People Magazine July 2013: "The Best Kids Albums Now! A family effort featuring musician Steve Pierson, wife Melinda McGraw and daughter Lucy, this charmer puts a rootsy spin on feel-great ditties like "Be Yourself" and "Groovy Day."
Parents’ Choice® award winning independent musician Steve Pierson and his powerhouse band Jambo are on a mission to bring real American roots music to kids. One part Mississippi Delta, one part New Orleans street corner, and one part Chicago juke joint, Jambo is known for its funky, feel-good grooves, outstanding musicianship, and dynamic, kid-friendly, positive songs.
Co-produced by Jambo’s creator (and former Blues Head front man) Steve Pierson and Grammy® nominee Tor Hyams, Hootenanny features fourteen Steve Pierson originals. Notes Steve, “I wrote two kinds of songs for Hootenanny: full blown band tracks and what I call ‘back porch’ tracks. I really wanted to mix up styles and give listeners a taste of different instruments and different kinds of songs. As a guitarist, I also wanted to play with different guitar sounds. I ended up using at least ten different guitars on this album!”
The tremendous attention to detail and artistic integrity that went into Hootenanny’s creation are apparent from the first listen. The album hits the ground running with a terrific ‘70s powerhouse horn line sound on its title track and then rolls on with producer Tor Hyams himself in the pilot seat of a rockin’ honkey tonk piano on the R&B styled “Let’s Be Friends.” In vivid contrast are the progressive bluegrass sounds on Hootenanny’s third track, “Try.” A solid funk beat underlies the important message of tolerance for kids who are engaged in “being themselves” on “Be Yourself.”
Other highlights include impeccable guitar and horn line work on what is perhaps the most “grown up” song on Hootennanny, “We Are All One Kind.” “Your Sweet Smile” begins with the simplicity of vocal, finger snaps, and ukulele, gradually progressing in intensity with the addition of bass, guitar, and organ, and ending with a return to intimate instrumentation and a gentle fade-out. Well thought out structural details like this permeate the album and contribute to its artistic success. One of Steve Pierson’s “back porch” tracks, “Come On By,” is a great take on a Bo Diddley rhythm. “Don’t Play With Your Food” is akin to a kids’ field trip to Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill, showcasing terrific singing by 8-year-old Lucy McGraw-Pierson, 6-year-old Ivy Bishop, and 9-year-old Fiona Bishop. “Ice Cream Soup” features standout horn arrangements by the Texicali Horns. Melinda McGraw’s smokin’ vocals on the gospel/funk “Groovy Day” are a special treat. The simple lullaby, “Begin The Day Again,” featuring two-time Grammy winning guitarist Laurence Juber, brings Hootenanny to an exquisite close.
Explains Steve Pierson, “From the beginning, Jambo has been inspired by two things: my daughter and my desire to create roots-based music that feels good and conveys positive messages that emphasize playful imagination without overt references to technology or the media. One of my primary goals has been to give kids, at a very early age, a taste of the ‘good stuff’ – the kind of organic, rootsy music that I love and that I feel is missing in much of kids’ music these days. I’m really excited about Hootenanny because it goes deeper than our first Jambo CD did in exploring issues that kids are wrestling with. The effort with our first album, Lucy’s Parade, was very much to create fun, positive music for the preschool set. Hootenanny could be characterized as Jambo growing up. Making this album has given me a chance to convey messages that I feel are important. Of course … some of the songs are just … very silly!”
In addition to guitar virtuoso and soulful blues singer Steve Pierson, core Jambo band members heard on Hootenanny include Herman Mathews on drums, Philip Bynoe on bass, Michael Murphy on keyboards, and Melinda McGraw on vocals. (Fans may recognize Melinda as an actress in such films and television shows as Mad Men, Men of a Certain Age, The Dark Knight, and more.) Other players on Hootenanny include David Leach (percussion), Herb Pederson (banjo), two-time Grammy winner Laurence Juber (acoustic guitar), Tor Hyams (keyboards and vocals), and the great Texicali Horns, Joe Sublett and Darrell Leonard. Collectively these musicians have played with everyone from Tom Jones, Tower of Power, REO Speedwagon, and Earth, Wind, and Fire to Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Wings, Kenny Loggins, Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, and many others.
Born in Washington, DC, Steve Pierson has spent most of his adult life in Los Angeles. His music career focused on the local blues band scene in and around LA before he made the move to join Grammy winner and former Wings guitar virtuoso Laurence Juber in forming their own blues-rock band, Blues Head. They achieved considerable success, and their debut album, Blues Head, was featured in the ‘Best of the New Breed” issue of Blue Revue Magazine. Steve put in ten years playing festivals and clubs around the country with Blues Head until the birth of his daughter, Lucy, in 2002. Upon Lucy’s arrival, Steve came off the road and began to focus on writing music for film and television. He has since become a successful and prolific composer/producer of music for television, commercials, and independent films.
Musical adventures with daughter Lucy provided Steve Pierson with the inspiration to write rootsy, bluesy music for kids. What started as a fun family project quickly gained a momentum all its own, and Jambo was born. Steve’s wife, Melinda McGraw, joined Jambo as a vocalist, and Steve linked up with Tor Hyams to produce the first Jambo CD, Lucy’s Parade, in 2008. Lucy’s Parade was a hit with families and critics alike receiving both a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award and a Los Angeles Music Award. Onstage, Jambo’s driving force, Steve Pierson, projects an engagingly playful, sincere spirit, and the band strikes a high profile on the Los Angeles kids’ music scene, performing regularly throughout the region at such venues as the Skirball Center for the Arts, The Grammy Museum, and The Geffen Playhouse. Jambo also tours nationally, with recent appearances at the Austin City Limits Festival and the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.