Coal Train Railroad
Gig Seeker Pro

Coal Train Railroad

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Band Jazz Children's Music

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


There was a time not long ago when the world of children’s music was its own singular hell, inhabited by syrupy lyrics, cloying melodies and purple dinosaurs. But with the birth of the “not for kids only” music movement, spearheaded by the likes of They Might Be Giants, Dan Zanes and Nashville’s own “Farmer” Jason Ringenberg, parents no longer have to fear going postal on the three-hour drive to Grandma’s. While those artists blend child-friendly lyrical concepts with eminently listenable rock and folk music, The Coal Train Players have ventured into less charted territory—a jazz children’s record.

At first blush you might think jazz’s sophistication would be a poor fit for kids, but listen to just a few minutes of Coal Train Railroad and it’s clear the genre’s whimsical and spontaneous nature is perfect fit for a child’s still-unbounded imagination. Featuring a wide array of styles—from bluesy shout-alongs, swing and bossa nova to the Victrola-worthy old-time jump of “Bellybutton Stays the Same”—the disc provides a musical as well as lyrical education. The brainchild of singer Katy Bowser and bassist Chris Donohue (Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller), who together co-wrote all of the songs, Coal Train Railroad also features some of Nashville’s heaviest hitters, including saxophonist Jeff Coffin and trumpeter Rod McGaha. Initial reaction has been so positive that Bowser and Donohue are in talks with a children’s-TV veteran about expanding the concept into an animated kids’ series—stay, uh, tuned. -Jack Silverman - Nashville Scene


The Sound: Jazz. Straight up, honest-to-goodness grown-up jazz music with kid-friendly lyrics.
In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: Hayes Greenfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker
Best Moments: I simply swoon over “Snuggling Suits Me Just Fine”. My heart warms up a few degrees every single time I hear Katy Bowser smile while playfully saying, over top the instrumental bridge, “So it’s really fun to snuggle when you’ve got a buddy / and there’s some warm laundry / ’cause your mom did some laundry / and there’s some warm laundry / that’s the best” and I nod emphatically at the start, when she asks “Hey / Are you chilly? / ‘Cause I’m kinda chilly / Wanna snuggle?” Were a super snuggly bunch as it is, the girls and I, and we’ve adopted Coal Train Railroad’s “Snuggling Suits My Just Fine” as our new theme song.
You’re going to hear a little bit of Peggy Lee and Ella on “Just the Juice, Jack”, a tune with a melancholy piano/voice opening that leaps into action to quench your thirst for sweet, 100% real juice jazz. It’ll likely become your kid’s favorite jazz number, or at the very least, introduce to them a novel new way in which to request a glass of apple juice in the mornin’.
You’ll likely never hear a kid say “I’ll take a nap / and after that / the world’s always a nicer place it seems”, but it’s so very true. “I Need A Nap” is an elegant lullaby, a smokey tune that makes perfect use of the brushes on the cymbals and toms in creating this scene: a dimly lit club, a small stage, dark red velvet curtains in the background, and a single, hazy spotlight shining down on just Bowser as she croons your kids to sleep. At least that’s what I see when I hear “I Need A Nap”.
With “What’s Mine is Yours”, Coal Train Railroad show off their Bossa chops. Bowser channels her inner Astrud Gilberto delivering this gem of a sharing/playing together song. Sultry, clever lines such as, “there so much more to keep us occupied / when our imaginations combine”, make the well-worn subject matter way more than just bearable. Put “What’s Mine is Yours” right before “Corcovado” on your iTunes playlist and smile as you shuffle across the house.
Okay, Time to Wrap it Up with a Nice Little Bow: Coal Train Railroad have made the best jazz album for kids that I’ve ever heard. Katy Bowser’s voice is questionably great and the playing of Chris Donohue, et al. is outstanding throughout the 9 tracks, and with all that their Coal Train Railroad CD has everything you want from a jazz record – it’s snappy, cool and classy. It also has some characteristics you may not expect from, or generally associate with, a fine jazz album; songs that are funny and charming, and with lyrical content most children will have a context for (juice, bellybuttons, snuggling, nap time, and a budding independence).
Despite coming from an indie rock background, Coal Train Railroad’s debut disc is, in many ways, the album I’ve been waiting for since starting OWTK 3.5 years ago. It’s a CD I can spin during a dinner party, at nap time, in the car, with or without the kids around, during the girl’s bath time – pretty much at any time of day or night and in anyone’s company.
In other words, it’s versatile and beautiful. I absolutely love this album. - OWTK.com, Jeff Bogle


This CD definitely fits into the category of “music your kids will love and you’ll enjoy too.” It’s a lot of fun, and my 1.5 year old is already asking for “Coal train! Coal Train! Coal Train!” after just a couple spins.

