Darryl & Dallas Cornell,
with the Roosevelt School 5th-graders,
Songs You Oughta Know
(Schoolhouse, 2002)

Songs You Oughta Know is a production by Schoolhouse Music that combines the singing, guitar and drums of Darryl and Dallas Cornell with the enthusiastic fifth-graders in Room 21.

The children's voices are a great complement to the adults' singing and playing. I'm not sure how they recorded it, but it has a wonderful sound with a relaxed bunch of Roosevelt School kids singing American folk music.

Some of these songs I haven't heard since my father sang around the house almost 40 years ago, but there are more than a few I didn't recognize. Though "I've Been Working on the Railroad" passed many long hours of automobile driving between Ontario and Nova Scotia for our family, I wasn't familiar with "Pick a Bale of Cotton," "Never Argue With A Bee," "Pappy's Whiskers" and "The Tinker's Song." These songs were not part of my musical life as child or parent. However "The Erie Canal" is probably just as familiar to children on both sides of the Canadian-American border, as is "The Rattlin' Bog" and the tune "Turkey in the Straw."

It's especially refreshing to hear the hearty guitar playing. There's no apology or slowing down for the young voices. Instead, the children are encouraged to sing from their bellies with a matching energy, and they do. It sounded like they had a lot of fun with the "Good Dog Blue" song, and the track includes all the howling at the end. It must have been a rush for the kids, and we hear one fellow at the end cheer, "Yay! We made a CD."

This sure is an album to promote music appreciation. As the title says, these are songs you oughta know. It might be difficult for a sing-along until you learned all the words. Then I think it would be a lot of fun. As I said, they don't slow down for anyone.

It is folk music geared for an American audience. "Turkey in the Straw" rhymes off all the U.S. states, and "America, America" is a real patriotic song. Nonetheless, it has an everlasting flavour with blues, cowboys, Woody Guthrie and songs for kids. So, I'll share the CD with my niece and I think she'll have a great time with it. So will her mom.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 2 November 2002