Music review and giveaway: Captain Bogg & Salty’s “Emphatical Piratical”

Emphatical PiraticalI've gushed about this Portland, OR pirate rock band before — when I published a friend's recommendation and again after my kids and I saw a show. But the biggest pleasure I've gotten from Captain Bogg & Salty is the repeated listenings of their albums in the car. This is one of only two kids' musical acts I can tolerate on auto-repeat (the other is Justin Roberts).  

I recently got their newest album for review, Emphatical Piratical. I've stopped reviewing a lot of kids' music because, frankly, I can't stand most of it, but this CD went straight into the car stereo. In 48 hours, we're all singing, tapping and humming along. The drive home from school, which can be fraught with angst if my son has had a bad day, has been talk-free and cheerful. And, to my delight, this album contains all the things I love about CB&S: clever lyrics; diverse musical styles; engaging storytelling; multi-layered melodies; and funny dialog tucked here and there in and between the songs.

These guys are great character actors, skilled comedians, smart writers, and fantastic musicians. Each song tells a story not only about the band of pirates, but, if one listens to all of their albums, one gets to know the individual characters, the story of their ship The Pollywog, and a bit about life at sea. So much more to enjoy than a catchy tune.

If you live in Portland, you're lucky enough to catch their shows around town — in fact, they have a big one coming up this Saturday: Curious Comedy Theater. Future shows are scheduled for Eugene, OR and New York, NY, with many more (I'm sure) throughout the summer. If you have a chance, come — the live shows are so much fun that you, too, may become a Bogghead.

Earlier albums include Bedtime Stories for Pirates, Pegleg Tango, and Prelude to Mutiny. Find out more at

Win it! Help me get over my prejudice against kids' music. Is there a must-hear band you'd like to see featured on Parent Hacks? Tell us about them in the comments, and you'll be entered in my random drawing for one of two copies of Emphatical Piratical! I'll choose the winners tomorrow at 5pm PST. Good luck!


  1. says

    My family are huge Billy Jonas fans – acoustic music played mainly on homemade and recycled instruments with a progressive, earth-friendly message – and catchy enough that the entire family ends up singing along. This is the only kids’ album that I could listen to over and over again.

  2. Brian says

    Try Wiggleworms out of Chicago–it’s kind of cheating, ’cause it’s a variety of folk types singing classic songs, but very singable.

    We also like Ralph’s World.

  3. says

    Am so bummed that we can’t make their concert this weekend. Similar commitment keeping us from going to Toy Trains concert later this month at Airplay cafe. But no complaints – good friends. Portland is such a great town for local kid’s bands that parents can appreciate too. And we especially love when Dan Zanes comes to town – he’s top of the list! No wiggles, barney or cutesy characters at our house. Thanks for sharing their album!

  4. says

    Imagination Movers are our favorite! We listened to them this morning and my youngest (18 mo) even danced along!

  5. says

    I’m sure I won’t be the only one to mention this group, but I think that The Wiggles create some of the best kids’ music around. We won tickets to one of their concerts a few years ago and our then-three-year-old son became a huge fan of them. They all play instruments quite well, and they never sound like they are talking down to kids with their music – they sound like they are genuinely having the time of their lives playing this music. I personally find their music very entertaining to listen to, as a lot of it is much more rock-oriented than one would normally associate with kids’ music. Listen to “Caveland”, for example, and compare it to David Bowie’s “Jean Genie” – the rhythm is practically the same!

  6. says

    Oh, how fun! I think my kids (oh, who am I kidding, my husband) would love this! In fact, they just recently learned what a pirate says. :-)

    I really enjoy the Barenaked Ladies kids CD, Snacktime. Different songs have grown on me over time, and my current favorite is Louis Loon.

  7. Kasie says

    They Might Be Giants, Here Come the ABC’s or Here Come the 123’s. We love them both in our house. The songs can also be found on DVD. They are catchy and fun.

  8. Leigh says

    Trout Fishing in America has wonderful kids’ music we all listen to and love. A wide variety of spot-on music with clever lyrics and different musical styles.

