In my recent post about performing for an audience of kids I mentioned that Dan Zanes has an instant advantage with a kid audience because he has that uniquely crazy cool look. Well, I think that Ginger Hendrix also has an instant advantage as a music performer... no, she doesn't look like Dan Zanes... that probably wouldn't work so well for a woman... but she automatically has an essence of cool about her because of her name. Ginger Hendrix! Wow, how cool is that?! 'Ginger' is a sweet spice, and also the name of the great drummer from Cream, Ginger Baker, the legendary singer and dancer Ginger Rogers, and of course that sultry starlet from Gilligan's Island. So she's already off and running with her first name. And 'Hendrix', well gosh, it would be hard to find a first name that wouldn't sound cool with that... Ebenezer Hendrix. Cool. Bertha Hendrix. Still pretty cool. Dweezil Hendrix. Very cool. I almost wonder if 'Ginger Hendrix' is even her real name, but I certainly wouldn't blame her if she did change her name to that, because it's so great of a name. (Note to self: should have gone with Eric Hendrix. D'oh!)
As if it wasn't enough that Ginger has one of the best... names... ever... she also endears herself to kids right off the bat on her debut CD of children's music, Macaroni Boy Eats at Chez Shooby Doo, by using the word 'stinky' abundantly in the first song, "Stinky Trash", and evoking the very funny image of "a nose with legs". Ginger has a voice that varies between being strong and a little raspy/bluesy, almost like a more restrained Janis Joplin, and being very pretty and smooth. Her singing is a little unpolished at times, but her voice and her phrasing are both filled to overflowing with all-important character.
The next two songs on Macaroni Boy are just kind of okaaay for me, and I might have sequenced them later on the disc (though I've second-guessed the track order on all three of my own CDs, so I'm certainly no expert in that regard!), but the CD really takes off from there in a big way. The fourth track is the title track, which is a story song about a kid in a restaurant and the persistent waiter who tries in vain to sway the boy from ordering his beloved "macaroni, that creamy cheesy treat". There's a brilliance to the waiter's offerings such as "angel tooth pasta", "artichoke flannel ragout" and "wild billy goat hoof cheese", because it's that kind of mish-mash of words that kids likely hear when fancy waiters deliver their spiels. There's almost a "Cheese Shop" feel to this track, and the only complaint is that it just kind of ends after the fourth verse, and I was expecting some kind of Python-esque punch line or ending. But it's still a lot of fun, and you can even make a game out of it. My daughter, Becca, and I have been playing it together a lot lately, where we take turns being the waiter and the kid. Whenever Becca is the waiter, she tends to use the word "sausage" a lot, as in "peanut butter sausage ice cream". "Sausage" is just one of those particularly funny words for kids, you know, like "stinky".
The rest of the songs on Macaroni Boy are very charming, too. "My Daddy Loves Tools" is about a daddy who loves tools, though I'm sure you could have guessed that from the title, and includes some percussion sounds to go along with the tool descriptions. "Let's Pretend" has a great melody and sense of imagination and participation. "Funny Word Dictionary" has some cute definitions like "baa squeezy swish swish", which means "that sheep is wearing panty hose". The first time I heard "Rocking My Cat to Sleep" I wasn't paying close attention to the early part of the song and so when I heard only the later part I thought it was a sadly sweet (or sweetly sad) and poignant song about pet loss. But then I heard the first part where she says she likes rocking her cat to sleep, so now I'm not really sure what it's about... maybe dogs are just too big to comfortably rock to sleep? I think I liked it better as a coping with loss kind of thing, but I still think it's very beautiful, regardless. "There Was Another Old Woman" is an amusing parody that replaces fly and horse swallowing with women's fashion.
The CD ends with four tracks recorded at an intimate live setting, and it is these tracks which really shine a bright light on what a great kids' performer Ginger is. With the rest of the album being almost entirely arranged with only her voice and guitar, I kind of wonder why she didn't just do the whole album as a live show. It would have made for a more consistent recording and I'm sure many of the other tracks would have also showed off her sense of humor and the audience participation in the live setting. But anyway, the first of the live tracks is "Teacher Mary School", which has a very simple and very catchy hook (most of these songs do, by the way) and a funny participation part where Ginger asks "One of our favorite things to do is..." and the kids always answer "Play!" Ginger acts as if that is the greatest answer each time it is given, which is a wonderful way to respond. "The Breakfast Song" includes more participation and amusement from Ginger and the kids as they turn what they had for breakfast into refrains, though I wasn't crazy about the coffee verse at the end (what is it with so many kids' musicians with songs and references about coffee??). The CD ends with a very sweet ballad called "My Mommy Loves Me", which includes some verses that keep it real, like "Sometimes I hit my brother and I make him cry. Sometimes I miss the potty, even when I really try." And then she brings it home with the title of the song, sung with a neat waver on the word "lu-uh-uves". Oh yeah, very nice.
Ginger has a unique and well-developed sense of humor and comedy which is rare and delightful. For adults, it's not so much laugh-out-loud humor as it is big-smile-on-the-face humor, but for the preschool audience that seems to be her ideal target, I'm sure there are many squeals of laughter when Ginger and her guitar are in the room. Ginger Hendrix not only has an amazing name, but she is a terrific all-around entertainer who really plays around in that wonderfully colorful bounce house that is a child's mind.
Ginger Hendrix website