Lullabies do more than merely lull babies to sleep. A good collection of lullabies is a necessary part of the celebratory and relaxing music that plows common ground for new parents and their babies.
When Mom and Dad are too stressed to shop for new music for new additions, there are easy ways to preview and acquire music for babies without leaving home. That’s good news for new parents and baby gift-givers.
Music For Little People
Music for Little People offers 99-cent downloads on the “Lullabys and Songs for Quiet Times” section of their website. Downloads include selections from their outstanding Lullaby 20th Anniversary anthology as well as the Flower Fairies series. Artists on Lullaby 20th Anniversary include Freyda Epstein (“Shaker Medley”), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (“Be Still My Child”), Tom Chapin and Judy Collins (“Together Tomorrow”), and Eric Bibb (“Singin’ in My Heart”).
They also offer 49-cent downloads under the heading “Toddler Favorites” that include “Gaelic Lullaby” and “Jewish Lullaby” as well. You’ll find some nice free-with-purchase offerings on their site. Preview and order full CDs at Music for Little People’s site.
Putumayo’s Dreamy World
The other Disney alternative is the Putumayo Kids Label. Long after your baby outgrows lullabies, a relaxing collection of soothing sounds could be your lifesaver. Keep the lullaby albums handy for your own sanity as your kids get older.
Teenage years get as stressful as new baby days, but nobody markets coping music for parents of teens. The Putumayo Kids’ Dreamland series serves this purpose well, with relaxing music suitable for many audiences, from newborns to yoga class and beyond. Their website is one-stop browsing and shopping for a dreamy world of music, including Celtic, Asian, African, and a catch-all Dreamland CD with songs from the others.
Putumayo Kids offers previews of their Dreamland and upbeat Playground series at www.putumayo.com. Don’t worry about understanding the diverse languages of the songs. Comprehension is not the goal; relaxation is. My personal favorite is Asian Dreamland because of the dreamy celestial quality of the instruments, yet I love the spirituality of sound in African Dreamland. Dabble in them at www.putumayokids.com.
Oddly, Dreamland is the least satisfying while most linguistically familiar. Perhaps the secret to Putumayo’s success producing dreamy music is this: Their use of multiple languages puts us in the same position as a baby being introduced to language for the first time.
A ‘Real Dad’ Feel
Dan Bern’s new 2 Feet Tall CD is my favorite new CD for babies and their grownups. The hard-edged indie singer/songwriter and his barebones production gives an intimate “real dad” feel to these 38 original lullabies, complete with coos and gurgles.
Bern proves my “share what you love” point with the opener/closer, “Lulu’s Lullaby,” a familiar Spanish guitar melody. The songs are simple creations that echo some complex feelings and responsibilities of new parents, including the “Five things I want to show you today” and “The weeks move so fast around here.”
“Favorite Cat” envisions the wonders a pet will share with the baby, “some things you’ll have to do, ’cause after all you’re a girl and he’s a cat.” “A little air, a little sun, a little daylight on your bum” provides the context for “Naked Outside.” It’s as though he personalized an album for every baby in the world. The CD is available directly from Bern at www.danbern.com, with previews and downloads available at www.amazon.com.
A Good Download
John McCutcheon’s classic “Happy Adoption Day” song is available for download at www.amazon.com. The song was expanded into a book by McCutcheon and Julie Paschkis. It’s the best song on McCutcheon’s Family Garden CD, making the download preferable to the CD.
The song is also available on NPR’s Sound and Spirit’s Welcoming Children in the World collection. That wonderful 1999 CD offers “Little Potato” by Malcolm Dalgish, one of the sweetest parent/child love songs ever. The CD is available in several formats from several sources, including downloads.
Moock and Polisar
Families happen in many ways, reflected in Alastair Moock’s song “Two Mommies” from his new A Cow Says Moock CD. It’s a percussive declaration of different ways of making a family, “and that’s all right by me.” Inspired by the birth of twins, Moock’s album has
several nice lullaby offerings, including a haunting version of Woody Guthrie’s “(My Daddy Flies a) Ship in the Sky” and “Yllabul,” which makes up in gentle affirmative tone what it lacks in correct spelling. www.moockmusic.com
Leave it to Barry Louis Polisar to create “Lullaby for a Crying Child,” full of real-life impatience with lines like “You keep crying; you keep screaming. The next-door neighbor wonders if I’m sawing you into quarters in the basement down below.” Yet, the song reassures “when you wake up, I’ll be there,” the whole purpose of a lullaby. Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke cover the song on We’re Not Kidding and you can download Polisar’s original at www.amazon.com
Kathy O’Connell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of the Peabody-award-winning Kids Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN 88.5 FM.