isn't the first under-appreciated singer-songwriter to recast herself as a purveyor of kids' music engineered to win over the adults within earshot; some, like Dan Zanes and Ralph Covert, have made lucrative careers out of that tricky balance. Like many of her peers, Veirs has a built-in advantage: Her everyday material wasn't particularly hostile toward young ears to begin with. It's not as if albums like July Flame are full of horrorcore misanthropy or hard-boiled murder ballads, so it's no surprise that Veirs takes so seamlessly to lullabies and sing-alongs.
Besides, it wasn't hard to see Tumble Bee coming: Veirs and her husband, longtime producer and collaborator Tucker Martine, have a relatively new baby at home. (For evidence, don't miss an uncomfortably pregnant Veirs' sweet Tiny Desk Concert from early 2010.) As a result, warm, homey sincerity — a mother singing to her baby son — seeps out of every second of Tumble Bee's brisk 30-minute run time. Whether she's singing little Tennessee Veirs Martine to sleep ("Prairie Lullaby," "All the Pretty Little Horses"), revisiting kiddie standards ("Jump Down Spin Around") or singing a memorable duet with The Decemberists' Colin Meloy ("Soldier's Joy"), the goodwill is unmistakable.
Meloy isn't the only notable name to pop up on Tumble Bee: Jim James of My Morning Jacket makes an appearance, too, as does banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck. Those guests' affection for Veirs, in addition to being well and truly justified, is as plain to witness as her affection for Tumble Bee's target audience — in her household and beyond.
-- By Stephen Thompson, NPR Music
Tumble Bee will be available to stream on demand from Monday October 31 through November 8, 2011. The album will be released on Tuesday, November 8.