I admit to having briefly misjudged Princess Katie & Racer Steve at first glimpse, worrying that their stage personas could become quickly cloying. But it took just one listen to their second CD, 2008’s Fast & Feisty, to put them on my radar as a kids’ band to be reckoned with, proving that the roles of princess and race-car driver—which can be traced back to the band’s origins in hospital charity work—in no way limit their sound. The musicianship of Katie O’Sullivan’s smooth vocals and Steve Borne’s shredding guitar solos stand out even in the much improved world of today’s kid music.
In their third studio release, Tiny Cool, the husband-and-wife duo further expand their musical horizons without diluting those chops one bit: With their tight backing band, they rock their way through various genres, from salsa (“Clelia’s Party”) to James Brown funk (the title track) to ’80s Go-Gos-esque pop (“Kids Rock!”), always in crisp, snappy arrangements. O’Sullivan’s lyrics keep things simple but upbeat, addressing in positive fashion such diverse issues as timidity (the lilting “Shy”), telling the truth (the ska-tinged “Honest Kid”), and the perils of eating lunch at the beach (surf rocker “Sand in My Sandwich”).
You never forget these are serious musicians, while your kids never fail to be seriously entertained. And you may even find yourself smiling as you hum the catchy “Japanese Robot” to yourself at the dry cleaner.
[Photos: Courtesy of Princess Katie & Racer Steve; Gaetano Salvadore.]