A Very Kidfolk Christmas CONTEST:
Win Renee & Jeremy’s new holiday EP and covers album!

For the childless outsider, the distinction we make between family-friendly kidfolk and music-for-kids may seem a false dichotomy. And, to be fair, comparison of one to the other is tricky – while children’s music is arguably a stylistic subgenre or genre set unto itself, the kindie label is applied across many genre categories to describe a family-oriented sense and sensibility, one framed by both a particular intersection of topical content-appropriateness and a particularly multi-layered approach to performance and arrangement.

But just as the difference between Barney and old Sesame Street episodes is self-evident to those who know what to look for, putting selections from each side of the kid/family playlist against each other exposes the distinction between them. Today, a comparison of brand new holiday collections from well-known kid performer Laurie Berkner and kindie favorites Renee & Jeremy makes for a case study in stylistic contrast.

A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which dropped at the end of October, is a true-blue kid’s album – and quite a decent one, on that level, with a strong mix of mostly-acoustic classic songs and carols, a smattering of cute and catchy originals, and a full reading of The Night Before Christmas at album’s end. And notably, every single one of the eleven reviews it received on Amazon since its release have given it five glowing stars.

But it isn’t designed for us. It’s designed for our children. And therein, I think, lies the challenge.

You see, while Berkner’s new holiday album might be fun for little kids, it’s not accessible to discerning adult ears. The originals focus on the commercial and toy-oriented aspects of Christmas: of the thrill of Santa’s arrival, of the way Christmas lights flash and blink, and of a character called Candy Cane Jane, who lives, inevitably, on Candy Cane Lane. The singing has that too-jolly ring of enunciated clarity which typifies albums played out for the pre-school set; the music seems typified by the same type of overly amplified pep, and the inclusion of the ubiquitous kid’s chorus, and of other slightly out-of-sync accompanying voices, is clearly designed to engender a child’s sing-along affection while sacrificing multi-generational listenability.

In this, Berkner’s holiday collection represents the limited range of her chosen subgenre – appropriate for wee ones, but narrow in scope, dubious beyond that age level, and potentially cloying to the grown-ups in the room.

Here at Cover Lay Down, we don’t underestimate our children’s capacity to see deeper meaning in the trappings of the world. Instead, we believe that good parenting means sharing content with our kids, and choosing that content carefully, with an eye towards how it represents the values we hope to pass down to them. As such, we define good family music as that which grows with our children, and that which we can enjoy sharing with them.

And unlike A Laurie Berkner Christmas, Sunny Christmas – the new holiday EP from LA-based singer-songwriters Renee & Jeremy – fits our criteria to a T.

As we’ve seen over the past few months here on the blog, Renee & Jeremy are true kindiefolk performers, whose records are designed to be enjoyed as music for all ages. Their 2012 all-covers album A Little Love is accessible to kids, but designed with families in mind; the videos which they’ve released as part of the project have been equally darling, with little stories and animated worlds that delight and tug at the heartstrings. And the songs they cover – by The Monkees, Coldplay, Simon & Garfunkel, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more – are clearly chosen for kindie parent ears, with layers of meaning that expose deep and often bittersweet themes of each song; as such, each has fit comfortably among the folk coverage in our thematic posts.

Which makes us especially happy to find that Sunny Christmas is no exception to their family-friendly approach to music. Hushed and gently upbeat without losing the essential sweetness of both the songs and the singers, totally authentic in temper and tone, the five classic seasonals and newly-penned title track which comprise the EP make for an infectious little popfolk gem of a record, a perfect gift for the kids or folk family in your life. And you’ll find nothing of the commercial side of the holidays here: the lone original, a joyously poppy exultation, plucks the community spirit of love and social gathering from the air, plants it firmly in our hearts, and urges us to take it everywhere we go.

But don’t take my word for it. By offering streaming samples of all their albums, Renee & Jeremy have made it easier to taste before you buy. And they’ve even given us a wonderful holiday gift to share: brand new copies of both of their 2012 releases, which we’re giving away as a stocking-stuffer set to a lucky reader.

To enter to win our contest, leave a comment below naming your favorite childhood holiday song, and make sure to include your email or contact information. I’ll have the kids pick a random number at the end of the week, and we’ll send the winner both A Little Love and Sunny Christmas in time for holiday gift-giving; keep it, or pass it along as a gift to kids of any age, with our highest recommendation.

In the meanwhile, we encourage folks with small children to sample tracks from A Laurie Berkner Christmas to make up their own mind, and have included Berkner’s version of Little Drummer Boy below, which is one of the more family-friendly and listenable tracks on the album. But since we’re not so objective as all that, we’ve also included a single track from Sunny Christmas, a widget to sample the entire EP, Renee & Jeremy’s 2010 single version of Little Drummer Boy, both videos from A Little Love, and a cover of Renee & Jeremy song It’s A Big World from equally-celebrated family band Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem. Because good music makes a great gift for the little ones in our life. And our love of this fine kidfolk duo is big, indeed.

Renee & Jeremy: Give It Away (orig. Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Renee & Jeremy: Yellow (orig. Coldplay)

Remember: leave a comment below naming your favorite childhood holiday song to win a 2-CD Renee & Jeremy stocking-stuffer prize package. And stay tuned later this week for more new Holiday Coverfolk from folk artists, labels, and multi-genre compilations!

