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Sunny Day CD Review by Melissa Cummings

Elizabeth Mitchell
Smithsonian Folkways
PO Box 37012, MRC 520, CG 2001
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Roger Hammerstein said, "All the sounds on earth are like music." Elizabeth Mitchell makes music that takes us to many places on earth, into nature, through cultures, and across distances, combining instruments, voices, languages, and other creative sounds to weave a tapestry of delightful color that will engage not only your ears and voice but your entire body. Your children will want to sing, dance, and play with Mitchell and her musical crew, which includes her husband, their daughter, and other family members and friends.

Clean, fresh sounds and simple lyrics work together to combine professional quality with homespun harmonies that draw the ears of the whole family regardless of musical experience or style preference. There is something for everyone on Sunny Day. Whether you play it in the background during your day, analyze the music with children for poetry and instrument identification, or sing along as a family on a long car trip--this collection of music is suitable for multiple occasions. Many of the musical selections are even lyrical enough for a lullaby.

Introducing children to active musical participation can be a lot of fun, and Mitchell encourages this not only by having children's voices play a large role on the CD but also by providing supplemental aids. A 28-page full-color booklet is enclosed with the disc, and there are online resources available, such as music videos and a teacher's guide for instructing children in the process of storytelling through song. Dr. Emma D. Sheehy, who taught at Columbia University and authored There's Music in Children, said that "Children learn to talk by experimenting and listening; they can learn to make music by experimenting and listening." Sunny Day 's style and character encourages that very experimentation and opportunity for listening. It is easy to incorporate your children, regardless of age, into this music and make it a very kinesthetic experience. If you have a guitar, bring it out and let your child strum along. If you have metal bowls and wooden spoons, even your smallest tot can drum along. The call and response form of some of the songs makes it easy for children to learn the lyrics, especially if a parent participates and engages with them. You may just find that your whole family will be dancing and clapping together by the time the second track starts to play. Learning to identify both the common and unique instruments on this disc would be another fun activity for all ages.

The enclosed booklet affords a personal view into the heart of Elizabeth Mitchell, her history, her goals, her family, and her art. Each of the 19 tracks has a story behind it, and Mitchell shares these stories here along with any pertinent credits or history, giving the listener another insight into the storytelling aspect of song. Simple subject matter like rabbits, elephants, sunshine, the moon, playtime, and fresh biscuits from the kitchen will make your children smile. The simplicity, however, leaves nothing to be desired even for adult listeners, as the combination of voices and instruments is clever, thoughtful, and seamless.

While most of the musical selections on Sunny Day fall into categories of American traditional, bluegrass, or folk music, there are nods to exotic influence with Japanese and Korean lyrics, a reggae piece, and the voices of a South African children's choir. This is a great introduction to different styles of music for your child's listening enjoyment. Sunny Day is well worth the price to have in your musical collection, and the online companion resources are worth perusing. You and your children will be reminded of the beauty of music and the beauty of the world around you through Elizabeth Mitchell's charming rendering of both new and classic tunes.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010