Children’s music is not a competition! Some artists craft and hone and spend years between releases. Others make it look effortless, stringing together a collection every year. In the latter category falls the eponymous Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew, known also for The Presidents of the United States of America). Chris has summoned forth his 15th CD of highly original children’s tunes, Keep It Real!
One of the perennial questions when I review music is “What were they thinking?” CB allows us behind the Wizard’s curtain, in a section of his website called “Song Stories,” giving all the insights about tunes like “You Are the Baby.” Basically, Chris laid out his infant children on a blanket. “I sat there with a guitar and played improvisations about how much I love them and how cute they were,” he writes. Asked and answered!
Under “fun facts about Chris,” his Wikipedia page indicates that he shared an apartment with Beck and toured in his band. That would certainly explain some of the amusing quirkiness of Caspar Babypants. There must be something in the water on the West Coast, as Chris seems to be in casual competition with Recess Monkey (14 CDs), although the Monkeynauts gave him a mulligan by taking 2017 off from recording as a group. Both groups seem to have their thumbs right on the pulse of their audiences, devising characters and situations unlike many other established recording artists. Chris crafts “Disco Hippo” and “Watch Petunia Dance” and answers the somber question about “When a Penguin Moves to California.”
Chris is the master of taking traditional tunes and concocting new verses. This talent makes live performances interesting, as children think they know where a song is going – only to have Chris subvert their expectations and go in different directions. He doesn’t go way, way out on “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes,” but does take liberties with “On Top of a Mountain” (think “On Top of Spaghetti”).
Caspar Babypants remains a “family business,” as Chris credits his kids for inspiration and artist wife Kate Endle for design (and children’s books based on his songs). But really it’s the constant creativity that keeps CB in the game. Who else would come up with “Emotional Robot” and “Always Keep A Ukulele In Your Trunk”? And if one song doesn’t quite do it for you, there’s another 19 right behind it. Caspar Babypants may be a figment of our collective imaginations, but he seems determined to Keep It Real!
Keep It Real! is available on August 17 from Caspar Babypants’ website, Amazon, and Apple Music.
Here is the video for the song, “Free Couch”: