CATCHY TUNE, by Jack Grunsky, Casablanca Kids, $15, jackgrunsky.com; ages 5-10.
In this crowded field of children’s music I would venture to guess that most parents have never heard of Jack Grunsky. And that’s a shame because he produces some of the most pleasant, kid-friendly, globally conscious and musically diverse music for families that you will find. Jack is one of those really talented folks who, much like Trout Fishing In America and Tom Chapin, can glide effortlessly between making music for adults and making music for children.
"Catchy Tune" is Grunsky’s 13th children’s music recording and follows a long list of award-winning recordings that include multiple JUNO Awards (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Award), Parents’ Choice Awards and American Library Association Awards.
I think Grunsky’s success is directly tied to a few key understandings. Simply put, he knows kids. In this case it is not just a cliché or buzz phrase from his public relations team. Grunsky is one of those artists whose songs are childlike, not childish. And there is a big difference. He thinks deeply about the messages children need to hear and encourages them to reflect and think about their role in the world.
Here’s an excerpt from the reggae-infused "Crest of The Wave:"
"If we all think globally
Act a little bit more locally
Steer this boat of humanity
Fill your heart with love and be brave
All the things we need to address
Give a little more take a little less
When we rise above the feeling of helplessness
We can sail on the crest of the wave."
Grunsky also undertsands the importance of bringing a diverse range of musical styles to his listeners. Again this is part of the fabric of who he is—a student of the world’s music who brings these influences and awareness to his own music. As parents, you will appreciate this attention to detail in Grunsky’s musical production. Children are exposed to a wide variety of (real) musical instruments and arrangement styles, all performed without the aid of heavily synthesized instrument sounds or drum machines.
Grunsky is also keenly aware that music should be fun, which is why he wrote "A Happy Beat." This is one of those songs destined to become a standard in early childhood classrooms with teachers who love to get the kids up and dancing. It is a simple song set to a Bo Diddley beat and reminds kids "in this dance anything goes." He offers an instrumental tracks CD version of "Catchy Tune" (and other titles) on his Web site for teachers. This can be a wonderful teaching aid and again shows that Grunsky is trying to make his music as accessible as possible.
Other great songs on "Catchy Tune" include "Choo Choo" with its clickity-clack rhythmic groove and picturesque imagery of a train ride, the mysterious "Gato Negro" who "gets respect like a black cat should," the sweet samba of "Brazil" and the infectious world music feel of "Sunrise In The Jungle." You will also be taken away with "Wind In The Rainforest," which paints a vivid musical picture, incorporating a combination of nature sound effects and exotic musical instrumentation.
As you can imagine, "Rub-A-Dub" is Grunksy’s ode to bath time. But in true Grunsky style it is set to a happy Caribbean music track and is loaded with fun and clever wordsmithing ("my toes play peek-a-boo, my belly button, too"). And Grunsky ends "Catchy Tune" with one last catchy tune, "Go Well Stay Well," which he performs in an intimate one guitar, one voice arrangement with the simple message of "go well stay well."
I have been a fan of Jack Grunsky for many years. His music is always fresh and alive and he is certainly an artist you should know about. Download some songs, buy a CD, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading.
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.