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May 18, 2012

New Music: Can You Canoe?

The good news first: The fourth album from the Okee Dokee Brothers, the guys who helped bring bluegrass into the modern kindie-music mix, is their best yet. Themed around a real canoe trip the two band members, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing (who've been friends since childhood) took down the Mississippi River last summer from Minnesota to St. Louis, Can You Canoe? features snappy versions of classic American folk songs ("Haul Away Joe," "The Boatman's Dance," "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O") as well as their own original compositions, all created on the trip itself. All 15 tracks, new and old, are played masterfully, and are full of an infectious, upbeat spirit that will appeal to kids and parents alike.

Now, the great news: The audio CD (as opposed to the MP3 download) comes with a supplemental DVD, featuring a 40-minute film about the Okee Dokees' canoe trip, shot on location along the entire journey. And it's spellbinding—the kind of DVD your kids make you play again immediately the moment it's over. You won't mind, either, because the film is remarkably well done, and endearing to boot. (I've embedded a preview that captures the feel of the film perfectly below.) The two friends entertainingly show kids how much fun an outdoors trip can be, offer them a rare window into the creative process of songwriting, and even provide some impromptu geography lessons. (Both our kids now have a much better idea of where in the country the Gateway Arch is located.) It's a real achievement.

Combine the two, and Can You Canoe? offers kids more than an hour's worth of enjoyable entertainment that's no less fun for being, well, kinda wholesome. (It's like one of those high-fiber, low-sugar cereals your kid miraculously can't get enough of.) And the Okee Dokees are clearly having such a good time making it that it may well inspire your kids to ask for some family outdoorsy adventures of their own this summer.

P.S.: If you happen to be in the Minneapolis area this weekend, you can even catch the official CD-release show—a free show, I should add—at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park tomorrow, Saturday, May 19th, at 11 a.m.



[Cover image courtesy of the Okee Dokee Brothers]

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