Banjo to Beatbox Review of CATHY & MARCY's New CD
June 28, 2009
by Caroline Holt
I was fortunate enough to see two-time, GRAMMY Award winner CATHY & MARCY (Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer) at my elementary school music teacher's (and fellow GRAMMY winner) retirement concert in 2005. They captivated the audience with catchy folk songs and accessible tunes for all ages. I could not wait to pop in their newest CD entitled Banjo to Beatbox, and especially intrigued by their special guest artist, beatboxer and rapper, Christylez Bacon.
If you are not a Tribe Called Quest fan like me, and/or are not familiar with beatbox, it is a music style of syncopated mouth drumming, and best explained by Christylez himself in their second song entitled It's the Beatbox:
"It took a lot of practice and it started as a hobby. And now I've got 20 different drums in my body. It's the beatbox…the human beatbox… I can make people groove ‘cause it sounds so smooth… The beatbox it started back in the late ‘80s. People heard the sounds with the mouth and said "that's crazy!" And you can make the sounds with the letters of the alphabet like bs, and ps and t-t-t-t-s, and other things from [tick, tock] like clock sounds and [ding, dong] door bell rings. You see the beatbox, it uses all kinds of things."
From the album's title and the cover's description--"Family music veterans CATHY & MARCY fuse their talents with Washington D.C.'s young hip-hop sensation Christylez Bacon. Beatbox (mouth drums) meets the banjo, nursery rhyme meets the hip-hop fractured fairy tale and traditional folk song meets a whole new sound!"--I was certain this would be jam-packed with new beats and rhythms. I hoped this CD would open my children's world to local talent in two genres, and be great adult listening to boot. It did not fully live up to my hopes, however.
It begins with a more classic CATHY & MARCY tune about how the world needs more music and jubilation, with which I completely agree. It includes an ode to soups ("that miso soup, that noodle noodle soup, that French onion soup, that shoe lace soup"), their rendition of Froggy Went a Courtin' (Laurie Berkner's rendition is on Putamayo's "Folk Playground"), a hip-hop version of the tale of humpty dumpty, and ends with a catchy song about counting, with a cool, Christylez mouth-drum solo.
With children's music, I find it is important for the grown-ups to love it as it is for the kids, because of course, the grown-ups must listen to it simultaneously. And if grown-ups do not care for the music, they will not play it.
My one-year old bounces around on each beatbox song, but crawls away for the folk songs. My four-year old likes the Syncopated Washboard Rhythm Song and Hip Hop Humpty Dumpty and keeps quoting their lyrics, but he asks me to change the CD during the straight folk music (which he does when we listen to any folk music; apparently he did not get the hippie gene from my Woodstock-going parents).
Personally, I have loved rap and hip-hop since the Beastie Boys came into my elementary school life, so I was disappointed by how short the CD is, and found it annoying that it flip-flops between beatbox and folk songs. I would have preferred them to have beatbox threaded through all the songs, or that it be a straight folk and family music CD. It is also a mere 29 ½ minutes of music (eight songs), which are over before you know it.
The four other adults for whom I played the CD twice all enjoyed the folk music, but did not care for the beatbox at all. One is a world-music lover (I believe she owns every Putamayo CD), and the other three enjoy folk music, pop music, and contemporary. Each declared they would not play this CD voluntarily because of the "jarring beatbox."
So you will need to think this purchase through on your own. If you love or are open to beatbox, rap and hip-hop and love folk music, this CD will add some diversity to your music collection, and you should check it out. If you find hip hop and folk mutually exclusive musical styles, you may not like this CD much since it jumps back and forth from beatbox to banjo about every other song. Visit their website to hear various audio clips.
It does include Mac and PC friendly QUICKTIME videos, which provide a great multimedia addition to really appreciate Christylez's artistry if you do try it. But at $8 for the entire CD or digital download, I would download it and support three great local artists. Even if you only care for half of the songs, that would only be $2 per melody!
To download the first song called Jubilation from this CD for free, or to get your own copy of CATHY & MARCY's Banjo to Beatbox for $8, visit their site at www.cathymarcy.com.
You can also enjoy their blog or purchase one of fifteen other children's CDs on their site including Changing Channels, SCAT LIKE THAT or Bon Appetit! Check them out!