In a previous column, we introduced Caspar Babypants, the kiddie-singing alter-ego of Chris Ballew, frontman of the Presidents of the United States of America.
Since 2009, Ballew—er Babypants—has been performing for the children of the fans that grew up listening to "Peaches," sometimes releasing up to two albums per year.
Caspar Babypants is releasing a new album this week, Beatles Baby! It's his second album of Beatles covers for young children.
“I recorded this one for the parents too,” he told me, explaining that he chose certain songs to keep dad singing in the front of the car as the kids are kicking to the beat in the back car seats.
For parents up to their ears in irritating kids songs, this album will be a much-needed breath of fresh air. (I can still sing the damn Wiggles stuff from when I was a new father 13 years ago. It made me almost murderous.) Fans of the Presidents of the United States of America will hear his familiar two- and three-string guitars, and Ballew—er Babypants—had a blast rearranging the songs in a folky fun style.
There’s very much a pre-rock-and-roll feel to a lot of these tracks, with styles ranging from Tin Pan Alley to folk to a hoedown on the back porch. (Yes, that’s a PUSA reference.) The album kicks off with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," mixing his three-string acoustic guitars with electric bass, synth horns and drums. It’s not as intense as the Beatles version, but it’s not supposed to be. This is fun music for the kids, especially geared toward the pre-K crowd.
"Hey Jude" is straight out of the Appalachian Mountains, with the acoustic guitar sounding almost like a dulcimer. "For You Blue" has a jug-band feel. He even covers "Baby You’re a Rich Man," giving it a cartoony techno feel with boingy keyboards. (Boingy. Kids love boingy, trust me.)
One thing is evident in all this: Ballew is an absolute Beatles freak. The music might be fun for the kids, but parents will be glued to the speaker, listening to his the attention to detail. There’s a chant of “cranberry sauce” at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever." He completely re-creates the three-guitar head-chopping solo...note for note... on "The End," except that he uses quiet toy keyboards. There are freaky stereo mixes throughout, especially on "Piggies," with instruments hard-panned left and right and a plucked violin string solo that rattles through your head if listened on headphones. (And yes, he includes George Harrison's “one more time” pig-snort ending.)
Song after song, you’ll find him accurately channeling the Fab Four in a Babypants way. And the cover of "Rain"… who the hell covers "Rain" on a children’s album? Caspar Babypants does, and it rules.
I've followed Ballew since the very first Presidents album because his two- and three-string guitars were close in music theory to my cigar box guitars. The Caspar Babypants stuff is essential to cigar box guitarists struggling to play with three strings.
Since I was writing about his album, I asked him to give us a quick lesson on how he played one of these Beatles classics on the album. Here's "Drive My Car":
a little video for a Guitar World Magazine article...
Posted by caspar babypants on Monday, September 14, 2015
Beatles Baby! comes out September 18 and can be purchased directly at babypantsmusic.com and iTunes.
Shane Speal is "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.