Seamus Kennedy,
Gets on Everybody's Nerves:
The Kid's Album

(Gransha, 2000)

I was prepared to be annoyed by Seamus Kennedy's kid's album, since the title proudly proclaims that he Gets on Everybody's Nerves. I was pleasantly surprised not to be annoyed after all.

The only really annoying track is the final one, "I Know a Song (That Gets on Everybody's Nerves)." The title includes just about all the lyrics -- sung to the tune of "John Brown's Body" -- except, "...and this is how it goes..." connecting never-ending choruses. It's repetitive, silly and children adore it.

Most of the songs are clever and understated. Kennedy allows the music to entertain without resorting to kids' album tactics such as shouting or feigned enthusiasm. His strong, soothing vocals captivate listeners of all ages.

Opening with Tom Paxton's classic folk song "The Marvelous Toy," about an unknown but very entertaining toy that goes "zip," "bop" and "whirr," Kennedy acknowledges the joy of play across generations. He follows with the appealing traditional song, "Wee Willie's Lost His Marley." Kennedy thoughtfully translates terms which may be unknown to some young listeners before singing about the lad who dropped his marble (marley), a clothespole and a few other reluctant retrieval devices down a storm-drain (gratin').

"The Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede" is set to a lively dancing tune, as is the pre-school favorite "Don't Stick Your Finger Up Your Nose." And what kid won't relate to the wailing and howling of "I Wanna Be a Dog"?

The highlight of the CD among my young friends is the traditional song "The Music Man," which includes snippets of well-known tunes played on each of the mentioned instruments, from the back and forth of "Seventy-Six Trombones" to the huff and puff of "Scotland the Brave."

"When You Come to the End of a Lollipop" may be too slow for those with a limited attention span, but at our house it's the favorite waltzing selection.

Kennedy accompanies himself on guitar, tenor banjo and mandolin, and he's ably supported by Bob Spates on fiddle, Sarah Denning on vocals and bagpipes, and Brad Hayford on vocals and just about every other instrument. The songs with Denning sharing vocals don't seem as strong as the others, which may be more of a factor of the selection choices than of the singing. "There's a Hole in the Bucket" doesn't retain its charm beyond the first few plays.

Overall, Seamus Kennedy proves that he is "The Music Man," and he can play and sing what kids want to hear. It's a fun collection of songs -- even if the annoying last song frazzles parents' nerves just a bit.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]