Since the release of his debut Here We Go!, Uncle Rock - AKA Robert Burke Warren - has lost count of the number of parents who have expressed relief and gratitude that a CD has been created that they can enjoy WITH their kids. The former globe-trotting bass player (with the Fleshtones), stage actor (as the lead in the London production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story) and Americana songwriter (with Rosanne Cash and for Wanda Jackson) stumbled onto his most satisfying creative endeavor yet as a teacher’s assistant at the rural School Of The New Moon in Mount Tremper, New York, where Uncle Rock was born. Warren, an erstwhile stay-at-home dad, went to work with guitar in hand, and, surrounded by preschoolers, found that requests for the darker stuff were constant. “It’s my natural bent as a songwriter to go to shadowy areas, and I was happy to be reminded that most kids have an innate interest in things like ghosts, wild animals, villains, misadventure and mystery.”
Fast forward to the present and you have Uncle Rock Plays Well With Others. Like Here We Go!, this CD explores oft-overlooked subjects that fascinate folks young and old: the largely Mexican/Central American holiday El Dia De Los Muertos (Day Of The Dead) – in which families have a “Picnic In The Graveyard” to celebrate and break bread with folks who have passed on; the difficulties of progress that can be described as “The Gettin’ Big Blues” (“I’m talkin’ baby talk/Pick me up ‘cause I don’t wanna walk”); or the confounding loss of a single sneaker at the hands of the “Shoe Bandit.” And much of it rocks, with drums, bass, and instruments ranging from Irish tin whistle to kalimba to a RevereWare pot.
While this outing uses an actual recording studio in which to capture the music (as opposed to the portable four-track cassette machine for Here We Go!), the rawness and spontaneity remain, with many more singers and players gathering ‘round the microphone. From kids belting out back-ups on “Rock Out!” (“Shake my head like the head of a mop!”) and “Rock & Roll Babysitter” (“She’s got a tattoo on her back!”) to a neighbor’s dog barking on “Playin’ Possum” to a cardboard box being thwacked on “Magic Carpet Ride,” this is music in the moment, and it reminds one of how songs can be a way for families to interact, imaginations firing, legs jigging, heads bobbing. It was how and why music was invented in the first place – to bring everyone into the room to enjoy the sounds in the air. Together.