Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, May 22

Gapers Block

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My husband recently had the fortune -- though he would say misfortune -- of attending an infant music class with our son. The class involved parents sitting on the floor, child on lap, while they sang songs to them, led by an oh-so-chipper instructor.

While I found the class to be endearing, my husband, like the other captive dads, sat there weakly pretending to be enthused about miniscule spiders and wayward baby chicks. You could clearly tell, however, that he, like the other dads in the class, would rather be driving stilettos through his ear drums. Was this, this, the musical future in store for him -- a man who had seen Ministry play at Medusa's in the '80s, a man whose record collection included Skinny Puppy and Butthole Surfers, a man who is the proud original owner of a vintage Smiths poster?

This experience lead me to think about other musical options available to us. What else could we sing along and listen to with our son, which neither involved the wheels on a bus (which I like to refer to as the "Margaritaville" of Babylandia) or an obnoxious-as-hell purple dinosaur? While my iTunes currently has a playlist specifically created for my son, I'm sure other age-appropriate options exist that don't include Yo La Tengo's "You Don't Have to be Sad" or The Beatles "I Am the Walrus."

Thanks to a family friend, the answer was delivered as a gift of Chicago-based Bloodshot Records' The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides. It is the perfect antidote to Barney and the likes.

The title, which comes from a classic Merle Haggard song, gives you a hint at what's inside: a fun mix of alt-country, bluegrass, rockabilly and folk presenting a mix of childhood standards, new classics and original material from a line up of Bloodshot's recording artists. The album itself holds no pretenses, as the liner states, "We bring you this record for the amusement of children and arrested adolescents everywhere." and they truly deliver.

The album starts off with Rosie Flores' "Red Robin," which sings the childhood mantra, "Live, love laugh and be happy." It's a sunny rockabilly tune that has you bopping along even after it's done. Besides the standards you'll remember from childhood like "On Top of Spaghetti" and "Camptown Races," there are newer and original songs that deal with unemployed magicians, being your own Grandpa, napkin use and funky butts. And there are also a few Sesame Street classics, like "Rubber Ducky" and "It's Not Easy Being Green," both of which seem just as home on this whimsical compilation as they do on Sesame Street.

Almost all of the songs are short and sweet and under four minutes, with the exception of two, including Alejandro Escovedo's, "Sad & Dreamy (The Big 1-0)" which is a brilliantly funny tune about a 10-year-old hitting the big 1-0, feeling over the hill and sighing, "Candy just doesn't taste as good anymore."

Another notable selection is one of Kelly Hogan's two contributions, "Seņor El Gato." This story of a cat who dies of a broken heart is lightened by a contagious chorus of "Meow! Meow! Meow!" Other contributing artists include Robbie Fulk, Devil in a Woodpile, Split Lip Rayfield and Cornell Hurd Band. Many of the artists are also now parents themselves -- former punk legends and wild childs turned adoring slaves to their children's coos.

Most of the songs feature more music than actual singing, which leaves you time to dance around with your baby instead of just singing with your baby, which in parent-speak really translates to more time for silliness.

The Bottle Let Me Down is a happy mix of alt-country tunes that parents can still feel "cool" listening to in spite of -- or perhaps because of their quirkiness.

In the liner notes, Bloodshot Records states, "...sometimes the only message [with music] is to sing along, dance around, and have fun. And that's OK, too." In this case, I think they were talking to the parents, not their kids. Bloodshot has successfully presented a record both parents and children can appreciate.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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