    Family Music Party has a good selection.
    Our family favorites are:
    “A Proper Cup of Coffee”
    “My Hair had a Party Last Night”
    “The Window”

  9. Kristie says

    Let’s Go Everywhere is Medeski Martin & Wood’s first kids’ album, and it’s fantastically smart and infinitely enjoyable. There is a wide range of musical styles and subjects, inlcuding a great pirate song. Funky, jazzy, poppy. My 2.5-year old claps and sings along every time. I’ve got friends that don’t even have kids who bought their own copies!

  10. says

    One of our favorite children’s CDs is Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies by Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame. The songs are fun and very singable. Most parents that I’ve given this CD to have also enjoyed it, even though it is kids music.

  11. Heather Cantarero says

    We love Elizabeth Mitchell for low-key kid music moments. Sweet voice, some foreign language, folksy and fun.

  12. molly_b says

    I love Elizabeth Mitchell. Several adults who have been in the car at various times when her “You Are My Little Bird” CD has come up in the rotation have asked who it is, and have been surprised that it’s children’s music.

    Also, of course, TMBG, but my husband and I were fans long before we had the child. :-)

  13. says

    I see there’s already a vote for the Laurie Berkner Band. We’re big fans of hers in our household. Even I don’t mind too much when I can’t get her songs out of my head.

    Of course we’re fans of They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies kids’ cds too.

  14. Margaret says

    They Might Be Giants are the best for kids! Their old stuff AND their new kids’ albums. WE took our two to see them live and it was great!

  15. Stephanie says

    The Boogers. The lead singer has a PhD in developmental psychology and was a bass player for many punk bands in the 80s/90s. Take “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”….and add The Ramones. Our whole family (who are Ramones fans anyway) LOVE The Boogers. They do childhood classics and original songs, all at a dizzying 160 bpm. No one can listen to them and sit still.

  16. Elizabeth Hosto says

    My kids love music but they are stuck with whatever we listen to since I have no idea where to start with kids music. They both love the 80’s and playing any instrument they can get their hands on but I have no clue what to play for them that could be their own so thanks for this, I can checkout the other comments and see where that leads us!

  17. Lisa Slater says

    I’m not sure if this counts but the Barenaked Ladies have a kids album and it’s pretty good. I’m like you-I don’t really like kid music and I kind of hope my baby doesn’t like it either. I’ve been putting on VH1 in the morning for him hoping that “sinks in”. :)

  18. Jeff B says

    Anything by Sandra Boynton is great. She covers all kinds of genres and gets name-brand artists and other celebs (like Kevin Klein and Kate Winslet) to perform songs that could easily get radio play if not for the kid-centric, kinda silly lyrics. Plus, the books that come with the CDs have all the lyrics and her clever artwork. If you’ve enjoyed her children’s books, I think you’ll like her music.

  19. michaela says

    I really love The Dragonfly Races, the kids’ album by singer-songwriter Ellis Paul. He’s a longtime fave of mine, and it thrills me that my daughter likes this album. She especially loves the version of You Are My Sunshine he sings with his preschool-aged daughter. It’s super sweet.

  20. Gordon says

    Just recently discovered Captain Bogg & Salty, which seems to have an entire “piratecore” movement building around it.

    If you like that album, try “Sea Music” by Dan Zanes (, which has some classic sea chanteys and whaling songs. His music has a wonderful integrity, history, and joy to it. His albums also have some amazing collaborations. As an added bonus, he has lyrics and chords on his web site, so not only can you sing along, but you can learn to play them together as well.

  21. boliath says

    Session Americana – from Boston have a double cd called Tabletop People folksy bluegrass wit and humor, I’ve bought this cd for every kid I know, they all love it and the parents like it too.

  22. sucellus says

    They Might Be Giants were a great band before they started making kids music and have also made some great kids music.

  23. says

    Do your readers a great service and sing the praises of They Might Be Giants! Along with Captain Bogg & Salty, they’re one of the few “kids music” bands that grownups and kids alike can listen to pretty much nonstop.

  24. sarah w says

    I echo the They Might Be Giants ABCs and 123s….and the older For Our Children concert CDs…these were the fundraisers for Pediatric AIDS Foundation and put on by Elisabeth Glaser.

