Music made for kids— or at least with kids in mind— hasn’t had the best of reputations. Oh, the kids like it fine, sure, but it’s not them who’ve done the complaining. It’s parents who have been forced to endure the kind of earworms that make them start to wish the childhood years would speed along.
Laura Veirs‘ Tumble Bee is, by definition, a kids’ album— “sings folks songs for children” is the subtitle, after all. The collection of alternatingly sweet and fun songs is undeniably catchy and the majority of them come pre-market tested on generations of kids. At the same time, it’s a record that was clearly made with parents’ ears (and sanity) in mind. With the exception of the title track, which was written by Karl Blau, Veirs and husband/producer Tucker Martine (themselves new to parenthood) delved into the annals of folk music in selecting songs by everyone from Jimmie Rodgers to Peggy Seeger to Harry Belafonte, as well as traditionals like “The Fox” and “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O.”
We ventured to Veirs’ NE Portland home to talk about Tumble Bee, as well as to the record release show at Mississippi Studios, which was full of the kind of bedlam that only music, costumes, bubbles and a packed house full of kids could produce. Veirs was joined on stage by the Tumble Bees— Tim Young on guitar, Alex Guy on viola, and a rhythm section made up of Decemberists Nate Query and John Moen. There were a few guest stars along the way, too, including Bridgit Jacobsen and Weinland’s Adam Shearer on a version of “The Fox.”
Video: Tom Schreider / William Ward
Producer: John Kin
Audio recording/mixing: Jeff Hylton Simmons at Mississippi Studios
Interview: Jeremy Petersen
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