John Carlin & The Kids Music Underground
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John Carlin & The Kids Music Underground

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"John Carlin & the Kids Music Underground"

A few years ago, Brooklyn's John Carlin started his own program of interactive music classes for kids, and called it "The Kids' Music Underground." About the same time, he released his first CD for kids, First Time for Everything, a one-man project of covers and originals. This January, Carlin and his band released Welcome to the Kids' Music Underground!, an album that's more in keeping with his personal worldview and musical ideals exemplified by his programs for children.

Carlin and band roll through some rootsy rock on "Meet You at the Playground," "A Dinosaur Named Fred," "Air Guitar," and the title track, while world music and the blues are featured on "Jambalaya Road" and "Big Bed Now." Carlin includes a full-band remake of "Eliza" from First Time, sounding that much better with vocal harmonies and additional instruments added to the mix.

The activity songs "I'm Flyin'" and "Tag Song" are perfect for live concerts, while the band sound a bit like Wet Willie on the mostly-vocals tune "Everybody's Rollin'." But I gotta admit, I like the the slower songs on Welcome better, with exceptional tunes like "Extraordinary Day," "One Family," "My Front Door," and "Goodbye Song" sounding like they could be included on a new version of Sesame Street.

Kids' music nowadays is a kind of underground movement, as bands and performers like John Carlin make albums that are flying under the mainstream radar. Support your local children's music scene and get kid rockers like Carlin, and his album Welcome to the Kids' Music Underground!, on the radar. - Kids Music That Rocks

"CD Review: 'Welcome To The Kids Music Underground'"

Way back in the dark, grungy days of 1993, when every label was looking for the next Nirvana, I received a package from RCA containing the self-titled debut from a band called 700 Miles. The record didn’t do anything on the charts, and I was pretty vehemently anti-grunge, but 700 Miles still stuck with me — particularly the songs “Messages” and “Cherish This” — to the point that I was probably one of maybe two dozen journalists who called RCA’s publicity department to request the band’s second effort, Dirtbomb.

Now, 700 Miles wasn’t the best band in the world, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog, and later in the decade, I checked around to find out what happened to the band members after they went their separate ways. I knew frontman John Carlin moved on to a solo career, but for whatever reason, never got around to covering or purchasing his albums; all I knew of his work was the harrowing stuff he did with 700 Miles. So imagine my surprise a few years ago when I learned that Carlin had started a new career as a children’s musician — and the sort of children’s musician who wears brightly striped shirts and decks out his album artwork in Day-Glo colors.

If Welcome to the Kids Music Underground is musical carpetbagging, it doesn’t show in the songs; it might come clothed in some goofy packaging, but the contents are breezy, funny, and sensitive. Even better, the album has what might be the biggest age range I’ve heard in a kids’ record in some time — these 14 songs have something to appeal to young ones (“A Dinosaur Named Fred”), not-as-young ones (“Meet You at the Playground”), and even pre-teens (“Air Guitar”). Hell, “Jambalaya Road” has as much authentic New Orleans flavor as Huey Lewis and the News’ “Old Anetone’s,” a song I remember finding fairly funky at age 14. It resists pandering to its audience as successfully as any children’s album I can remember hearing, and the songs are terrifically catchy — not to mention short enough to fit young attention spans.

In the liner notes, Carlin says the group “journeyed far and wide, through our imagination and beyond; one stop was Brazil, where we discovered a different language of music” — but Underground isn’t exactly Rhythm of the Saints, if you know what I mean. Any world music influences have been blended pretty finely into Carlin’s own brand of well-written pop, which is nothing but a good thing. Purchase it for your brood now, and thank me later. -


'First Time For Everything' (Firehorse Records 2006);
'Welcome To The Kids Music Underground' (Firehorse Records 2009)



John Carlin & The Kids Music Underground was recently voted 'one of the best kids' bands in NYC' (TimeOutNY Kids). Mixing high-energy indie rock with groovy world rhythms, and a sophisticated pop sensibility, John and the KMU are known for their highly interactive shows, where they get the crowd up and singing, dancing, clapping (and hopping and howling!).
Carlin, a sought-after early childhood music educator for the past decade, also has genuine indie cred (his old band toured with Radiohead and PJ Harvey, among others).
And with the advent of the KMU music/travel TV show and online children's university - see the upcoming Apr 2010 issue of TimeOutNY Kids - he's set to re-invent children's edutainment for the 21st century.
Visit for more info.