Big Smith & Family,
From Hay to Zzzzzz: Hillbilly Songs for Kids
(May Apple, 2004)

From Hay to Zzzzzz is the fifth CD by the Big Smith band. On this round, they've added more family. Lots of family. Young family and old family, by digging up old songs and adding young voices. Two discs make up the package: "Play Time" and "Sleepy Time."

The "ABCs," songs about food, "Hay is for Horses" with tummy slapping and horse neighing, and others with children's voices makes this bang-on entertainment for younger children. Even so, older ones will get a kick out of "Leap as You Run," which is a great outdoor ditty, and "Cheese Enchiladas," which is funny and loud and hypnotizing.

Lots of well known bits like "Itsy Bitsy Spider, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Frere Jacques," "Are You Sleeping?" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Favourites like "Old MacDonald" and "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain" belt out the fun on the first disc. Some are short and quick, some are longer ballads like the "Paw Paw Patch," which adds some original jazzy rhythms and the tempo just keeps going.

The second disc slows it down with "Little Cowboy Lullaby," "I See the Moon," "Sandman's a-Comin'" and 10 more old, new and remembered songs to bring long summer evenings to a close. "When I'm One" celebrates milestones as we grow from age 1 to 6 with beautiful violin accompaniment by Molly Healey.

The music throughout is remarkably good and 42 tracks is a generous supply of music. Big Smith musicians have been together professionally for 10 years and have opened for Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, the Avett Brothers and the Del McCoury band. From what I've read about them, they first made a name as a raucous acoustic hillbilly band, one with the Ozark brand, and have gained the appreciation of a wider audience in the USA and have ventured to Europe.

So, the children's CD was a change of pace, but one it sounds like they put serious effort, respect and love into. The CD liner reads like a family reunion, with Grandpa Hosea telling a story, neighbours singing a song as remembered, cousins joining the band with banjo and voices, children singing freely. And the liner notes include you in their fun by taking you into the Ozark family with the grand music tradition this band comes from.

Coming out of Springfield, Missouri, the band is made up of brothers Mark and Jody Bilyeu, Bill and Rik Thomas, and cousin Jay Williamson.

If I couldn't get to a Cape Breton family ceilidh, I think I'd want to pick an Ozark Mountain family gathering to attend. I'm imagining that many of those in the past led to the design of this intriguing and timeless CD.

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review by
Virginia MacIsaac

23 February 2008

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