KidTunes: Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights What a Zoo
Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights confirm what some of us aging hippies have known all along—it’s all happening at the zoo. In What a Zoo, a joyful album for children, Leeds celebrates all the animals who share the planet with us, and does a little complaining, too (“Mosquitoes”).
Leeds mixes her own compositions with traditional music (a bluesy/rap version of “Froggie Went A-Courtin’” featuring Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, “Pony Boy,” and “Wimoweh [The Lion Sleeps Tonight]”) and “Possum” by Phish (a reminder to look before you cross the street), providing kids and their families a delightful visit to the animal world where they meet whales, clams, hummingbirds, sea cows, and butterflies.
Animal metaphors and similes are explored with the fun exercise in word play, “Happy as a Clam,” a song that may take a little time to learn but is an awful lot of fun to sing. The “Tofurky Song” is a welcome Thanksgiving song for families whose diets are animal-free, that becomes more manic as it goes along.
Leeds sings songs that stretch the imagination (“If You Go,” “Animals in Concert” at Carnegie Hall, no less), and introduces kids to animals with which they may not be familiar. In addition to providing infectious kidtunes, What a Zoo is a springboard to learning more about different kinds of animals. Most of the music is folky, but Leeds and the Nightlights prove they can also rock out, giving kids another reason to get up and dance, imitate animals, or just get silly.