February 24th - You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song

My daughter Izzy is almost five months old, and she's grown from basically a lump that could yell to an actual tiny human being. But that also means that...she gets bored! I have to keep coming up with things to put in front of her or else she whinges at me. Tonight I played her a bunch of Car Boys but earlier I put on Ella Jenkins.

I had found Jenkins very early on in this project, because Izzy was yelling and I wanted to put some music on but also do some research - so I stumbled onto this album. Ella Jenkins is an incredibly influential children's performer, active since the 1950s and recording exclusively with Folkways and Smithsonian Folkways. She has recorded 39 albums, and her 1995 album Multicultural Children's Songs is the most popular Folkways recording ever. It's not hard to see why she is so beloved, and what sets her apart from other children's musicians.

First off, you might notice that there are duplicate versions of several songs on this album. Jenkins is a big proponent of call-and-response in children's music, and these songs are based on the assumption that you'll sit down and listen to this entire album with your kid. Which means that the second time songs appear on this album Jenkins only does the "call" part of the call and response, so kids at home can respond. It's a really cool thing that...you would assume would be standard with kids albums, but is not!

Secondly, Jenkins is great - integrating traditional African American music with international songs that she has picked up along the way, including some tunes that I'd never heard before. I mentioned this on yesterday's album but somehow I completely missed out on Miss Mary Mack until Kristin sang it to Izzy a few months ago, and now it's been popping up everywhere. Jenkins explains the music calmly and with great humor, and her voice is solid and clear. I'm so happy that she has almost 40 albums on Folkways, because honestly over the next decade I think we're going to exhaust them all.

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways