Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Family Garden" Record Review




Guest post by Bil, my loyal lackey and husband and phonolog-head. (He's big into music, folks, so you can trust his review!)

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Billy Kelly is a household name around these parts...ask anyone who remembers seeing the St. Louis Cardinals play in 1910. Oh wait, dangit, that's the wrong Billy Kelly. Ahem. Billy Kelly was actually an Irish Boxer from Derry in Northern Ireland who won the British Featherweight title in 1955, and passed away in his native home of Derry... oo gosh, can I just start over here?

The Billy Kelly that I want to tell you about is a really great musician who recorded a really great album called "the Family Garden".

Nowadays people call this stuff "kindie rock", but in the intelligent assessment of Seymour Stein, there are only two types of music: Bad and Good... and Billy Kelly? Definitely Good.

Why will kids and parents like it? Because they will agree, that it's funny, and fun.

Admittedly, I'm the type of listener that can be very forgiving of even the most amateur, sloppy, or juvenile of efforts, provided it carries that which is most precious, the most precious of all musical ingredients: Sincerity. The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston... Like a stereogram, it's arbitrary noise to the casual listener -- unless you make the effort to perceive the hidden truth of it.

So when a record like "The Family Garden" comes along and is BOTH sincere AND is totally enjoyable to listen to? I'm sold.
It starts off not with a four-count, or even a song, but a couple goofy non-sequiters ("Hey, get this man a Stromboli") and then the magic begins: a stew of family fun, childlike wonder, patriotism, friendship, revisionist history, false song endings, the 80's, and of course, a generous helping of doot-doot-doodly-doots.

Some of my favorite moments:
"It's Close Enough", a hilarious retelling of why some of the great monuments are imperfect (see song title.)
"We Could Be Pen Pals", I mean come on, where Molly Ledford is involved, you know it's going to be good.
"The Invention of the Straw/Revenge of Straw", I'm afraid I'll ruin it if I say anything about this gem of a song, so I will say nothing at all.
"That Old American Flag", a great patriotic ode to Betsy Ross' fine needlepoint work.
and "Rock Lobster", a faithful, spunky rendition of the B-52s' hit song.

Oh yeah, and an added goody for those of us who have a refrigerator covered in kids doodles, who remember days of sitting mesmerized at the edge of the bed staring deeply into the jacket and the liner notes... the CD is completely bathed in tiny little doodles and hand drawn notes to be discovered and enjoyed.

Billy Kelly, thanks for "The Family Garden" and the labor of love that it is.

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