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Ralph's World is more than kid stuff

June 23, 2008|Lynne Heffley

A tap-dancing elephant, a cowgirl pig, a rock 'n' roll finger band and a new girl in math class named Polly Hedron ("a non-Euclidean lass") are fanciful performers in "The Rhyming Circus," the latest album from Ralph Covert and his Ralph's World band, a family music star attraction.

It's the first all-new Ralph's World album on the Disney Sound label, and the band is celebrating with a concert for kids at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Echoplex in L.A.

The album's humorous through line, Covert says, was inspired by the title track -- at one point it rhymes "fish," "squish" and "Lillian Gish."

"I sat down and wrote that song and giggled the whole way through."

The bespectacled rocker who gained an adult following during his years as frontman for Chicago indie-rock band the Bad Examples, shifted gears with his first children's CD in 2001.

Adults are still part of Covert's audience, not least because Ralph's World songs are traditionally infused with inside musical jokes and tributes to the band's heroes.

Johnny Cash meets preschool, for instance, in "Folsom Daycare Blues." "Finger Is the Singer" includes a hint of Ziggy Stardust and a dash of the Beach Boys. Covert's "Polka Dot Shirt" pays homage to Prince's "Raspberry Beret" and to 1970s Irish hard-rock band Thin Lizzy.

"If you listen to those stacked guitars at the end, we were definitely doing a sort of 'The Boys Are Back in Town,' " Covert says. "We love playing around with that kind of stuff."

But Covert also strives for an emotional foundation in every song, "whether it's happiness or silliness or a story. And the words and the rhythms and the melodies combined connect with that emotional through point.

"Elements that make for a great song are the same whether the song is written for adults or kids," Covert says.

"To me a well-written song is like a piece of glass. The better your craftsmanship is, the more transparent that song is. A melody that's a great melody feels like you've always known it. A lyric that's a great lyric, when you sing it, just returns to you naturally."

-- Lynne Heffley

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