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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Uncle Devin - Drum Tales

Uncle Devin - Drum Tales
2012, Uncle Devin Productions
Uncle Devin, also known as Devin Walker, is a renowned percussionist who uses his love for rhythm to educate children.  While music is the focal center of The Uncle Devin Show, Uncle Devin’s target audience also learns about personal safety, making healthy choices and character education points such as honesty.  Uncle Devin has an easy-going air that at times risks being too casual, but he seems to have a genuine interest in helping children to learn and grow.  Uncle Devin’s debut album, Drum Tales, tackles a wide range of kid-friendly topics in interesting and sometime awkward fashion.

Drum Tales gets rolling with the "Uncle Devin Theme Show", a catchy song/speak tune with some funk in its roots. This is very low key and lo-fi compared to a lot if children's show themes out there, but speaks from the heart about learning, having fun and being the most you can be. The response parts, presumably by kids and their parents sound a bit canned, and this gives the song a hokey feel. "I Like Onions" finds Uncle Devin waxing poetic about his favorite vegetable. The song is lyrically awkward, and Uncle Devin has significant issues with pitch. The Green Eggs and Ham paraphrase used here just serves to illuminate the rough edges in Uncle Devin's own words. "Africa" delves into an Afro centric metaphysics while emphasizing the rhythms and geographic highlights of the continent.

"Drum Roll Call" teaches about Latin rhythms and the instruments used to create them. "Me And My Drums" plays on the same theme but with a more generic beat in mind. The plaintive arrangement is repetitive and gets lost in its own sense of ennui. "Good Health" implores Uncle Devin's young listeners to adapt healthy habits, from washing hands to eating healthy to avoiding bad things. The extended introduction here is likely to lose out to the attention span of his audience. Likewise, the generalizations here serve as well intended but may not have a lot of impact with his intended audience.

"The Victory Horn" implores students not to give up no matter how bad things get. It's a great message, but the repetitive nature of the song and banal lyrical approach make this a tough listen. "Don't Put Your Business on the Internet" is a drudging chant against the dangers of putting personal information on the net "because people will research you and try to hurt you." Once again, the thought behind this is great, but the presentation is tough. "Just One of Those Days" bemoans a morning where nothing goes right. There's a catchy element here, as Uncle Devin gets a nice flow going. The awkward transitions are still here, but the overall presentation works. Uncle Devin closes with "Tell the Truth". The song starts with a brief skit and then moves into an overly repetitive spoken word/rap. Once Devin gets beyond the repetition there's sort of a "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" feel to the song. It's a great moment for Uncle Devin and is likely to play well with the under ten crowd.

Drum Tales is a heartwarming, beautiful in its intent and often messy.  Uncle Devin does best when sticking to his talk/sing style.  Notes just don’t come out as they are intended more often than not.  The lyrical content is hit or miss, depending on whether Uncle Devin prizes creativity or structure within the framework of a specific song, but his heart is always in the right place.  This is a fun album for kids.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

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