BRATTLEBORO -- When crowds gathered around to listen to Nick Bayard and his stepson sing songs and play guitar and mandolin at local venues an idea was born. Drawing from his own musical background deeply rooted in bluegrass and folk, with the collaborative help of his stepson, Ukweli and wife, Sedia, Bayard has written and composed 13 songs to produce his first children's album Wishing Well - an upbeat, toe-tapping collection of Arlo-Guthrie-Mumford-&-Sons-esque sounds aimed at enchanting a child's heart.

Adults and children alike are able to relate to the lyrics that reflect upon what is important in life from a young person's perspective, ranging from favorite toys to favorite foods to fantasy about what he (Ukweli) would do when the adults are not around, all set to catchy mandolin- and guitar-fueled music.

(submitted photo)
(submitted photo)
As part of their promotional tour, Bayard and Ukweli will be performing songs from Wishing Well at the River Garden in Brattleboro from noon to 1 p.m. on Friay, Aug. 15. There will be a limited number of CDs for sale (which includes a booklet of the lyrics) with a cover designed by Maria Bryk that features artwork drawn by Ukweli. The CDs are also for sale on Amazon and CD Baby. Next stop for the duo is at The Harvard Coop at 11 a.m. on Aug. 16 for the Wishing Well Release Show at Harvard, (Bayard's alma mater) in Cambridge, Mass.

Bayard's solo vocals that ring with a hint of humor throughout the album are often harmonized with a young voice that is Ukweli's.


Advertisement

Ukweli, who's feat of learning the guitar in a mere month is nothing short of amazing, adds that genuine youthful element to help the words ring true - an element missing in many of the music albums produced for children today. Egg shakers add the percussion and sound effects that mimic rain, and an occasional cameo voice by Sedia adds a feminine edge to their sound.

Bayard himself has been playing guitar since he was 14, and has been recording and performing bluegrass and folk music with various bands since he was 20, while Ukweli, as mentioned earlier, picked up guitar quickly, has been playing for the last year. Even though Ukweli plans to continue with music in his life, his career aspirations are to be a neurosurgeon.

Presently Wishing Well is being considered for a Grammy Award for Year's Best Children's Album, and has been featured at KindieComm Industry Showcase at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia as one of ten favorite acts. They have also performed the songs live at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., and Wishing Well has been featured on radio stations WXPN in Philadelphia on Kids Corner and Musical Merry-go-rounds out of St. Louis, and written about in Sing Out! a magazine dedicated to folk music.

Most of the songs on the album are inspired by Ukweli, such as Pancakes - his favorite food; Day to Myself - his itinerary when his parents step out; or about an imagination running wild with Pirates on a Train. But a few of the songs are inspired by Bayard's memories growing up in Deleware such as that of his favorite toy -Red Wagon, or his observations on Ukweli's subtle reactions to the funny things that people do while he tries not to be rude. You Can't Learn it All on the Internet is a humorous ballad with an important message that life and love are not found in a keyboard.

All in all these 13 songs will make you sometimes giggle, sometimes reminisce, but always enjoy as you watch your little ones remain engrossed in the often fast-moving stringed chords of the guitar and mandolin accompanying playful verses about a day in the life of a child.

Bayard and Ukweli will be performing songs from 'Wishing Well' at the River Garden from noon to 1 p.m. on Friay, Aug. 15.

Cicely Eastman is the features editor at the Brattleboro Reformer. You can reach her at 802-254-2311 ext. 261 or ceastman@reformer.com. Follow her on Twitter @ReformerOvation.