4 out of 5 Stars!
"Finding children's music
albums for the preschool to 6th grade set is easy as ABC.
The challenge comes figuring out what releases have the
stuff to please children and young-at-heart grownups.
On Ben Rudnick's Blast Off!, the
words catchy and irrepressible just begin to describe the
string-band music uncorked by a quintet of gifted instrumentalists
whose idea of a rollicking good time runs from "Martian
Hoedown" through "Juicy Black Fly" to "Dads
Can Dance." Rudnick's active musical imagination is
central to his charm, his music having a country rock base
with bluegrass, polka, Tex-Mex, jazz, blues or folk colorants.
His lead singing is more than adequate to his zany, smart
Frank-John Hadley, Downbeat
Journal Sentinel : Dec.
"Blast Off!" was
chosen as one of the Top 5 choices for
children's/family releases of 2004 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Best Bets for Your Music-Lovin' Kids
By MARY-LIZ SHAW
Below are five top choices from the many
children's/family CDs released this year. Each ranking includes
an age-range suggestion because children's music is no different
from children's clothing - no matter what the stores tell
you, one size does not fit all.
Here's (Blast Off) a more traditional folk-style
children's album but with quality storytelling and a tight
sound. Rudnick's songs are clever and appealing, making
the most of kids' imaginations. There are songs about playing
with balloons with aliens, dancing with Martians and dancing
with dads. The collection includes peppy updates of old
favorites "M.T.A.," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"
and "The Fox."
Ben Rudnick and Friends may well be on their
way to becoming the Grateful Dead of the tot scene. The
act plays several live shows a year on the East Coast.
Rudnick is hoping to take the act farther
afield soon. Our songs "are people songs. We aren't
talking down to kids," he said, adding that, in live
shows, "we don't make nice because we're playing for
kids with families. We play hard." And, Rudnick said,
"we're having a ball playing that stuff."
Teachers Pick - Best of 2004
Blast Off! Explore the universe, find out
what Martians are really like, and convince your dad to
Ben Rudnick's energetic new CD adds
new musical twists to old favorites and includes jazzy originals
to get the whole family up and moving around.
Parents Choice Foundation : November 2004
"The subjects of Ben Rudnicks feel-good
songs range from a trip to the stars ("Rocket Ship
Man") and alien playmates ("I Got a New Friend")
to a frisky fly ("Juicy Black Fly") and a celebration
of the goofy and nifty things that kids love about fathers
("Dads Can Dance").
The songs themselves are pleasant and playful;
the country and pop instrumentals are outstanding."
- Lynne Heffley, Parents' Choice
Audio of the Week, School
Blast Off! - October 4, 2004
Ben Rudnick's talented band returns for another
bouncy, fun album with superb instrumentation. While the
space theme is only carried through several songs, there
seems to be a natural progression from topic to topic.
"I Got a New Friend" is a great,
silly song about a kid with several friends who just happen
to be aliens. "Juicy Black Fly" is sung from the
fly's perspective with lots of humor and a chorus consisting
entirely of the singing of the word "buzz" over
and over again.
"Reading a Book" exhorts kids
to read, giving examples of all the places they'll be able
to visit via books. "Why'd the Chicken Cross the Road"
features an amusing homage to Dr. Seuss and is sung at an
increasingly fast pace. "Sons
& Daughters" closes the set in a lovely way, with
beautiful sentiments and music.
The songs mostly have a bluegrass feel, and
the band is uniformly excellent. There's a blend of traditional
and new songs that is sure to please most audiences. The
lyrics are humorous, touching, or just plain silly.
Jeff Bird from the Cowboy Junkies continues
his involvement with Rudnick's recordings, amongst many
other fine musicians. It is a pleasant change to have fathers'
perspectives represented in children's music, as Rudnick
manages to do so skillfully.
B. Allison Gray, John Jermain
Sag Harbor, NY
From Disney Publication's Family Fun
Magazine February 2003
"Ben Rudnick has a conversational
singing style that's instantly engaging, an ear for an infectious
tune (and beat), and an affinity for fun-to-sing lyrics.
