Alastair Moock Exudes Hope and Encourages Rebellion with Family-Friendly ‘Be a Pain’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

When you think about albums for kids, certain themes probably come to mind. There are those that lean toward educational themes, and there are those that teach the value of things like friendship and doing the right thing. Encouraging kids to be rebellious is not something you find very often on albums made specifically for kids. Enter Alastair Moock, a Grammy-nominated artist from Boston who specializes in music for families. On the new album Be a Pain, he informs and encourages useful rebellion by citing specific historical and musical figures as examples.

Another thing you might think about with albums for kids is saccharine melodies and lyrics that make you wish for temporary hearing loss. On the contrary, it may be easy to sing along with these songs but the melodies are pretty firmly in the Americana realm and the lyrics are thought-provoking, not mind-numbing like a lot of children’s albums.

In the title track, Moock sings about historical figures like Rosa Parks and Billie Jean King who brought about change because they rebelled. The chorus is catchy enough that kids and adults alike will sing along with it. At the same time, the song informs the listener about people who were important because they acted on what they believed.

Not surprisingly, the album includes a song about Pete Seeger that fittingly includes banjo. It tells the story of Pete’s crusade for civil rights as well as his stand against the war in Vietnam. As a parent, you want your kids to learn about good musicians, and you can do worse than having your kids learn about Pete Seeger.

The songs don’t just focus on figures from the past. Reggie Harris joins in singing “I Am Malala”. The melody has something of a Celtic feel. You can’t help feel something when Moock sings, “I raise up my voice for an equal chance to live, and learn, and grow.” Shortly after that you hear some youthful voices providing backing vocals. Overall, it is just a very hopeful song. 

The album includes plenty of guest musicians who help Moock spread his message of children leading the way toward change. Mark Erelli, who was nominated for Song of the Year at the Americana Music Awards, joins Moock on “Everybody Was a Kid”. Crys Matthews performs on “One Foot / Lead with Love” and Heather Mae “Go Shine (Song for Elm)”

This album was no doubt challenging in that it covers material that kids may not be familiar with. However, he did a great job of making pleasant melodies and choruses that are fittingly easy for kids to sing (perhaps in the car with an adult). It exudes hope, and it’s easy to imagine some child pursuing music because of this album. 

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