June 03, 2003

Various Artists "The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs For Bumpy Wagon Rides"

Ah, youth! Babies need music--it expands their little minds, it fosters their creativity, and it makes 'em better people. Besides, children are the greatest music. Listen to the sound of children playing, of children learning, of children asking; my friends, the Cocteau Twins ain't got nothing on that. We all have those special little musical memories, too. I remember those Fisher-Price record players with the fun colored little records that played children songs. When I saw my baby nephew a few weekends ago, it tickled me pink to see that he had one there to play with.

Country music holds a special place in my youth, too--starting with my fathers attempts at an in-utero bluegrass conversion. Of course, growing up in the Renaissance of country-radio, the 1970s created special memories that I still hold dear, such as hearing "Galveston" played as a token gesture during the big hurricane; hearing "Rhinestone Cowboy" in a car dealership; going to a bluegrass festival in Monroe, Louisiana. You'll never be able to understand the fascination that came with hearing the outro of "Suspicious Minds", nor can I fully explain the pleasure of listening to KWKH AM 1130 out of Shreveport, Louisiana. Hee-Haw was a great show, and if you don't agree, we can take it outside.

Those very-fine folk at Bloodshot Records, in their infinite wisdom, rounded up a posse of their artists and well-respected friends, in order to make a record for the younger sat, to introduce them to country music via the simple and fun medium of children's music. They've done a durn good job of it, too; this is music that both young cowboys and cowmen will enjoy, as the songs are both fun, thought-provoking, and, well...familiar. Come on, you know you used to dance around to "Cartoon Chicken" on Saturday mornings!

The songs on The Bottle Let Me Down are a pleasant mixture of newer songs and more traditional children's fare. Some of the original songs are pretty darn amusing; Cornell Hurd Band's "Don't Wipe Your Face On Your Shirt" is a nice little number about the importance of avoiding anti-social behavior; Chris Ligon's "Crazy Dazy" is a fun little number; imagine a "Dueling Banjos" except between a cat and his pet human. Then there's my favorite, Robbie Fulks' very Daniel Johnston-like "Godfrey," about a curmudgeonly magician. (Hey, where IS Daniel Johnston, anyway? He seems like he'd be a natural for this kind of thing.) Other great artists on here include Rosie Flores, Carolyn Mark, Kelly Hogan, Waco Brothers, Rex Hobart, Freakwater, and The Handsome Family.

I'm happy to see that there's some great bluegrass on here, too. Jim & Jessie And The Pinetops' "Down In The Arkansas" is a scorcher! I'm also keen on the Split Lip Rayfield and Meat Purveyors selections, and the Asylum Street Spankers' "I Am My Own Grandpa" is a funny-as-heck number that took me a listen or two to really catch. About the only song on here that doesn't really seem to fit is Alejandro Escovedo's fine-but-slightly-older number, "Sad And Dreamy (The Big 1-0)," mainly because only older kids would really appreciate the humor of it. Then again, it's been a while since I was 10, so maybe they *would*.

The Bottle Let Me Down is a fun little collection; it's probably best served set on random and in short doses--you know, kids and their short-attention spans. I'm happy to say that this little record will brighten up your day. You probably know most of these songs anyway, even if you're too proud to admit it. This is a great record; I'd much rather have my kids singing these songs than anything that came out of a purple dinosaur and/or Anne Murray. If and when I have rugrats, this little collection will be on permanant rotation. Besides, if they grow up digging this, then they'll probably not turn up their nose to my constant playing of the third Ryan Adams box set that I'm sure will be out by then...

--Joseph Kyle

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