Alastair Moock is a musician and father whose life took an unexpected turn when his daughter Clio was diagnosed with leukemia last July. But he turned his sorrow and fear into music. His new album Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids — co-written with Clio — confronts his kid’s cancer struggle with humor, love, pathos and bravery.
“We started our first co-write, ‘I’m a Little Monkey,’ almost a year ago to the day,” wrote Moock in an email on the eve of the release of Singing Our Way Through. “Over the next few months, I continued to write and collect songs that reflected my family’s experience — all the love, the (surprising amount of joy), and some of the harder parts too. Eventually, I realized I had an album’s worth of songs that, I thought, might be useful to other families traveling similar paths to our own.”
The styles encompass country and roots, gospel and folk, rock and rap. The originals include “I’m a Little Monkey”; “Have You Ever Been Jealous?”; “Take Care of Your Grownups”; “Take a Little Walk with Me”; the hip-hoppy “B-R-A-V-E”; and, below, the video for the hilariously rocking and touching “When I Get Bald”:
Singing Our Way Through also includes versions of classics like “This Little Light of Mine” (with touching solos by child singers), and Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and features some of Moock’s “favorite singers and musicians in the world,” including Chris Smither, Aoife O’Donovan, Elizabeth Mitchell, Rani Arbo, Mark Erelli, The Okee Dokee Brothers, Jamie Walker, and co-producer Anand Nayak. The album was made possible by what Moock called “a fantastic fundraising campaign.”
Disclosure time: I’m Alastair’s friend, as well his wife’s, the writer Jane Roper, so perhaps I’m biased. But trust me, once you listen to a sample song or two, you’ll want to buy the album. (Incidentally, these two might be Boston’s most impressive creative power couple. Jane’s memoir about parenting, Double Time: How I Survived—and Mostly Thrived—Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins, was just released in paperback.)
“There’s so much you can’t control about cancer,” said soulful-voiced Moock, “but what interests me most as a writer — and a parent of a kid with cancer — are the parts you can control. Being bald is cool if we choose to make it cool.” The music is already grabbing press on Salon.com and Katie Couric’s web series “Katie’s Take.”
“I Am the Light,” the song that begins the album, goes like this:
C is for cancer, that’s growing in me
A is for able, that’s what I will be
Able to bend like a tree in the wind
My branches are strong even though they are thin
“I genuinely think this is something that families with no immediate relationship to cancer will be able to appreciate and, yes, even enjoy.”
“That may sound like a strange claim for a ‘cancer’ album,” Moock added.
But I think he’s right on.