I know this guy named Eddie Douglas. He is a professional substitute teacher (meaning he does only short-term jobs). I’ve crossed paths with him at all four elementary schools I’ve worked at, and we always enjoy a chat when we see each other. He also happens to be a Juno-nominated musician.
Eddie has three albums created for children. The first is a collection of Dennis Lee poems, set to Eddie’s music, called Alligator Ice Cream – Jelly Delight! (2002). The second (and Juno-nominated for Children’s Album of the Year), entitled Gonna Keep Dancing (2007), is described as a “colourful extravaganza of children’s poetry in song” that “showcases the lyrics of some of Canada’s favourite authors – jazzy & soulful acoustic music with folk roots”. Sounds great! However, being a person who notoriously never carries cash, I had never purchased one of these albums, despite my best intentions, until last week.
This time when Eddie showed up at my school, I had the opportunity not only to purchase but to hear about the making of Eddie’s latest album, Sleepy Sky Lullaby (2011).
It’s a combination of traditional poetry, collaborations, and his own lyrics, set to his own music. Having never actually heard Eddie’s music (shame on me!), I was really hoping I could go home and listen to it and find I sincerely liked it.
Well, as it turns out, I didn’t like it at all.
I loved it. E and I listened to it twice in a row that first evening, and then I put it on again first thing in the morning – even though it’s an album of lullabies. And there have been many listenings since then.
It’s a collection of nighttime songs that are unique, lyrical, subtle, sweet. Sleepy, but not at all boring.
The first track is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, but not as you know it. I have no idea how you go about putting the regular tune for Twinkle Twinkle out of your head long enough to create a new one, but Eddie has managed it. It’s a totally original take, with a Latin-ballad feel – and yet, E recognized the “Twinkle” part, so he liked it.
E was even more taken with the second track, “Luna”, a sweet little moon song that walks the line between funky and mellow – it’s both danceable and rock(to sleep)able. So, two songs in, we had already achieved E’s approval – and this is not always easy. Oftentimes when we put on something he hasn’t heard much, he’ll state categorically “I don’t like this music,” and set about taking it from the stereo and putting it back in its case. (At least he’s responsible like that.)
“Sleep Drum” is one I know my mom is going to love – she’s a musician/biologist with an affinity for nature themes, not to mention the sound of a traditional skin drum. “Carry Me” and “Do Aen Do A” are both specifically Daddy lullabies, which is great: there aren’t yet enough Daddies in lullaby-land. “The Swing” is enchantingly soporific.
The song “Baby’s Boat”, like “Twinkle Twinkle”, has a tune entirely different from the one my mama sang to me, but with that same wistful quality that tugged at my childish heartstrings (as I tried to conceive of a situation in which I could possibly sail across the sky and not remember to come home to my parents: Sail, baby, sail, Out across the sea, Only don’t forget to sail Home again to me.). Talking about the album with me, Eddie admitted he’d never heard the melody I knew – he had only those cosmic lyrics to go on as he composed.
Another favourite of mine is “Lullaby, Oh Lullaby”, a deceptively simple song with gorgeous unexpected chord progressions and a deliciously sleepy timbre.
But my hands-down favourite is “Night-time Song”, one of Eddie’s collaborations with children’s author Jo Ellen Bogart. I think I could actually put this on Repeat and listen to it for hours (which, for me, is saying a lot). The harmonies are rich and beautiful, and the gentle guitar part – much more than an accompaniment – speaks directly to that nostalgic, tenderfooted part of me that still doesn’t know how I got to be an adult and forgot how to play in the fallen leaves. Reminds me a lot of David Francey – which is a very good thing.
So, to sum up: Sleepy Sky Lullaby is incredibly listenable. The whole thing. Your kids should be listening to it, and so should you.
Please check out Fat Flea Music for sound clips and more information about Eddie and his albums.
Eddie, bravo. Thank you for writing such lovely music.