Music Review: 'Can You Canoe'

A month-long trip down the mighty Mississippi river is the inspiration behind the Okee Dokee Brothers' latest album Can You Canoe? The mix of fun song-writing and folksy rhythms takes the younger listeners on an adventurous trip from the river's headwaters in Minnesota to the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis.

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For many kids, summer means no homework, playing outdoors and, of course, traveling. Our children's music reviewer, Stefan Shepherd, tells us about a new album inspired by a trip down America's original interstate highway.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN YOU CANOE?")

STEFAN SHEPHERD, BYLINE: Minnesota songwriters Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander have been best friends since childhood. They make music now as The Okee Dokee Brothers and spent a month canoeing down the Mississippi River last year from its headwaters in Minnesota to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN YOU CANOE?")

THE OKEE DOKEE BROTHERS: (Singing) Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? Can you canoe? I'll be the captain and your crew. Can you canoe if there's nothing better to do? I want to float down a river with you.

SHEPHERD: The result of that journey is the adventuresome new album "Can You Canoe?" on which the band blends original songs like the title track with invigorating renditions of traditional river songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN YOU CANOE?")

BROTHERS: (Singing) We don't need no outlets. We don't need no wires. Primetime entertainment will be lightning bugs and fires. Let's just keep it simple, unplugged and outside. Sound waves on the water don't need to be amplified.

SHEPHERD: The album focuses primarily on exploring the outdoors with songs about mosquitoes and bullfrogs. Tom Sawyer gets a mention too. But even silly tracks like "Campin' Tent" offer up some subtler notions for the kids paying attention.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAMPIN' TENT")

BROTHERS: (Singing) I used to have toys and trinkets and knickknacks laying around. And while those things are nice to have, they end up weighing you down. So I left all my belongings because they made me discontent. And the only thing I brought with me was this little camping tent. It's my transportable, affordable apartment where I open the roof zipper and can watch the big dipper rising as a breeze blows through the window vent. It's time well spent living in my camping tent.

SHEPHERD: Rivers have long served as metaphorical canvases. There are few American canvases bigger than the mighty Mississippi, and The Okee Dokee Brothers use all that space to cover themes both trivial and profound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAUL AWAY JOE")

BROTHERS: (Singing) Good-bye and don't you cry. I'm going to Louisiana. Way haul away. We'll haul away, Joe. To buy a dog and a muddy old hog and marry Suzy-Anna. Way haul away. We'll haul away, Joe.

SHEPHERD: When the band and their friends join together on a joyful "Haul Away Joe," they remind us of the American belief that we're bound for better weather. Their album celebrates everyday explorers - young and old - who rediscover that notion daily.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAUL AWAY JOE")

BROTHERS: (Singing) Way haul away. We're bound for better weather. Way haul away. We'll haul away, Joe.

CORNISH: Stefan Shepherd writes about kids' music at zooglobble.com. He reviewed the album "Can You Canoe?" by The Okee Dokee Brothers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAUL AWAY JOE")

BROTHERS: (Singing) Haul away, Joe me, boys. Floating on down to Illinois. Keep on rowing me, boys. It's a raftman's life for me. Toy cars and candy bars are just a waste of money. Way haul away. We'll haul away, Joe. Cornbread is all you need with butterbeans and honey. Way haul away. We'll haul away, Joe.

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