Phil Rosenthal,
Folksongs & Bluegrass for Children
(Rounder, 2000)

Jump onboard for the rhyme and rhythm of "The Train Song" with folk vocalist Phil Rosenthal as his fingers ride the strings of a banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass on this musical journey for children. First stop drops off "In the Jungle." Here, the animals come out to play -- swinging monkeys, prowling cats, towering giraffes and more.

"Into the clearing comes a large gray creature.
The ground is shaking as he starts to run.
Round in a circle with his long trunk waving,
It's the elephant, joining the fun."

This original composition by Rosenthal provides some twangy bluegrass fun. The animal parade continues with "Six Little Ducks," a traditional folksong about a duck who "led the others with a quack, quack, quack." This song will delight kids who never heard it and inspire memories for adults who have. "Calico Pie," with lyrics by Edward Lear and Phil Rosenthal, is served at the next stop. This fun and easy-to-join-in song, sings of animals that never came back.

The train lets off at the station to allow Rosenthal and company (Naomi Sommers Rosenthal, Beth Sommers, Ann Vaughn and Synia McQuillan add harmony and vocals to many of the songs) to frolic in "The Paw Paw Patch," another traditional repetitive verse. The next mode of transportation is sea-bound in "Sailing in the Boat." Then it's off on horseback for "Hop High, Ladies," in hot pursuit of "The Mouse," scurrying through a field of hay, early morning in the month of May. Ducks return for one last jaunt, this time with their friends Geese, in "Ducks in the Millpond."

Arriving at the next destination, "Mama Don't Allow" music in her house. But Rosenthal plays his banjo, his trumpet, his drums, his guitar and his mandolin anyhow to this beloved sing-along favorite. Next door we meet "Aiken Drum," who is not an instrument, but a man who lives in the moon. What silly fun! Rosenthal adds some of his own lyrics to the ever-popular "I Had a Little Nut Tree." With the help of his banjo, Rosenthal recounts the journey of Noah's Ark in "Open Up the Window Noah."

The journey takes the road toward home with "Jig Along Home," by folksinger Woody Guthrie, and then back away from home with Rosenthal's "Riding in the Buggy." While I enjoyed reminiscing to "Jig," "Riding in the Buggy" was too far from home for me. Finally, "Teddy Bear's Picnic," winds up this lively traipse through the tall blue grass.

While I lean toward more traditional versions of folk tunes, I enjoyed myself well-enough on this ride through a country filled with ducks, dueling banjos, teddy bears, trains, monkeys, boats and other childhood delights. With easy to learn and fun to sing songs to blaze the path, I think kids will enjoy the surrounding sounds even more than I.

[ by Lynne Remick ]

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