He conjures up Bo Diddley in "Spin," encourages
optimism in "Sun Showers," and offers an earnest
tribute to the favorite food of children everywhere in "Macaroni
and Cheese." All ages. Moira McCormick
San Diego Union Tribune January 4, 2003
Ben Rudnick and Friends made their first
blip on the kids entertainment radar two years ago with
"Emily's Songs." And what a blip it was
the album won a Parent's Choice award and a John Lennon
Songwriting Contest award, among other accolades.
Now Ben and Friends are back with "Fun
and Games," featuring veteran songwriter and guitarist
Rudnick, as well as the supporting talent of Cowboy Junkies
band members Jeff Bird and Margo Timmins. With influences
ranging from bluegrass to Caribbean beats and a wide variety
of instruments (harmonica, bobby whistle, wood blocks),
this is a CD packed with lots of silly fun, and great musicianship
- Tiffany Lee-Youngren
(Ed. Note: The review continues with a portion written by
By ABBEY GRACE HOWE
Review: The songs on "Fun and Games" are very
exciting. They are upbeat and fun. There are funny songs
like "Macaroni & Cheese" and "Spin."
I like "Spin" because part of the
song sounds like my brother's name. We like to replace "Spin-ster"
with "Spencer" and tease him. These songs are
for little kids, but I think they're fun for the whole family.
(And to all the busy, hardworking mothers out there who
live in the car: It makes the younger ones quiet down and
This lively CD is a MUST listen! I definitely
liked this (so did my siblings), and I hope you do, too!
Booklist Magazine January 2003
This eclectic collection covers
a lot of territory, from commonplace to fanciful. Performer
Ben Rudnick sticks pretty close to everyday concerns and
activities in tunes about salamanders, hopscotch, macaroni
and cheese, and spinning things. The
venerable standard Swinging on a Star fits right
in, as does the jaunty instrumental Sailors
Rudnicks pleasing down-home style infuses
the mostly original songs, which are fun, and in a curious
way, mellow. What comes through is a distinct personality,
far from the slick, polished anonymity found on some popular
recordings for this age group.
Middlesex Beat December 2002
Read the article, "Ben Rudnick
and Friends Make Family Music With Substance" written
by Allen Pratt in the December 2002 Middlesex Beat.
Copley News Service December
CDs In The Stocking, Keep Kids Rocking
Good 'ol songs for any occasion, Rudnick and pals,
incluing Jeff Bird of the Cowboy Junkies, play happy tunes
"Sally Salamander," "Blackberry Blossom,"
"Sailor's Hornpipe" and "Macaroni &
Cheese." Imaginative and sunny, "Fun and Games"
is the perfect background music for exactly that.
- Lee Littlewood
School Library Journal November 2002
Fans of Ben Rudnick and
Friends award-winning Emily Songs will be thrilled with
his latest release. This upbeat recording is chock-full
of bouncy, fun, original and familiar songs.
Jeff Bird of the Cowboy Junkies lends
his talent with a myriad of percussion and harmonica accompaniment,
as does fellow Cowboy Junkie Margo Timmins with vocals on
one track. Gary Kehoe of the Banana
String Band also joins in the fun.
There are three particularly pleasing instrumental
songs all featuring the banjo Sailors
Hornpipe, Blackberry Blossom (both traditional),
and Sheik Scruggs. The latter is performed by
the composer, Adam DeLong.
The sounds of the accordion and guitar are
prevalent throughout the recording, but a closer listen
reveals many different percussion instruments; a TV tray
even makes the credits! Vocal tracks are just as enjoyable.
Twisting Low blends positive lyrics
with unique relaxed Caribbean sounds. Kids will eat up Rudnicks
Macaroni and Cheese, a celebration of this childhood
favorite. A total of a dozen songs round out the recording
providing as the title says, fun and games. Consider this
purchase essential, even if the budget is limited.
Martindale, Buford Academy, GA
Ben Rudnick & Friends: Fun and Games
Music Review Rating:
The Bottom Line: This good-natured
and unpretentious children's recording marries kid-pleasing
lyrics with sophisticated musical stylings that will appeal
to the entire family.
