Alternative Children’s Music

It happens so quickly. One day, you’re going out to rock shows and coming home late. The next, you’ve got a kid and no clue as to what’s new in the music world. You do, however, know the words to “I Can Be Anything I Want to Be” from Blue’s Big Musical Movie. As much as former hipster parents might want their offspring to listen to “good music,” chances are a 2-year-old just isn’t gonna dig the “noise” band Big Black’s “Kerosene.” So are you damned to Barney CDs and Blue’s Clues sing-alongs? Maybe not.

The same people who brought you alternative acts like Burning Airlines and Neko Case now have kids, too, and they’re not so wild about listening to mainstream children’s music, either. Instead, last summer, Chicago’s Blood-shot Records ( released The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides, a compilation featuring Bloodshot artists as well as friends — like Alejandro Escovedo, Waco Brothers, and Freakwater–doing alt-country-flavored kids’ songs.

In Washington, D.C., DeSoto Records (, known for underground bands like Shiner, the Dismemberment Plan, and Burning Airlines, is getting into kids’ music as well. Label owner Kim Coletta realized that she and her toddler son, Nick, had few records that they both enjoyed. So last spring she started working on cool kids’ music with Susie Tennant, who curated a family music series with Seattle’s Experience Music Project, an interactive music museum that tells the story of American popular music.

Coletta’s plan is to release a compilation of her punk rock colleagues covering songs from the public domain, an area she knows from working as a music cataloguer for the Smithsonian Folkways Collection. Brace yourself for American punk legend Ian MacKaye–of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame–singing a kids’ song. That should give punk rock parents something to listen to until the kids are old enough to appreciate “Kerosene.”

More Alternative Kids’ Tunes

Rounder Kids
Part of Rounder Records, an independent label since 1970, Rounder Kids has albums from artists including Raffi and They Might Be Giants.

Music for Little People
The largest indie kids label, with more than 100 titles, features music from bands like Los Lobos, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Excerpted from Punk Planet (Sept./Oct. 2003). Subscriptions: $24/yr. (6 issues) from 4229 N. Honore, Chicago, IL 60613.

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