  25. Melnick says

    Second on the Boogers. Like many other CDs, my kids insist on multiple listens. Unlike other CDs, I actually don’t mind. Constant rotation in the minivan.

  26. Joyous says

    Second the recommendation Sandra Boynton, particularly “Blue Moo,” which consists of pastiches of 50s music styles written with kids’ lyrics. Some of them are recorded by 50s and 60s artists, such as Davy Jones, B. B. King, and Neil Sedaka! My favorites are “One Shoe Blues” and “Rabbit Tango.”

  27. says

    They Might Be Giants helped me during my pregnancy and even now that my son enjoys the music. But I really loved Jack Johnson’s Curious George soundtrack during the first weeks of my son’s infancy.

  28. says

    Not one band, but an album of kid music by a variety of artists: The Bottle Let Me Down (on Bloodshot Records, featuring various alt-country performers I like in their normal lives).

    My husband and I liked this one enough that we bought it (and enjoyed it) before we had kids.

  29. says

    I recommend Trout Fishing in America and John Lithgow. TFIA does adult and kid music, and their Family Music Party really appeals to both adults and kids (I think I saw it mentioned earlier).

    John Lithgow brings a sense of humor to some traditional songs, and for some reason, his voice doesn’t grate on me like a lot of kid’s music.

    I also recommend TMBG, and the Barenaked Ladies’ kids’ CD, Snacktime.

  30. Kari says

    In our house, kids music is anything that has decent lyrics from Mom and Dad’s, mostly Dad’s, CD collection. Also, we just received “Songs from the Street: The Ultimate Sesame Street Music Collection.” It is awesome!

  31. Leslie says

    They Might be Giants is my kids’ favorite! Not only are the Here Come the 123’s and ABC’s educational and fun, but their album NO! is hilarious! I never have a defeated sigh escape my mouth when they request these CDs.

  32. says

    We are fans of Shamus Kennedy. He is an Irish folk singer and well known in teh celtic circles. You can usually find his albums at most Scottish/Irish festivals. He also tours nationally. He has a really fun and different kids CD. He also has other CDs we enjoy but they are different focuses. You can always catch him at the Longs Peak Scottish Irish festival in Estes Park colorado every year.

  33. Elizabeth says

    We are just getting to the stage where the little man pays attention to music. He seems to like Trout Fishing in America and (of course) They Might Be Giants. I’ve been singing the songs I listened to in college. Everyone now…The sun is a mass of incandescent gas….!

  34. Kim says

    More votes for both TMBG (both their kids’ and other albums) and Sandra Boyton (“Philadelphia Chickens” is my favorite).

    I also love the Animaniacs, the WB cartoon from several years back. The album “Yakko’s World” has some terrifically engaging and informative songs, like “Wakko’s America” which lists all the US states and capitals.

  35. Nicol Watanabe says

    Cathy Heller – Say Hello to the Sun

    Peppy pop with a positive message. Try it…you’ll like it!

  36. Katie says

    Sandra Boynton has a few music CD’s out that are great. They’re musically creative and hilarious.

  37. Kelly says

    My 16 month old has two favorites: They Might Be Giants, and anything by Sandra Boynton. They’ve kept her occupied in the car on numerous occassions, which is a true testament to their greatness since she loathes being in a carseat! Personally, I also have a soft spot for a few of the Rock A Bye Baby CD’s…especially Nine Inch Nails.

  38. nicole says

    ah the vast “OH NO ITS KIDS MUSIC” problem………

    we solved it with the library of cds from Papillion!

    He’s a local New Orleans performer who is JUST superb with kids and getting them involved with playing instruments, dancing and singing with him in person.

