Review by Ali
In our house, a sign of a hit album is when Grady says “more?” and then demands “More! More!” during the few-second break between CD tracks. By this standard, and by any other for that matter, Laura Veirs’ new CD Tumble Bee is a hands-down hit.
This is Veirs’ first foray into children’s music – inspired to create the CD after the birth of her son— but she is an established musician. She has made a prolific seven records in the past decade or so, and has collaborated with the likes of The Decemberists. In fact, the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy makes an appearance on this CD, along with other notables like Bela Fleck and Bob Dylan drummer Brian Blade. Can you tell yet that this isn’t your typical children’s album?
Veirs’ background in the non-kindie music scene shines through brightly on this whimsical and melodic album. Her voice is light and ethereal, yet authentic, as she provides her twist on classic lullabies, traditional favorites, and some songs new and forgotten. She sings her soul without dumbing anything down for her younger audience, and the simple melodies and harmonies grab you and keep you at attention throughout the 30-minute CD.
The songs on Tumble Bee are mostly remakes of traditional songs, yet many of the songs sound new. Even songs you know by heart – like Hush, Little Baby – have a slightly different twist: This version starts with “Papa’s gonna buy you a little lap dog.” Classics like All the Pretty Little Horses are nestled in with Jamaican Farewell (you’d know it if you heard it – “I’m sad to say/I’m on my way/won’t be back for many a day….”). Not to give the impression this is a CD of lullabies – there are definitely some toe-tappers, like King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O and Jump Down Spin Around that get my son (and me) dancing every time.
One of the original songs on the album bears the album’s name – Tumble Bee. This song could fit as comfortably on a “grown-up” CD as a on a children’s CD, with heart-rending lyrics like: “Can’t keep this bumble-bumble, bumble-bumble bee/she’ll sting me as she lah-lah-longs to be free/she longs to be free.” I’m not sure if it’s the intended meaning, but it just reminds me how short childhood is, and that I can’t hold onto this time with my baby forever.
We are lucky to have Veirs entering the Portland children’s music scene. You can check her out in person at one of her upcoming shows. She’ll be playing free shows at Music Millennium on Burnside on November 12 at 3, and at Black Wagon on December 4 at 11:30. She’ll be having her official CD release party at Mississippi Studios on December 4 at 3:30. Tickets for that one are $15. (You can find all the details on our calendar.) In the meantime, you can pre-order the CD here and anxiously await its release on November 8!