If there was ever a time to sing the blues, it was during our shared pandemic year. Contrary to popular belief, the blues are not exclusively gloomy or unhappy. Blues is a song style that can convey many positive sentiments, such as family, environment, and community. Leading the 2021 blues brigade is Boulder, Colorado-based Jenn Cleary, with her first children’s release, All Together Now!
Cleary’s journey to children’s music took a circuitous path that went through Nepal, India, and Tibet. Making a difference on that side of the planet, she founded and ran a non-profit that promoted locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in those countries. During that time, Cleary became acquainted with Dorje Dolma, a girl raised by nomadic yak herders in Nepal who needed life-saving surgeries. Cleary brought Dorje to America and subsequently adopted her. After college, Dorje went to work in a preschool and the duo co-wrote the song, “Families Of All Kinds,” based on Dorje’s firsthand experiences. Dorje also contributed the cover artwork, “Healing Heart,” for All Together Now! (For more about Dorje’s journey, you can read her book, Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal.)
During the past two decades, Jenn Cleary has released three adult-oriented blues CDs and performed around the world, including at the Sundance Film Festival and Colorado Rockies games. Her playlist always included a handful of infectious, kid-friendly tunes, leading her to develop All Together Now! for family audiences. Cleary shares flights of fantasy on songs like “Dinosaur Friend” and “Bubbles.” Similar to Tom Chapin’s “This Pretty Planet,” Cleary mixes social consciousness with traditional family interests. An avid beekeeper, the pollinating creatures make appearances on several tunes, most prominently on “My Sisters And Me” about a beehive working in harmony. The theme is crystal clear in numbers like “Clean Water,” Love Right Now,” and “Backyard Farm” (her zydeco variation on “Old MacDonald”).
Having traveled extensively and helped families in far-flung countries, Cleary doesn’t break a sweat singing about the disparity of families. What makes a family different doesn’t make it any less relevant as a family unit, she points out on “Families of All Kinds.” That also goes for the animal kingdom, on “Our Wild Family.” Thanks to technology, the pandemic showed kids that their concerns are no different from other children around the world. On All Together Now!, Cleary celebrates the amazing variety of universal values that surround and sustain our civilization. That’s clear cause for upbeat blues, sunny skies, and honey bees.
Here is a video for Jenn’s song “Those Boys”: