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Music Review: Elizabeth Mitchell – Sunny Day

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“Miss Bob,” readers ask, “with all the crazy rock ‘n roll kidtunes you listen to, haven’t you heard anything mellow?” Most of what I’ve reviewed in the last six months is designed to get kids up and moving — stimulating music that parents and kids can enjoy together, that will entertain kids on long (or short) car trips, and that get those feet adancin’.  In short, they rock. With humorous lyrics and  bouncy tunes, they appeal to the kid in me (especially the kid with ADD). There is a place in life, however, for quiet-time music — sweetly sung,  peaceful songs with comforting lyrics

With the lovely sounds of handmade music, Elizabeth Mitchell’s newest CD, Sunny Day, shines. Many of the songs bring to mind traditional, bluegrass, and folk music. There are some familiar — yet ancient­ — songs, and a few surprises like Chuck Berry’s “School Days” performed with Levon Helm and Chris Wood. Lending an international flavor are songs in Japanese and Korean, and a reggae piece.

Sunny Day is simple music for simple times. It’s ideal for “just listening” times, tea parties, and as the soundtrack to a relaxing day. It is, indeed, family music — performing with Mitchell are her husband and musical partner Daniel Littleton, daughter Storey, and Storey’s cousins and friends. Nine-year-old Storey also wrote two of the songs on this collection. Other guest artists include Dan Zanes, Jon Langford, and the Children of Agape Choir of South Africa (performing the joyful “This Little Light of Mine”).

Tender melodies characterize Sunny Day’s nineteen tracks, providing soothing sounds for nap or bedtime. Particularly appropriate for sleepytime is the classic “Little Buckaroo.”  Other wistful songs about rabbits and elephants are destined to charm little ones. 

Sunny Day will be released on October 5 by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. It includes a booklet (illustrated by Ida Pearl) in which Mitchell relates stories about the songs, their origins, and their relevance to Mitchell and her family. Smithsonian Folkways recordings has released more than 200 titles (including works by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger) targeted at or featuring children. And, yes, it’s the record label of the Smithsonian Institution.

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