Party on little rockers, and moms and dads too. Independent kids and family musicians are headed for your local DMV kid-friendly concert venues, on the road to the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards (Jan. 28). Read on to learn more about this year’s five nominees for Best Children’s Album, an impressive array of musicians all over the spectrum from educational hip hop artists, to South African Zulu singers. These are not your granddad’s nursery rhymes.

Photo: Gustafer Yellowgold

Gustafer Yellowgold: The Brighter Side
The Brighter Side is Gustafer Yellowgold’s second GRAMMYnominated album among a collection of eight produced by illustrator and musician Morgan Taylor. Described by the New York Times as Dr. Suess meets Yellow Submarine, Gustafer is a endearing character from the sun, singing songs earth dwellers of all ages can identify with, about everything from pine cones to bacon. And not just the average strip, but a judo practicing, pilates master slice of bacon with sizzling abs, called Baconstein. Bested perhaps only by Cakenstein, introduced on the 2015 nominated album Dark Pie Concerns, Baconstein represents a small slice of Taylor’s sublimely unfiltered world. His funny and touching multimedia shows are not to be missed.

Our Favorite Song on the Album: “Baconstein:
DMV date: Jan. 7, Jammin Java (Vienna, Va)

Photo: Alphabet Rockers

Alphabet Rockers: Rise Shine Woke#
“If you don’t look like me, will you still have my back?” This question encapsulates the message-driven, educational music of Alphabet Rockers, and makes their newest hip-hop release for kids, Rise Shine Woke#, their most impactful ever. Exploring themes of self-awareness, equality, and race, founders Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd give credence to kids making a difference, and ending the bullying culture. Says Shepherd, “Our album is meant to inspire young people to be change-makers. Being woke is nothing new, but right now it’s crucial for folks who are too comfortable in their lifestyles to get involved in this movement. This album is an entry point.” Based in L.A., the band produces educational videos and performs frequently at schools making use of the empowering aspects of hip hop culture.

Our Favorite Song on the Album: “I’m Proud”
DMV date: No tour date set…yet

Photo: Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts: Lemonade
“Sit down and rest your bones” with the gently rocking Lemonade, sprinkled with the signature silliness of Justin Roberts who tours with his band, The Not Ready for Naptime Players. An enjoyable family soundtrack full of childhood nostalgia, this is Robert’s third run at the GRAMMY prize, and his 13th children’s album. Robert’s songwriting covers everything from amusement park rides and lemonade stands, to treehouses and counting stars. His voice might remind you of a G rated version of Loudon Wainwright, or perhaps a mini-Wilco band member. An artist with multiple outlets, Roberts wrote a score for a musical version of Hansel and Gretl, and is also out with his second book about a kid and his grandfather magician, The Great Henry Hopendower.

Our Favorite Song on the Album: “Long as I Got You”
DMV date: Mar. 11, AMP by Strathmore (Rockville, Md)

Photo: Lady Smith Black Mambazo

Lady Smith Black Mambazo: Songs of Peace and Love for Kids and Parents Around the World
Making it their goal to promote not just global peace, but peace in every household, the strange and beautiful Zulu tones of South Africa’s Lady Smith Black Mambazo, mixed with English language lyrics are nothing short of astounding. Songs of Peace and Love for Kids and Parents, features stirring traditional A Cappella music by the all male group, first introduced to American audiences on Paul Simon’s Graceland (1986). Even if they don’t know the exact meaning of all the words, your family should catch the drift—learn to understand each other, it’s worth the time and trouble. With explanatory introductions to each song, the album gives meaning to what are otherwise just platitudes about diversity and respect. Also nominated for an adult album, LSBM are multiple GRAMMY award-nominees, and four-time winners in the World Music and Folk categories.

Our Favorite Song on the Album: “Women are Beautiful”
DMV dates: Feb. 5-6, Barnes at Wolf Trap (Vienna, Va) and Mar. 13, Rams Head on Stage (Annapolis, Va)

Photo: Lisa Loeb

Lisa LoebFeel What U Feel
The ’90’s pop idol (and D.C. native) Lisa Loeb has more than just a pair of cat eye glasses up her sleeve for kids and families, with songs taken directly from her own experience raising young children, and putting to music what we all know are legit feelings for both kids and adults. Actually Loeb’s fifth children’s release, Feel What U Feel is a soundtrack for all our efforts helping kids just gain a foothold in the big wide world, from learning to wave hello, to navigating the social groups at school. Released in March 2017, Feel What U Feel features the actor Craig Robinson who played “Darryl” on T.V.’s The Office, rapping with Loeb on the title track, and was followed in October by an album of old school ballads called Lullaby Girl, both previously reviewed here on Red Tricycle.

Favorite Song: I Was Here
DMV date: No tour date set…yet

Which album would you buy? Tell us in the comments below. 

–Carolyn Ross