It's hard to imagine a better name for a kid's music bluegrass band than Astrograss, and Astrograss delivers on the promise of their name on their new album The Colored Pencil Factory. From the first song, "Make It Up", Astrograss launches into an upbeat jam of bluegrass fun, encouraging kids to use their imaginations. The genius of Astrograss is how they use bluegrass to create fun songs since bluegrass, at least played up tempo, is inherently active and fun music with fiddle, picked guitar and banjo giving the music a jumping quality that makes you want to move. Equally impressive are the lyrics and vocals, such as on the title track, where kids are told how life can be fun seeing the world in terms of colors, mixing them up for an explosion of saturation. Or on "Freak Out" where Astrograss sings "just bust out a move and play". It also speaks to Astrograss's understanding of the traditions of bluegrass and how they incorporate those traditions in their vocal approach, with ensemble singing and the utilization of call and response.
Even when the pace slows on songs such as "Brand New Nose", which is a ballad of being sick and dreaming of being better, there is an element of fun in the plea for dreams to deliver a new nose so the protagonist can breathe. And that is one other aspect of The Colored Pencil Factory which works, a blend of points of view: some songs like "Make It Up" are from the point of view of an adult talking to kids in a way that encourages them, while other songs such as "Minutes Into Flowers" are expressed from the child's voice, doing well to see the world in terms that a child might, especially in this song where the passing of time cannot go fast enough, "when will we get there/I would like to know/I don't care where we are going/but let's not go so slow". In the end, The Colored Pencil Factory by Astrograss is a great album for kids, introducing them to the delights of bluegrass in fun songs that engage kids imaginatively and physically.
The Colored Pencil Factory by Astrograss is out now.
A CD was provided for review.