in and out of the song adding further melody. The bass and drums power away in the background with a pulsing bass line superbly complementing a hypnotic drum beat. 

The lyrics really capture the enthusiastic vision of the song as we are informed now 'it's time to jump out of school and into the pool', because ultimately 'summer days are cool'. Here we celebrate everything that's enjoyable about summer whether that involves picnics,  kites, ice cream or even trips to the zoo, because there's so much more to do on those long summer days.

This is a great pop song that is sure to get your feet tapping in this brave new world where we can all let go, sing, dance and enjoy the summer without a care in the world. Dana has managed to deliver a song that delights in the pure simplicity of the message. Summer is here, isn't it great and let's all have fun in the process. Don't let this one get away, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the summer than grooving along to this fabulous song.

Dana - summer love sensation.