    His cds range from Cajun songs to favorite New Orleans area songs to his new line of pirate songs (it’s apparently a fad right now- ha ha). ALL the cds are prefectly sing-along-able in the car and his Cajun cd taught my daughter alot of French/Cajun words and phrases as well as enforcing the idea that you should know your family history ’cause that’s where you come from’ and you should listen to your elder’s stories…what better lesson for a young child, especially when it’s delivered in a great upbeat popular song?

    here’s the links:


    (lots of fun things for kids to do on this site as well!)

    happy listening

  39. says

    It’s all Gustafer Yellowgold all the time in our car. My 2 year old LOVES it. We have the first 2 albums and are eagerly awaiting the release of the 3rd (cd/dvd sets)
    Gentle pop music, catchy choruses, brilliant harmonies…not just for kids
    Have I gushed enough?

  40. jennifer says

    Our favorite is from Big Smith (, a fantastic hillbilly/bluegrass band from Missouri. They have a double CD for kids called “From Hay to Zzzzzzz,” a mix of songs their parents/grandparents sang to them and songs they made up to sing to their own kids. One CD is upbeat tunes for playtime, and the other is lullabies. Their grown-up music is some of the best I’ve ever heard, too.

  41. Julia Dvorin says

    Ooo I was excited to see this post, because we love Pegleg Tango in our household. :) And I absolutely second the votes for TMBG and the Laurie Berkner Band. However one sadly-more-obscure-than-it-should-be, total kids music favorite in our house is Kid’n Together. They had two awesome, “earworm” type albums (you know the ones you can’t stop singing after you get out of the car), one called “Singin’ at the Swingset” and the other whose name escapes me. They won tons of awards and we loved them so…and the albums went out of print. However! I just discovered that you can get digital downloads of their music at Zuzula (here’s the link if you are interested: ) Anyway that’s my recommendation for the day. :)

  42. says

    Hmm… I’m with you– there aren’t many I’ll tolerate on auto-repeat. I think Justin Roberts is the only one I’ve ever listened to when the kids weren’t in the car with me! However, I can also appreciate They Might Be Giants, Sandra Boynton’s “Philadelphia Chickens”, and John Lithgow’s “Singin in the Bathtub.” Those last 2 aren’t kids’ bands, per se, but they are some of the best listening available for kiddos.

  43. Meredith Stankiewicz says

    It’s been mentioned, but my all time favorite is the Barenaked Ladies “Snacktime” album. Not sure if they count. But, they sing kids music so I think they do!

  44. Becky says

    Having XM radio has introduced me to some great kids music I would not have heard otherwise….Trout Fishing in America and Steve Songs gets my son moving.

  45. says

    Another vote for They Might Be Giants. Besides Here Come the ABCs/123s, a few years ago they put out an album called No. Though all of their stuff is probably great for kids. I’ve been a fan since college!

  46. Lisa J. says

    We like a variety. . . some Disney, Veggie Tales, Baby Einsteins (UGH!). The key for me is variety, so I don’t get sick of one style. We keep it all on an Ipod Shuffle for the little guy.

  47. Whitney says

    How about Music for Aardvarks? Who couldn’t sometimes sing along to: “if you wanna be a grump, that’s okay, but could you be a grumpy guy further away?”???

  48. Anna says

    I third (fourth?) the TMBG suggestion. I’ve been a fan for years, and now my kid is, too.

    I also recommend the Putomayo series for children. It’s many different varieties of world music in fun mixes. African, Island, etc.

    Also, I have to say that I was raised on the Beatles, and I think it’s great for kids. Not all songs have age-appropriate lyrics, obviously, but a mix of the more G-rated is what we listen to. “Octopus’s Garden” “Here Comes the Sun” “Drive My Car”, to name a few.

  49. says

    We’re fans of anything by three bands/artists:
    Sandra Boynton – Very diverse musically, and very silly.
    Trout Fishing in America – Some oldies but goodies and original work. Very fun.
    Barenaked Ladies – thought neither bare naked nor ladies, their music is creative and fun for all.

  50. says

    Oh, we love The Deedle Deedle Dees, and were lucky enough to have them come to my daughter’s school last year. They’re fabulous, and educational lyrics to boot.

  51. Melissa says

    Mostly this is seconding others comments, but…
    Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell did an album together that’s one of my absolute favorites. And Laurie Berkener and Dan Zanes are fun, too, especially when you watch them in their bright-colored clothes: In desperate moments, we watch their videos on youtube.

