This Salamanders pride themselves on writing original “family-friendly rock ’n roll” that caters to kids, and the Missoula group’s second album bears that out. Andrew A. Hunt, a.k.a. “Cowboy Andy,” wrote the songs and contributes guitar, lead vocals and piano. He’s accompanied by fellow songwriter Matthew Nord, keys and guitar; Antonio Alvarez, drums; and Russ Gay, bass. All the guys sing.
Musician friends who helped The Salamanders include Grace Decker, fiddle; Jill Miles-Davis, piano; Jeff Stickney, horns; Toby Roberts, banjo; and Andrea Harsell, vocals on “Lovely Goodbye.” Other folks provided crowd hoots and hollers.
A marching snare drum, a whistle, and Beatle-esque harmonies start out “Let’s Sing a Song.” It has a “Yellow Submarine” feel and points out that other species of different colors and sizes manage to cohabit quite well, so we humans can, too.
“Poppy” shadows a 2-year-old throughout the day. It’s got a great unison riff, and a Beach-Boys-sounding background harmony set to an up-tempo country beat. Decker saws the heck out of her fiddle on it, too!
A famous actor is featured in the title of a funny song about magnetism (“Matt Damon Magnetized Me”), and “Skeleton Rag” is a mishmash of genres … tickled ivories, big-band oompahs, rockin’ drum work, fuzzed-up guitars, and the sound of trumpets heralding a toreador at a bullfight. It’s delightful, and kids will love dancing to it.
The title tune, “Bubbles,” has a pretty melody and a carefree airy feel, and “Pirate Santa” finds a captain soothing his crabby crew on the verge of mutiny by playing St. Nick. He gives gifts like seasick pills, a wooden leg, a new hook, and an eye patch. There’s lots of “yo-ho-ho’s” and a rock beat here, too.
The Salamanders’ first album gained national prominence when it won Creative Child’s Album of the Year in 2015 and 2016. The band’s combination of positive messaging that doesn’t talk down to kids, great musicianship, and just plain fun songs, make it deserving.
– Mariss McTucker