Category: Holiday Coverfolk, Kidfolk, Renee & Jeremy 23 comments »

23 Responses to “A Very Kidfolk Christmas CONTEST:
Win Renee & Jeremy’s new holiday EP and covers album!

  1. Jamaise

    When I was really little, “Away in a Manger” made me sad because of the line “no crib for a bed”. My grandma would take me over to the Nativity and I would take the little wooden baby Jesus out of the manger and tuck him into my Grandma’s bed. It became a favorite because I got to give him a nice comfy bed :)

  2. Thomas

    I would like to say ‘Father Christmas,’ but I didn’t discover that until I was in High School…so my favorite Christmas song as a kid was from my favorite Rankin/Bass Christmas special–namely the Snow Miser/Heat Miser song. Even today I have to do a little shuffle-step when I hear it.

  3. Ian

    I’ll go with the classic Frosty The Snowman

  4. JoeG

    Greetings, Boy Howdie. It’s been forever (or more precisely about a year) since I last hit the music web sites I enjoy so much – glad to be back. I was a little older than a kid (not much) when Canned Heat and the Chipmunks (for real) got together to update “The Chipmunk Song,” with Bear and Alvin going at it. I may have a copy somewhere if you don’t have it. It’s not David Bowie & Bing Crosby, but then it’s not “Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope,” either!

  5. Line Munk

    Greetings from Denmark! :o )

    We are all ready for december-magic. And the weather-forecasts even promise snow on december first.

    Favorite childhood christmas song? No doubt: Silent Night. Special because it is translated to so many languages.

    Merry christmas!

  6. Chris

    Probably The Little Drummer Boy because it was fun to sing the “pa rum pa pum pum” bits.

  7. JMIchael

    Still one of my faves, “Little Drummer Boy”; even as a child, I connected to the idea of a telephone game like connection of the angels telling the drummer boy, the drummer boy telling the king, and the king telling the people everywhere. Also, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts covered it on their “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” album.

  8. Phil

    As a kid, we had a vinyl version of _Christmas with the Chipmunks_, and we literally wore out “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” on the family’s *huge* turntable console. That and Elvis Christmas songs are what I remember of Christmas songs from very early on.

    The funny thing is that my kids love the version I loved as a kid which was featured on the movie _Alvin and the Chipmunks_. I haven’t even tried to explain to them that the song has been around since the late 50s.

  9. christine kampen robinson

    i grew up listening to the boney m christmas album, & now i can’t have christmas without it. my favourite song on the album is probably “mary’s boychild.” it’s our tree-trimming music. also, the muppet christmas carol is a requirement at our house at christmas, so we like to belt “it feels like christmas” while baking cookies around here. thanks for this! :)

  10. Elizabeth

    I found my parents’ old LPs when I was a kid, and for some reason I was attracted to the odder albums. A version of The Holly and The Ivy by a counter-tenor and his choir has stuck with me for years, and I can’t help humming it when I wrap presents each year.

  11. Cheryn

    I just loved listening to my grandma’s record of the little drummer boy~ loved looking at the album cover, and those parumpa pum pums. :)
    was so happy to hear renee & jeremy’s sweet sounding version of it.

  12. Chris

    I always liked Carol of the Bells

  13. J.T. Yost

    My brother and I were obsessed with the Muppets/John Denver Christmas album. If I had to pick one song of of that, I suppose it would be “Christmas Is Coming”. I should mention that I’m Jewish, but I suppose that if Neil Diamond can release multiple xmas albums, than I can certainly listen to them!

  14. Deadmandeadman Smith

    If I had a favorite Christmas Song as a young child, i do not recall. Perhaps “Little Drummer Boy”. But my children, all adults now, some with young-uns of their own, grew up with “Christmas Must Be Tonight” by The Band. The treacle factor is zero, they tell The Story infused with a sense of humble awe. Each of us MUST hear that song on Christmas eve…it connects us. Moments of pure treasure.

  15. Lauren

    When I was little, I used to listen to my older sister’s tapes and RECORDS (remember those things?!) The one song that I listened to over and over was “Do They Know It’s Chrismas” (Band Aid, 1984). It’s still one of my favorite Christmas songs. Warm Holiday Wishes to you all! :)

  16. jc

    Thanks for continuing to impress with great music! Like many other posters, Little Drummer Boy will always be a favorite for sentimental reasons, but I loved the power and speed of Ring Christmas Bells.

  17. Colin

    There were quite a few tapes that became intimate parts of my family Christmas growing up, including the beloved John Denver/Muppets album. But the one that always stuck out for me was a particular song on an album by–as I perceived it at the time–an angry guy with a deep voice. At one part in the song he starts singing “Who shouts?” really loudly, and for some reason me and my sister always got a kick out of that. Through the magic of Google, I just discovered that it’s “The Governor’s Dream” by Roger Whittaker. Huh.

  18. papacarl

    “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Grew up watching every year and now watching our DVD with the kids is nice, but not quite the same without the Dolly Madison commercials… Vince Guarald’s soundtrack to the show is the first thing we pull out when it’s time to put up the tree!

  19. Ann Strickland

    Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is special to me– the first song I learned on the piano!
    My mome taught me when I was 5. Now I make music for a living and teach it to 5 year olds! Love it. :) great post– thank you.

  20. Bill Crawford

    The song which left the deepest impression must be the song which I now like to sing to my kid, ‘Stop the Cavalry’ by Jona Lewie. A nice brass band beat fun to sing and march around the room to, and Xmassy/anti-war theme. (1st world war always good for sentimental songs, peace breaking out at Xmas across the trenches, playing football, it’s an enduring image for Brits)

  21. Jamaise

    Who won?

  22. ScratchDad

    Lou Rawls’ Little Drummer Boy from this compilation


    was my favorite from age 5 to 22 probably. I could listen to it a 1000 times in a Christmas season!

  23. TSX

    The little drummer boy duet with Bing Crosby and David Bowie was and still is my favorite.

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