Most commercial children's music seems to be made under the assumption that youngsters are incapable of appreciating subtlety and need to be aurally slapped about the face with melodic and lyrical repetition in order to make sense of what they're hearing. Elizabeth Mitchell is an educator and musician who thankfully knows better; as the lead singer with Ida, she's been lending her lovely voice to folk-leaning indie rock for years, and in recent years she's been displaying the same intelligence and playful joie de vivre on a handful of recordings for children. You Are My Little Bird is Mitchell's third album for kids, recorded with help from Daniel Littleton (her husband and bandmate in Ida) as well as His Name Is Alive's Warren Defever, and it's a sweet, simple gem, as warm and joyous as a clear spring day. Mitchell's notion of what makes a children's song may be a bit different than those of most folks, since You Are My Little Bird includes covers of the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" and Neil Young's "Little Wing," but there's an engaging simplicity and humanity to this music that should easily charm both kids and adults, and "Little Liza Jane," "Buckeye Jim" and "Grassy Grass Grass" are folk tunes that make perfect singalongs, regardless of the age of the audience. The arrangements on You Are My Little Bird are primarily acoustic and purposefully low-key, and they allow the melodies of these songs to shine through, and Mitchell's singing is elegant, unforced, and a thoroughly natural pleasure to behold. The quieter moments of this album are ideal for evening play or bedtime, and if you're looking for a disc that will soothe all members of the family during a long car ride, this album is just what you've been looking for. Some parents will doubtless find themselves borrowing You Are My Little Bird from their offspring to play for their own pleasure -- it's an album almost magical in its enchanting simplicity, and should be welcome listening even in homes without any little ones about.
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Rooted in tradition but with her own distinctive, breezy style, Elizabeth Mitchell offers a fresh, lively folk album that'll please little ones and their music-loving caregivers alike. As on her collaborative disc with Lisa Loeb, Catch the Moon, You Are My Little Bird focuses on the winsome sound of Mitchell's voice, backed by acoustic instruments, hand percussion, and harmonies from friends and family including her husband Dan Littleton and young daughter Storey Littleton. True to the album's folksy nature -- and its release through the lauded Smithsonian Folkways label, home to Pete Seeger and Ella Jenkins -- the song list includes tunes by Seeger (the irresistibly sweet "Little Bird, Little Bird," plucked on a banjo) and Woody Guthrie (the spare yet lively "Who's My Pretty Baby," outfitted with a Bo Diddley beat). From there, Mitchell tries her voice at non-English tunes such as the Korean "Pom Na Tu Ri (Springtime Outing)" and the Spanish "Los Pollitos (The Little Chicks)," which she says in the extensive liner notes that she discovered on a Folkways album by Suni Paz. From there, the adventurous singer introduces young fans to Vashti Bunyan (the singsongy "Lily Pond"), the Velvet Underground (a gently pulsing "What Goes On"), Gillian Welch (the blues-tinged "Winter's Come and Gone"), and Bob Marley ("Three Little Birds," which incorporates just enough youthful voices to add color without being cloying). With its decades-spanning repertoire and homespun arrangements, You Are My Little Bird plays like a soundtrack to a Saturday afternoon at the Mitchell-Littleton house - which, by the sound of it, would be a pretty nice place to spend the day.