Fun and Games is Ben Rudnick and Friends'
second children's recording, and it's a real winner. Supporting
the fun and sweet lyrics is a wonderful range of musical
instruments that produce some very pleasing sounds.
The twelve tracks on this recording offer
kids a perfect backdrop for dancing, playing, and even winding
down. "Spin" is an easy favorite with its dance-along
and spin-along rhythm--it's a celebration of everything
that spins, including the Sun, Moon, bowling balls, and
A kid-favorite comfort food is the main focus
in "Macaroni and Cheese"; and "Jessica's
Song" is a tender and loving tune dedicated to a special
young girl ("so wild a smile, you can't hide your love").
We were especially charmed by the lovely instrumentals
in Fun and Games. In fact, the recording includes more instrumental
interludes than can be found in most children's albums.
This helps make the recording ideal for playtime. "Sailor's
Hornpipe", for example, is a playful and rich instrumental
version--featuring the mandolin, accordion, and banjo--of
a seagoing classic. The range of instruments on the recording
adds richness to the story-songs and the quality of the
album as a whole helps draw in parents. In fact, Fun and
Games is as easy on adults' ears as it is on those of its
Jeff Bird of the Cowboy Junkies plays
the harmonica, bobby whistle, cowbell, and wood blocks on
the recording, and Margo Timmins, also from the band, sings
the outstanding lullaby, "Everything is Alright"--an
enormously soothing song that parents will happily add to
their children's bedtime routines.
EdutainingKids.com October 2002
Ben Rudnick and Friends'
latest children's recording, appropriately titled Fun and
Games, is fun from the catchy opening tune, Sally Salamander,
to the lullaby, Everything is Alright.
This recording is, quite simply, outstanding.
Margo Timmins and Jeff Bird of the Cowboy
Junkies are some of Bed Rudnick's musical friends on the
album. We love this one! It's fun and warm, though it never
becomes "too much". There's even an ode to macaroni
and cheese -- a food that is comforting
to many young children (I even know of one child who wishes
he could record the swishing sound macaroni and cheese makes
when it's stirred in a pot for bedtime!). Easy-going sounds
and delightful story-songs are featured.
Baltimore's Child October 2002
Once in awhile, I am
able to say that a CD reaches not only the children but
the parents as well. In that spirit, I am delighted to recommend
Fun and Games with its amazing range of bluegrass instruments
to all the parents out there.
Children wont know it, but they will
be jumping and dancing around to the guitar, banjo, steel
drum, mandolin, harmonica, bobby whistle, cowbell, wooden
blocks and many other percussive instruments. With excellent
musicianship, Ben Rudnick and Friends, take listeners on
a musical trip through the tale of Sally Salamander,
to the blood pumping beat of Spin, to the soothing
sounds of Everything is Alright.
With positive lyrics to accompany the catchy
melodies, you really cant help having fun with Fun
and Games. No doubt the title is the only suitable name
for this highly energetic collection of songs.
Charlotte Rose Giza
Los Angeles Daily News October 12, 2002
They Might Be Parents
This is an excellent follow-up to the Ben
Rudnick and Friends 200 release, Emily Songs.
The lyrics are fun, the music catchy, and Rudnicks
vocals honed by 20-plus years of bluegrass performances
are perfectly quirky.
The strength of this CD is the humorous lyrics,
sure to make any kid giggle whos old enough to follow
along. Rudnick and his friends sing about
everyday life with the enthusiasm of a kid on summer vacation.
In Macaroni and Cheese, for example, he cant
wait for dinner. My stomachs growling like a
bear in a fight. My mothers telling me what I might
like. Ive heard it all, but I havent heard it
right. Nothing can please me like that gooey, cheesy sight.
Chris J. Parker
Metro Kids, Sound Off! October, 2002
Some fine offerings from solid musicians finish
off this month. Its no criticism to say that I cant
find much difference between them. In fact, finding either
of these will fill your hunger for good music just fine.
