A Spanking Your Kids Won't Mind



You write one profile on a local children’s band making it big and suddenly you’re thrust into the heady world of kids’ music reviewer for Gambit Weekly. I can see a future of PR agents calling and wanting to take me out for Happy Meals and legions of 7-year-olds blogging how I just don’t get it after I give Britney Spears’ kid only two gummy bears out of five for his latest album, “Visitation Days.”

I will say this: If all the kid-friendly musical offerings that come across my desk—I’m figuring I’ll get at least a couple a year—are as good as Asylum Street Spankers’ “Mommy Says No!” I won’t mind being the Alison Fensterstock to the juice-box crowd.

This all-acoustic group from Austin brings on a good ol’ timey sound complete with washboard, ukulele, National Steel guitar, violin, drums, banjo and an assortment of other instruments. And by old-timey I mean 20s jazz, foxtrots, country and western swing, blues and eclectic mixes that remind you of something—I thought of Ingrid Lucia, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Asleep at the Wheel—but not so much that you’re bored by the familiar.

Normally, this band plays for an adult audience and some of their lyrics have been described as off-color and quirky. They’re still here, as evidenced by the title track, “Mommy Says No!” , which is a fast-tempo, upright-bass-driving song that relates that id-suppressing reply every kid hears because he wants to “eat candy and ice cream all day.” The harmonizing crooning of “Boogers” mixed in with some very tight guitar picking is smooth and catchy and, yeah, it’s essentially about boogers. And that’s what makes the CD so appealing for kids and adults: The parents are going to laugh when the singer sweetly sings that “anyone who ever watched, “Seinfeld”, is made of boogers, kids are going to giggle every time that eponymous word pops up and the whole family is going to groove and swing along.

Asylum Street Spankers (you really can’t give an acronym to this band) have been around for more than 12 years in various incarnations and it shows. They’ve got chops, their playing is very tight but still loose and they remember what it was like to be a kid. “Training Wheel Rag” is catchy—it’ll get the kids and older folks up and two-stepping—and it will tug at your heart strings remembering what it was like moving up to two wheels. “When I Grow Up” works along the same lines of making parents smile and kids dance, but it moves with a New Orleans street beat, which tells me these guys have heard of Professor Longhair.

This album is not a simple sing-along that you might have heard when you were still riding a big wheel, nor is it that boring Doodle Bops’ crap you hear every Saturday morning courtesy of the Disney Channel. This music will challenge your kids—think a complete meal, not just cake and candy—but it’s accessible for most kids from 2-10 years old (after that, they might be too cool, but you can never tell). It’s something you and your kids can enjoy together, and that’s what musical appreciation and quality family-time is all about, isn’t it?

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