Twitter is a wonderful thing. While I was beginning the journey of relaunching my Self/Made Podcast, I took to twitter to reconnect with some people I haven’t spoken with in a while and I happened to see a tweet from Tami Stronach. That’s right, the one and only Childlike Empress had tweeted looking for “dad blogs”.

Well, DUH. I reached out immediately. A. Because I run a blog. B. I’m a dad. and C. It’s the freakin Childlike Empress from the Never Ending Story! Ahem. Let me compose myself. I grew up on that movie. And I wanted nothing more than to help the Princess out like many other young lads watching that movie for the 1st or 75th time. It didn’t take long before I found myself having a conversation with her in regards to a project of hers that she recently completed called Beanstalk Jack. Beanstalk Jack is a children’s folk rock opera that packs in amazing musicality, crisp audio engineering, and a fun retelling of the classic story “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Tami was looking for fathers to review the album and I jumped at the opportunity!

The Setup

Tami Stronach

After getting everything secured and transferred onto my phone for easy listening while driving, I hit play and began my journey, both physically and audibly. I’m going to give a breakdown of each track in a moment but first, for those audiophiles out there, I have to tell you that when Robin MacMillan mastered this, a round of applause is due, for sure!. Tami and crew really went all out. For those that want crisp, pristine audio with masterfully mixed instrumentation, you will definitely appreciate the engineering of this album. Also of note, the harmonies between Greg Steinbuner, Tami Stronach and Julia Joseph on this album that is buttery and often times comforting, especially for younger ears. So lets dive into the tracks:

Here’s The Story of Beanstalk Jack

Beanstalk Jack: The title track is full of great instrumentation and gives the listener an overview of what they are going to hear. It’s a great opener and for the children, it lyrically extends a warm hand beckoning them to go on a journey. I want to mention the instrumentation again for a moment. The band behind this production are completely in sync. The simple driving rhythm and the accordion both shine in the opener. And if you’re a pianist, you’ll appreciate the accents. We head to Daydream: This song is sung from the perspective of Jack and the quiet picking of the guitar mixed with “Jack’s vocals are enchanting. I think a lot of the older demographic will appreciate this one. Let me be: This song starts with the proclamation “Let’s do it”. Jack is charged with selling the family cow to make rent by his mother. This track has an acoustic “jam session” feel to it. The angst between Jack’s mother and Jack himself is clear but from a personal standpoint, hearing Jack’s mom singing about trying to find money for rent and Julia’s voice inflection brings a sense of urgency that some parents know all too well.

Let’s Stop here for a moment

The Jack and the Beanstalk story normally follows a specific format. It’s rushed and usually speeds right by the beginning to get to the “action” of getting away from the Giant. Honestly, the songs devoted to the earlier portions of the story flesh it out realistically. I know we’re discussing a children’s album but I feel that work has definitely been put into exposition here. It is necessary to the overall story and it works well. Let’s go on to a few more of the tracks.

Milky Cow: The chord progression really brings that feeling of dread in the realization of what Jack has to do. The addition of the Violin to this track really sells the seriousness and a bit of sadness from Jack’s perspective. Bestest Bargain: Ah the ole shopkeeper that sells Jack the Magic Beans. Is he a trickster? This somber song seems very Disney-esque. Then there’s Lucky Jack: This song will have your kids dancing. If you’re listening to this song while driving, expect your kids feet to be kicking back and forth. The violin runs along with the happiness in Greg’s voice are a great combination.

Beanstalk Jack

The Homestretch

Look at us now: I have to say that, musically, I think this is my favorite. The chord progression and instrumentation has such a grandiose feel. But from this song, we move on to Upseedoodledo: This song has the beginnings of an adventure. It has a chorus of people backing Jack. It’s A Big World: Something tells me that this is going to be the track that gets most plays in cd and mp3 players. The full ensemble’s resounding “It’s A Big World” during the chorus… this seems like it’ll have a larger commercial appeal. Definitely check this one out. Hey Wow: I haven’t been to a Paper Canoe Company performance but something tells me that this is the “crowd favorite”. Lots of movement and involvement. And then there is the portion of the song were there is a chiptune breakdown. Love it! Fee Fi Fo Fum: This track has a live action Disney Jr or Nick Jr (are those still a thing?) feel to it. I can easily see this as an interstitial in between shows. Hey Paper Canoe/Tami… Licensing deals right there… run with it!

Closure

All The Pretty Things: As the album comes to a close, so does the story. And just as Jack’s journey is finishing, this really does feel like closure for the kids. This also includes a sax solo and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a sax solo? This track is really relaxing as well. Seems like a good “come down”. And speaking of which, Get on Down The Beanstalk: This final song brings the tempo back up to close it all out and honestly, I get several vibes here. I feel like this song is channeling several bands/genre’s and yet keeping itself original. I hear influences from The Monkees, The Beatles, the soundtrack to Grease and a little bit of Billy Joel. Saving this upbeat track for the end is incredibly smart and a great outro for the entire Folk Rock Opera.

Photo Courtesy of www.beanstalkjack.com

Honestly, this would be a GREAT addition to any parent’s collection. The kids will love it and I can’t stress enough that the audio engineering is spot on. If you would like to purchase a copy, check out Paper Canoe Company on Bandcamp here: https://papercanoecompany.bandcamp.com/releases. You can pick up the album digitally for only $12 and just $14 for a cd. Both prices, at any rate, is a steal for how much time, energy, and pride this productions displays with each song. Definitely adding it to the collection!

Here’s my brief Video Review: