Release Date: 7 November 2011
Maybe the smartest thing about Laura Veirs' new children's album, Tumble Bee, is that some of its tracks aren't even children's songs. Researching the rich history of American folk music for material she could interpret, Veirs cast a wide net to include not only tunes written expressly for kids, but any other compositions she felt could reasonably slot alongside the likes of "Little Lap Dog Lullaby" and "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O". Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the way our 21st-century ears tend to hear anything written 50 or 100 or more years ago as comparatively quaint, songs as thematically disparate as the Civil War-era "Soldier's Joy" (here a duet with the Decemberists' Colin Meloy) and a calypso tune popularized by Harry Belafonte, "Jamaica Farewell", don't feel so out of place on a record aimed at little ones.
The title track, a Karl Blau song, is underlined by a grown-up recognition of disappointment and loss. The music may be jaunty, riding playful trumpets and sparkly keys, but the words and Veirs' fragile voice point to a more sobering reality. "She'll sting me as she longs to be free," Veirs sings of the titular insect. Tumble Bee is a welcome addition to contemporary children's music, not only because it's sufficiently involving to appeal to adults, but also because it further demonstrates that songs for kids don't have to be cloying or sanitized.
- Joshua Love, Pitchfork (2011)