October 19, 2011
So I'm happy to report that the debut CD from Papa Crow (the recording moniker of Michigan-based singer-songwriter Jeff Krebs) belongs right up there with the latest Dan Zanes release. Things That Roar is quality indie folk-rock for kids, largely acoustic guitar (with some mandolin, ukelele, and steel guitar thrown in) in the vein of Zanes as well as James Taylor, Nick Drake, and the softer sides of Neil Young and R.E.M. (There's even a nod to Leonard Cohen, appropriately enough in the childhood fear–themed "I'm Not Afraid Anymore.") The 14 well-crafted songs cover basic kid themes (animals, balloons, growing families) in remarkably unsappy, satisfying ways; Krebs has the knack of letting a simple theme express itself without excess embellishment.
Papa Crow also capitalizes on simplicity's advantages in the music itself: His proficient but unflashy playing, and his and Kerry Yost's warm vocals, have had a soothing effect on parents and kids alike in our home. (This is all the more impressive when you read in the liner notes how the album was recorded: "at home late at night downstairs while the wee ones slept"—astounding, given how good these tracks sound. Technology, you continue to amaze me.)
Things That Roar feels like the ideal album to listen to with a toddler or infant—though my six-year-old loves it, too!—on a sleepy, snowy winter afternoon. It's nothing fancy, just (quietly) one of the year's best kids' CDs. I'm really glad I've had the chance to hear it.
[Cover image courtesy of Papa Crow]