As I prepare to listen to a record I make a conscious effort to enter into the experience with zero preconceived notions of the music, the players or the story behind it's creation. Rarely do I read the accompanying one-sheet before my first listen. Alright, maybe I skim it over, but only in conjunction with the songs playing after I've ripped the disc to my laptop.
I mention all this because with "Under the Stars", the debut children's release from a pair of talented singer-songwriters calling themselves Sunflow, I received nothing but the music via digital means. Unencumbered by press quotes or back story, I was immediately enveloped in Sunflow's dueling male/female vocal performances (they trade off song by song), the gentle warmth of the piano and strings, and the music's undeniable catchy-ness. You'll think you grew up with these songs despite being all original compositions. It's the comforting melodic familiarity that serves Sunflow so well and makes this upbeat lullaby album a true winner.
Check out the "Dreamboat" video below. The song features delicious ooh ooh oooohs and a sweet lil' solo from what sounds like a clean hollow-body guitar. There is a certain Michael Buble-ness to Fran's performance on "Dreamboat". I mean that this track, much like the entire disc, is classy music that a sleepy 3 year old will enjoy as much as a retired couple sipping a nice pinot gris, nibbling some Italian Raschera while their fireplace rages.
The appeal is that broad. The record, that good.
Don't take this to mean that Sunflow's story doesn't deserve a mention. Founded after a serendipitous encounter at a Dublin train station the group is comprised of Nancy Falkow, originally from Philadelphia PA, and Fran King from Ireland. A true Trans-Atlantic collaboration. Together they pay homage to a classic 70's children's music sound originally cultivated by the likes of Carol King and Harry Nilsson. Add to that a dash of balladry ala Paul McCartney (see the outstanding "Eve's Lullaby") and you get a disc that may end up in the kiddie aisle but, like Danielle Sansome's "Two Flowers", deserves an entirely new classification. I'll call it Family Folk, knowing full well how banal that sounds.
Check out "I Wish You Love", Nancy's finest track:
I'm enjoying "Under the Stars" more and more every listen. New sounds emerge, new beauty comes to the forefront. As a result, I cannot recommend this album enough. Visit Sunflow's CDBaby page to sample all the tunes and to purchase the CD.