I’ve had Andrew Queen’s new album, Grow since February and many times I’ve thought about writing it up for Roots Music Canada, but just didn’t have enough motivation to get past the inertia that exists in a life with three kids, piles of laundry, and a heavy clay soil garden.
I finally got pushed over the edge this week and the compulsion came from a surprising place.
My husband brought home a copy of Sharon, Lois and Bram’s 25th Anniversary release of One Elephant, Deux Éléphants from a garage sale. Listening to it in my kitchen with my five-year-old reminded me that singable, fun, “uniquely Canadian” (from One Elephant’s liner notes) songs are important, worth listening to, worth sharing, and worth celebrating.
So let me tell you about Grow.
I grew up on Sharon, Lois, & Bram, Raffi, Fred Penner, Eric Nagler. They told me I too could “come follow the band,” and their recordings all but insisted I sing along. S,L&B’s vision of “a new kind of children’s recording” first realized in the 1978 release of One Elephant is the same embodied today by Andrew Queen.
Grow’s promotional material describes Andrew’s recipe, “Mix equal parts award-winning children’s music with irresistibly singable refrains. Season with sweet harmonies and sprinklewith silliness.” Grow is a fresh harvest of the wonderful, renewable resource that is Canadian children’s music. I was singing along in the 1980’s and now my Hannah is belting out those singable refrains.
As on the infectious campfire-style Too Tall, you’ll find some of Andrew’s signature nursery rhyme rewrites on Grow. There are three of them and my favourite is “Stone Soup”: “We each bring a little and we’ll all have a lot.” The community effort celebrated in that song seems to be a big part of this album.
There are eight accompanying musicians and a peck of singing kids joining Andrew to make the lively, organic music. Grow’s mission “to get kids connected with their food and thinking about eating locally” is not driven too hard and there are plenty of just fun (even gross) songs that kids will love belting out.
The album was on heavy rotation in our van through February and March while we had a grade-three student visiting from Korea. All of the kids loved singing along together and we sent him home with his own signed copy.
Now that I mention it, let me put in a plug for the physical CD. I’m old-fashioned, I’ll admit it and it won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me, but there is something about holding a physical representation of the music – plus you can get it signed and I think that looking at liner notes and images and relating song # 6 with the title that goes with it is really appreciated by kids.
“Can I see the case now?” Hannah will ask of her seven-year-old brother. They’re connecting to something. In this case (whoops, didn’t see that pun coming) there is a lot to see: beautiful whimsical illustrations, recipes, stories and the full lyrics to all the songs. (You’re supposed to sing along, right?)
So seek out Andrew Queen at a festival near you, get a copy of Grow—and don’t forget to prowl yard sales for those wonderful family recordings of your own musical childhood.