Musically, the main stream the album seems to be wading in is straight ahead small combo style jazz, ala the first Miles Davis quintet, but it playfully explores other tributaries from the history of the genre, using older and newer styles of jazz to broaden it, keep melody central, and keep it accessible. The band is playful, competent, tight and fun. The songs cook, swing, simmer, jam and jump. Jazz enthusiasts will smile at the syncopation, creative melodies and hooks, and various homages throughout the disc, while everyone else will tap their feet, dance, and/or sing along.

Beyond the band, what really makes the Coal Train are the lyrics and vocal performance by the singer. She’s great–got loads of soul and a sense of wild fun in her delivery that brings the songs to life. The lyrics are as fun as the music, about various kid experiences like snuggling, napping, and drinking juice. They take a “kid’s view of the world” approach to those experiences without condescending. For example, the bluesy “It’s Hard to Listen” doesn’t offer any closure to this common childhood dilemma–just like a more “adult” blues song wouldn’t resolve its dilemmas. The standout track for me, and I think for most people, is “My Mouth and Me”, a song that celebrates the fun of making noise while also introducing the concepts of improvization and the sounds of the band. But seriously, the whole disc is fun, so it’s hard to name a standout. The lyrics are clever and will ring true, and the delivery of said lyrics only adds to the fun and the “truthfulness” of the experiences the lyrics describe.

Age-wise, the lyrics target audience is toddlers and their parents. Since the songs don’t condescend and the music is interesting and fun, though, those toddlers who grew up with it will probably return to it as they’re older. That is, despite the specifics of some of the songs (throwing tantrums when you don’t get a nap, being required to hold someone’s hand or put down a fragile object), the themes are pretty universal (who doesn’t love snuggling in clothes fresh out of the dryer?), and older kids will still identify with the experiences even if the songs aren’t “for them” anymore. This is baby music that isn’t babyish.

Point of comparisons: This album belongs on the shelf with Let’s Go Everywhere (Dig), in that it’s creative, jazzy, and intelligent music for kids and their parents, with lyrics from the child’s perspective. They both have their strengths over the other and I recommend both. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d pick Coal Train. Simply put, lyrically, this just comes by its “kid perspective” more naturally. It’s like it’s trying less hard to be relevant and just is more relevant. The album is shorter, but the benefit is that musically it is less self-indulgent. It delivers tight, fun, accessible but no less interesting songs. The album doesn’t have the burden of “we’re an established band, we have to make it sound like MMW” so it can just cut to the chase and bring the tight, fun songs. (The MMW album wins in the following categories, though: It’s MMW, it has songs about pirates, and the title track is awesome.)

Hope that helps. My family loves it, hope you do too. Please buy it. Maybe they’ll make more.”
- David E. Grosser


Discography

Coal Train Railroad- 2009

Photos

Bio

Coal Train Railroad is a collection of original jazz songs created for children by professional musicians in Nashville, TN. The newly-released Coal Train Railroad CD is receiving glowing reviews from parents, musicians, educators, music therapists, critics, and most importantly, kids. Written from a child’s perspective and covering such important topics as bellybuttons, juice, sharing, and snuggling, the songs are inspiring kids all over the world to dance, play, and use their voices to riff along with the musicians.

Produced by bassist Chris Donohue (Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Collective Soul) and featuring the charming, playful voice of Katy Bowser, Coal Train Railroad appeals to grownups, too (not to mention jazz lovers!) Coal Train Railroad features saxophonist extraordinaire and Grammy winner Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band) and widely respected horn player Rod McGaha (Max Roach Orchestra). You’ll keep listening even when the young ones aren’t around!