We didn’t really understand what was about to happen at the time, but when my daughter Sophie was born, my wife and I embarked on a monthslong journey into that hellish place known as Teaching Them to Sleep Land. It’s always dark there, and always foggy, and there’s never anything on TV except for infomercials. Oh, and there’s a lot of crying, and you’ll do anything to escape.
We’re better now (thanks, Sleep Lady!), but Sophie is still, as she approaches her third birthday, the type of child who would rather be awake — which is why she has an iPod in her room, plugged into one of those iHome alarm clocks, and loaded with gigabytes upon gigabytes of children’s music. We had a CD player in there, you see, but it didn’t have a “repeat” button, and after we’d been woken up a few dozen times with screams of “PLEASE TURN MY MUSIC BACK ON,” we figured we might as well just give the kid my old iPod and let it run all night.
It’s worked brilliantly; for months, Sophie fell asleep listening to a specially assembled list of bedtime songs, put together by yours truly. But for the past few weeks, all she’s wanted to listen to is the album she calls “Bird Songs”: Danielle Sansone’s Two Flowers.
I’d never heard of Sansone before receiving this CD, but she made her journey to children’s music the old-fashioned way — namely, via an aborted career as a grown-up singer/songwriter. She played the Eastern circuit in the ’90s, eventually releasing an album, but marriage and motherhood put those plans on the back burner for a decade or so. Sansone was teaching family music classes when she started writing again, and though the songs were initially meant mainly as gifts for her two daughters, she eventually started working them into her classtime repertoire, and the positive response helped push her toward recording them.
(It bears mentioning that Sansone’s brother, Pat, is a member of Wilco and the Autumn Defense, and having his input and participation on Two Flowers is a luxury that most moms who dream of making an album can’t afford…but rare is the artistic endeavor that doesn’t benefit from the support of some type of benefactor.)
Two Flowers is, in a word, beautiful. Sansone’s tough-yet-delicate vocals will remind you of folk-rooted singers such as Natalie Merchant or Rosanne Cash, and her songs’ simple, beautifully layered arrangements serve them perfectly. Sansone calls them “lullabies and love songs,” and as my daughter’s latest nighttime ritual of snuggling down and asking for “Bird Songs” can attest, they do what they’re supposed to: comfort and relax the little ones.
But if your tastes run to the folk and bluegrass end of the musical spectrum, you may very well find yourself bogarting your kid’s copy of Two Flowers and playing it for yourself. The song’s aren’t cutesy, and they don’t pander to their audience; Sansone and arranger Will Robertson have kept things simple without dumbing them down, and the result is a collection that will appeal to all ages. (Case in point: my wife, who has purchased at least one Natalie Merchant CD in her day, swooned as soon as the music came floating out of the speakers.) If you’re trapped in Teaching Them to Sleep Land — or just looking for a gentle, relaxing album for the entire family to enjoy — visit Sansone at her website and sample Two Flowers today.