With the holiday shopping blitzkrieg officially underway this Friday, new music will top many a wish list. While some — presumably — will be thrilled with unwrapping the new Guns ’N’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy, others are distinctly harder to please and require more work than sifting through iTunes or your local big box to satisfy.
What follows are mini reviews of three local albums released in 2008 that, for a variety of reasons, fall just outside the typical Seven Days bailiwick, or simply might not be on the radar of the average local-music connoisseur. But sometimes the most interesting treasures come from the most unexpected places. And these albums, while not likely to please every palate, offer curious alternatives to the glut of more mainstream fare.
Gigi & Joni, In A Tree
From the quintessentially quirky South Burlington neighborhood of Queen City Park comes this quintessentially quirky album of children’s music. But unlike the flood of mass-produced gibberish pandering for your tyke’s edutainment dollar, singer-songwriter Joni AvRutick and singer-fiddler Gigi Weisman craft their music around a singular and perhaps startling revelation: Your kids aren’t dumb. With appropriately simple but engaging folk constructs and melodies, Gigi & Joni wind their way through such heady topics as the importance of taking your dreams seriously (“Song to Amelia Earhart”); the numerous benefits of trees (“In a Tree”); the All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten-inspired notion that sharing can solve many of the world’s basic problems (“I Can’t Stand It!”); and a clever — and refreshingly blunt — ode to bodily functions (“Human Body Symphony”). But the true charm of In a Tree is that it will likely hold up in heavy rotation, much to the relief of Raffi-rattled parents.
Recommended If You Like (R.I.Y.L.): Sharon, Lois & Bram, Shari Lewis, sharing and caring To order In a Tree, contact Gigi & Joni at email@example.com.
Lee Jollota, It’s About Time
(Rootstock Recordings, CD)
It only took 77 years, but Marshfield country crooner Lee Jollota has released her debut album, and perhaps the understatement of the year: It’s About Time. A touring backup singer with Vermont-based barnstormers Duke & The Swingbillies in the 1950s and early 1960s, Jollota retired from performing professionally in 1996 and, until now, her considerable pipes had never been captured on record. On this collection of 18 country classics and personal favorites, Jollota, née Doris M. Waite, sings with more authenticity and passion than many singers less than half her age. From standards such as Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Lookin’” and “Jambalaya” to lesser-known gems like Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and the playful Boudleaux Bryant number “Out Behind the Barn,” the disc bristles with dusty roadhouse charm. It’s about time, indeed.
R.I.Y.L.: Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, “early bird” specials
It’s About Time is available at Buch Spieler Records in Montpelier.
The Go Ahead And, Babies Don’t Have Hands
(Go Ahead & Records, CD)
While he’s best known for pop-song parodies such as “Like a Surgeon” and “Fat,” “Weird Al” Yankovic’s funniest work — with the possible exception of his polka medleys — has always been his original material. With Babies Don’t Have Hands, Burlington-based one-man band The Go Ahead And (a.k.a. Joel Abbott) has created an album very much in the spirit of overlooked Yankovic classics such as “Melanie” and “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung.” From the quirky They Might Be Giants-inspired opener “He Keeps the Tags on All His Clothes” to the oddly touching ballad “Nerf” — in which the song’s narrator is frustrated by his inability to express his heartbreak in any way other than comparing it to a foam ball — Abbott lampoons pop conventions with surprising dexterity and, of course, geeky irony. In particular, “Working Hard to Be a Hipster” should be required listening for indie-rock fans everywhere, local music critics included: I don’t want to hear you talkin’ ’bout social classes / because I think you look stupid in those Buddy Holly glasses. I guess someone had to say it . . .
R.I.Y.L.: “Weird Al” Yankovic, They Might Be Giants, black-rimmed glasses
Babies Don’t Have Hands is available at www.thegoaheadand.com.