Ben Rudnick & Friends Fun and Games
sings about Macaroni and Cheese and Sun
Showers. Its in the fine tradition of his previous
Kathy OConnell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of the Peabody-award-winning Kids
Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN
Publishers Weekly Reviews September 2002
As they did on Emily
Songs, Rudnick and friends (including Jeff Bird and Margo
Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies) serve up some snazzy bluegrass-flavored
With all the bounce befitting the album's
title, Rudnick sails through such happy original numbers
as "Spin, about all sorts of circular motion
- including kids twirling, "Macaroni & Cheese,
an ode to the kid-friendly entree, and "Hopscotch,
a groovy tribute to this favorite sidewalk/schoolyard game.
Stellar banjo and mandolin accompaniment
lend a distinct flavor, especially on three instrumental
tracks, but bluegrass is not the only game on this recording.
Calypso ("Twisting Low"), rock, and a gentle,
untraditional lullaby ("Everything Is Alright,
featuring vocals by Timmins) all get their due. The variety
offered here spells listening enjoyment for the whole family.
Midwest Book Review October 2002
With the musical support of Jeff Bird and
Margo Timmins (members of the Cowboy Junkies band), Fun
And Games wonderfully showcases the lively musical performances
of Ben Rudnick is this outstanding CD collection of music
The original lyrics and melodies comprising
this highly recommended addition to personal, school, and
community library music shelves includes: Sally Salamander
(3:12); Swinging on a Star (2:12); Spin (4:14); Sailor's
Hornpipe (3:11); Twisting Low (4:41); Blackberry Blossom
(2:23); Macaroni & Cheese (3:36); Hopscotch (3:07);
Jessica's Song (4:22); Sheik Scruggs (2:33); Sun Showers
(3:17); and Everything is Alright (4:52)."
South Florida Parenting Magazine
reviewed Fun and Games, October 1, 2002
Ben Rudnick sounds a little like Jimmy Buffet playing
Tennessee bluegrass. And then he brings the Cowboy Junkies'
etheral-voiced Margo Timmins along for the ride. The result,
as the title of Rudnick's second children's album suggests,
is a whole lot of fun.
Banjo player Adam DeLong recalls the good ole days of
bluegrass on Blackberry Blossom and Sheik Scruggs, a bluegrass
song with some Middle Eastern overtones that actually
work. Timmins haunting voice loses its edgy Cowboy Junkies'
sound and rings true and soft on the lullaby "Everything
Not that your kids might not notice the musicianship
and mix of musical sounds, but they'll like the wild variety
of chirps, whistles, cowbells and other strange percussion
instruments that (Cowboy Junkie) Jeff Bird brings into
the music. And they'll certainly be singing and dancing
along with this fresh, original album.
This is what Lynne
Heffley of the Parents'
Choice Foundation had to say about Fun and Games:
"Wheels, washing machines, hula hoops
and the Earth itself "Spin" with exuberance in
this happy smile of an album from Ben Rudnick.
Tears turn to "Sun Showers," palm
trees sway while a breezy tropical island night passes in
"Twisting Low" and "Hopscotch" chases
the blues away. Rudnick's bouncy, colorful story songs,
sung with neighborly warmth, are complemented by a smashing,
multi-instrumental band of musicians."
- Lynne Heffley ©2002 Parents'
Quote from Buzz McClain of
the Washington Post about Fun and Games:
"Ben Rudnick refuses to pander by making "children's
music," with the result being a disc of sophisticated
melodies, precise instrumentation and witty lyrics that
delight the entire family. As evidence that he's aiming
high, there are two instrumentals that showcase his playing.
And he knows his audience: Anyone who can sing an ode
to macaroni and cheese -- the substance upon which most
of our kids voluntarily subsist on -- is paying attention.
Nashville Parent Magazine reviewed Fun and Games, August 1, 2002:
Listen Up Records. All ages.
Games is a lighthearted celebration of what kids do best
-- play! "Spin" extolls the virtues of dizziness,
while the upbeat "Hopscotch" will make you want
to start skipping right then and there. "Macaroni and
Cheese" is as close to a love song as a kid can get.
The soothing "Everything is Alright" (with vocals
by the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins) marks the end of another
eventful day as a child.
With this happy collection of songs, Rudnick
explores the moments in a child's life that belong especially
to children -- but that we can share if we want to.
