After growing up on rock and roll, parents of young kids suddenly find themselves drowning in syrupy toddler music. But after hearing a purple dinosaur croon "I love you, you love me" for the umpteenth time, parents staged a revolt. Adults demanded kid-friendly music that had something for them, too - and the music industry responded. Now, instead of plugging their ears, parents can sing along.
Singer-songwriter Jamie Barnett's latest CD, Just Look at You, lets children into his strong familial musical tradition. It's the California-based artist's second collection of children's songs that rock for grown-ups. Barnett draws on his experiences as a kindergarten teacher and as the father of a son with ADHD. His kids play instruments and provide backing vocals on his CDs.
Barnett's son, Luke, is the inspiration for several songs. Barnett evokes his shifting moods in "My Laughter." ("Someone has taken my laughter/And I'm sure that's not all they were after/'Cause I can't find my shoe/And my smile is gone too/My smile and my shoe and my laughter.") He writes about impulsivity in the story of an impetuous blonde, "Goldilocks." The title track celebrates the beauty of a child's life in the here and now, despite the struggles that may lie ahead.
Barnett's great gift is the ability to engage children as children, rather than as little adults or overgrown babies. His lyrics take a child's matter-of-fact point of view ("I Love Pancakes," "Fold My Clothes"). His melodies, often infused with elements of blues and swing, are simple but never simple-minded.
This collection includes foot-tapping sing-alongs and sublime lullabies. Most could have been written by kids, if kids could write songs. An exception is "381 Days," a lesson about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott.