In true pirate fashion I’ve written, robbed, pondered and plundered here and there to put together this trove of tunes. It’s a high seas hodgepodge of treasures from wherever I happened to find them and reflects a cross section of the music I’ve been doing with kids the past few years. As always, it’s been an adventure! And, as always, I thank my good friend and MPS shipmate, Scott Malchow, for his fine contributions in engineering, musicianship and encouragement when the seas turned rough, the map got lost or whatever other calamaties befell us. Because of Scott, the Harbor of Musical Tranquility was never far away. So avast, mateys! The Merry Pirate School weighs anchor. Welcome aboard!
Jack wrote the songs (lyrics and music) with the exception of Tingalayo, Frog Went A’Courtin’ and Jubilee which are traditional and arranged by Jack. All songs and/or arrangements © Jack Pearson, OtterTunity Inc., - BMI. All rights reserved. Illustrations, design and layout by Kari Pearson(karipearson.com). Recorded, mixed and mastered January-June 2008 at Scott Malchow Productions, Burnsville, MN. For more info go to jackpearson.org.
The Musical Mateys:
Jack Pearson - lead and harmony vocals, guitars, 5-string banjos, mandolin, ukulele, harmonica,
jawharp, spoons, kazoo, nose flute, shaker
Scott Malchow - bass, percussion, keyboards, dobro, pedal steel guitar, steel bodied slide guitar, string
Kari Pearson - vocals (Good Planets Are Hard to Find)
Jeff Taylor - accordion, pennywhistle, piano (on Good Planets Are Hard to Find)
Buddy Greene - harmonica (After School TV Zombie Blues, Jubilee and So Long to You)
The Merry Pirateers - Chandler Larson, Kelsey and Elise Backer, Tessa Cockerill, Caitlyn and
Morgan Soukup, Emma Missling, Sarah and Anna Malchow
Notes on the Songs:
Hello to You - This little song has opened a lot of my shows lately. It came to me one time when I was driving to a show, so I used it that night and have ever since. Just one of those songs that kind of wrote itself and insisted on being sung. Hard to argue with songs like that.
The Merry Pirate School - Not long ago I spoke at a writing conference for kids. The conference had a pirate theme, so I wrote this to go with my talk. I got to wondering what it would be like if there was a special pirate school where pirate parents sent their kids to learn to be pirates. It was a fun idea and I’ve since had a ball singing the song with kids everywhere. It turns out that you don’t have to dig too deep to uncover a little pirate in everyone!
Tingalayo - I’ve enjoyed this charming folk song for a long time and thought you’d like it, too. Tingalayo’s name reminds me of a small bell which my mom used to use to call us kids to supper when I was little. She still has it, so I borrowed it for the song. This version turned out to be a melting pot of musical influences with the traditional West Indies steel drums but with the added Cajun touch of the accordion sweetly added by my friend, Jeff Taylor.
Hawaii’s Fish With the Very Long Name - Here’s another song that mostly wrote itself. Music just gushes from the word humuhumunukunukuapua’a! It’s the state fish of Hawaii. In Minnesota, where I live, we simplified things by choosing the walleyed pike. I went to Hawaii with my family a few years ago and, as the last verse says, one thing that stuck with me most was the name of a funny fish!
Angeline R. McFame - This is a kind of story-song that occurred to me when I was pondering how to broach the subject of responsibility in a fun, “back door” kind of way. The story combines the fun of making up and playing games with the persistence we all need to help our dreams come true. Angeline is self-conscious about her name but doesn’t let that get in the way of winning the spelling bee!
The Earth Day Jig - I wrote this song twice. The first time it sounded quite different; not at all jiggy. I started with the idea “every day is Earth Day” and the jig part suggested itself when I realized the double meaning in the term ‘green’ as both a reference to the Emerald Isle (Ireland) and to a lifestyle of environmental awareness. A lively dance seems like a fitting expression of treating the earth well.
After School TV Zombie Blues - This song and the following one I often use in a program for kids I do entitled “I Love to Read!” Which I do. I’m bothered by the lethargic noncritical trance that television tends to induce and all the time it wastes. If anything’s a cause for the blues, it’s TV! I don’t know of any bluesier player than Buddy Greene, so thanks, Buddy, for joining me on this one. That’s me talking saying “I want to open my mind in the world ... I wanna read!” I hope you do, too.
Rhymin’ Away With ol’ Dr. Seuss - Who hasn’t been delighted with Theodore Suess Geisel’s zanily memorable books? Incidentally, when I wanted Angeline’s last name to rhyme with the word ‘name,’ I instinctively chose ‘McFame.’ I figured it’s just what Dr. Suess would have done, and if he could get away with it all these years, so could I. My friend, Steve, hung out with Dr. Suess for an hour once and reported that he was a really nice guy, which we all knew anyway.
Frog Went a’Courtin’ - There are many versions of this folk classic dating back, at least, to 1580 when “A Most Strange Wedding of the Frog and the Mouse” was licensed at Stationers’ Hall in London. I’ve heard the song all my life but learned the basics of this version from my friend, Tim Falls, a judge in Davis, California. I Jack-knapped it, though. Jack-knapping is a term coined by another friend which means the odd and unconscionable changes made to a song after passing through the brain of Jack.
Just Don’t Kick the Cat! - This one’s part of a program I do called “You and Me, Bully Free.” It’s okay to feel what we feel, but we’re still responsible for how we behave. We all have problems sometimes, there’s no shame in that. It’s okay to be angry. Just don’t kick the cat!
11. Jubilee - An old Appalachian tune I learned from folky friends years ago. I love the idea of life as celebration. The limberjack puts in an appearance here; a little wooden dancing doll harking back to the British Isles.
12. Good Planets Are Hard to Find - My daughter (and capable graphics guru), Kari, joins me here. This disarmingly profound phrase has haunted my mind since I first encountered it years ago. The high strung guitar I’m playing is an 1891 Martin New Yorker, a tiny parlor guitar made of spruce and Brazilian rosewood. It sings today from the time it was made; a time when these woods and the the environments that produced them were plentiful and healthy. It sings in a plea for solidarity and sanity for a wise and gentle treatment of the life-webs on which we all so richly depend.
13. So Long to You - A companion song to “Hello to You” which I often use to close a show. I wrote the words on an airplane and promptly lost them. So I had to write them again. I have no idea how the first words went and probably never will. There are hints, I think, of the benedictions I grew up hearing in church.