- Ashley R. Crownover
School Library Journal reviewed Emily Songs in the March, 2002 issue:
Four of the 11 songs on this album were
written by Ben Rudnick for his daughter Emily. Two of them
are traditional, with arrangements by Rudnick. Jeff Bird
of the Cowboy Junkies contributes by playing harmonica,
cymbal, tambourine, shakers, bells, wood blocks, guiro,
key chime, glockenspiel, bird chirps, triangle and more.
These are mostly happy, bouncy, bluegrassy
and other country-style songs for children and their parents.
"I Like Silver, I Like Gold" celebrates colors;
"I Need a Hand" says a child when crossing the
street; "Cowgirl Song" has a very catchy tune
and is about wishing to be a cowboy, mustang, coyote and
cowgirl; "Rainy Day" has the sound of raindrops
in the background; and in "Monkey and the Engineer,"
the monkey decides to operate the locomotive.
"Skip to My Lou" and "The
Window" are traditional songs with new musical arrangements
by Rudnick. "DaDaLaDa," "Salt Creek,"
"El Cumbanchero," and "Brad's Polka"
are all instrumental tunes. With high-quality vocals and
instrumentals, this is an excellent album for all those
who love bluegrass and country music.
- Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public
Los Angeles Times reviewed
Emily Songs, November 22, 2001
Look and Listen
By Lynne Heffley, Times Staff Writer
Brash and sunny rhythms, with some fine musicians doing
the plucking and strumming, are the strength of singer-guitarist
Ben Rudnick's collection of playful songs. Instrumental
tracks ("DaDaLaDa," "Salt Creek,"
"El Cumbanchero") are stand-out toe-tappers,
while Rudnick, infuses his songs, and arrangements of
a few traditional tunes, with mild silliness."The
Window," for instance, interweaves several nursery
rhymes with a nonsensical, slightly dubious "throw
it out the window" refrain; in "I Need a Hand,"
crossing the street requires not only a helping hand,
but also a penguin, a toaster and a cupcake.
Nashville Parent Magazine reviewed Emily Songs, November 1, 2001
Listen Up Records. Ages preschool and older.
If cowboys moonlighted as children's musical entertainers,
these would be the songs they'd sing! A gently rollicking,
country western-flavored gallop through childhood, "Emily
Songs" just begs to be danced to. The comic absurdity
of "I Need a Hand", "The Window" and
"Monkey and the Engineer" will leave the little
ones in stitches.
Though it's difficult to single out a favorite track
on this engaging CD, "Cowgirl Song" is definitely
the rootinest, tootinest tune this side of Abilene. Excellent
music and musicianship make hearing this CD played over
and over again (as kids want to do) a real pleasure."
- Ashley R. Crownover
The Boston Parent's Paper
reviewed Emily Songs, November 1, 2001
Dancing to Emily Songs
Ben Rudnick and Friends' Emily Songs may be just the
CD to get your family through a rainy Saturday.
Arlington resident Ben Rudnick has assembled a variety
of bouncy bluegrass tunes and added some traditional favorites
and old-fashioned fiddle pieces that are sure to get little
- Cathy Elcik
reviewed Emily Songs, April 9, 2001
A peppy blend of banjo, guitar, mandolin and a host
of other instruments give Rudnick's debut children's recording
a buoyant sense of fun. In his four original songs, Rudnick
frequently goes for the funny bone, but also unfuses his
work with subtle messages about a child's desire for adult
help ("I Need a Hand") and the joys of self-expression
("I Like Silver I Like Gold" and "Cowgirl
The music is given plenty of room to shine, not only
on traditional tunes like "Skip to My Lou" and
"The Window" but also on several instrumental
tracks, including "Salt Creek" and "Brad's
Polka." The upbeat bluegrass sound includes the accomplished
work of Jeff Bird (of the band Cowboy Junkies) on harmonica
and a hodgepodge of percussion instruments including cowbells,
wood blocks, triangle, tambourine - with a few hand claps
and bird chirps thrown in.
mentioned "Emily Songs", May 5th, 2001 in the
Child's Play column
alt-rocker has popped up on a kid's album: Jeff Bird of
the Cowboy Junkies contributes to a charming collection
called Emily Songs, by Ben Rudnick & Friends.