    And we have two different “Jazz for Kids” albums that are great:
    Jazz for Kids
    Nicky’s Jazz for Kids, which comes up on this Amazon link, too.

    And our kids love Celtic and our local folk station, WUMB, which you can listen to online elsewhere in the country.

  52. Caroline Francis says

    Some of my favorite Kids artists:

    They might be Giants
    Bare Naked Ladies
    Robbie Schaefer
    Billy Jonas
    Trout Fishing in America

  53. lisa says

    my nephews know every word to the Curious George soundtrack by Jack Johnson……and so do i!

  54. says

    asha, I’m going to have to _insist_ you download the TMBG podcasts for kids. especially “apartment 4″. not only is the music parent-approved, the animation is enchanting, mesmerizing. you’ll be converted (if you haven’t been already with all this reinforcement :). I have the ‘oh no, i never go to work!’ song on my ipod for running. it’s a great beat for the uphills.

  55. mel says

    Why yes, yes I DO have recommendations! I also had an anti-kids’ music bias, so here’s what we’ve found (and loved) at our house. There will be a few repeats in the list:

    – Dan Zanes
    – They Might Be Giants
    – Duplex
    – Elizabeth Mitchell
    – Mr. David
    – Innocence Mission’s nighttime CD
    – Renee & Jeremy (LOVE this one)
    – Steven Scott Lee
    – some of the For the Kids albums (especially the 2nd)
    – the Putumayo kids albums
    – Mamma Yamma & Friends (fantastic!)

    Hope you find some that you enjoy!

  56. says

    I second Imagination Movers, TMBG, and the Wiggles. Also, not a kids’ artist, but my 3 year old LOVES listening to this Mozart CD we were given — it’s several pieces of his music along with a little book for kids. She’ll ask for it…and her older sisters will groan. :-)

  57. Felicia says

    Along with TMBG and BNL we like to find adult music that works for kids too. We listen to President of the United States of America and Cake. Some lyrics could be a problem when they get older, but my 11 month old likes it a lot. Oh yeah, and Bob Marley. That’s her absolute favorite. Settles her down when she’s cranky in the car.

  58. Lara in South Riding, VA says

    Can’t forget Ralph Covert (Ralph’s World) — our kids both really enjoy him, in addition to TMBG, Barenaked Ladies, and Laurie Berkner. A new favorite is Brady Rymer, and my 4 year old LOVES him based on the 2 CDs we have (“I Found It!” and “Little Band that Could”).
    I also realized just yesterday that Ralph’s World has taught my 4 year old the sounds each letter makes (the song “Abby’s Alphabet Soup”) — my son didn’t know those things until he went to K, so she’s already at an advantage there.

    Also can’t forget to mention the Riders in the Sky, who did the soundtracks for both Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc. I particularly recommend the Toy Story 2 soundtrack — great to teach the kids about real western music.

  59. Rebecca says

    Youhave already blogged about They might be giants, who are our VERY FAVORITE kids Cds. But I don’t think I have seen you blog about the Barenaked Ladies CD “snacktime” It is AWESOME!

  60. Amy A says

    We really like SteveSongs. He is now on PBSKids, but those songs are for younger kids than the songs on his CDs.
    For older kids (7-10), we really like Bill Harley. He does songs and stories.

  61. Duncan Griffin says

    Big fans of TMBG of course, but our favorite of ours is colours are brighter…It’s a for charity kids CD where each of the tracks are written by well known bands (like snow patrol, flaming lips, franz ferdinand etc) all put together by Belle and Sebastian…

  62. Amanda says

    We have a band that was local to us, but I think they live in two states now…”Swingset Mamas!” My daughter loves their music. Its catchy and I don’t mind listening to it over and over and over again ;) Check them out ;) Sunscreen Lotion is one of our favorites!

  63. says

    We are big fans of a local duo out of BC called Bobs & Lolo. Our daughter is a super-fan…perhaps verging on stalker. Great, happy music with some clever lyrics too. They have been starting to tour down the West Coast of the US as well.

    We also love the BNL album and another called Songs for You by Jennifer Gasoi – quiet, sorta jazzy, happy music that’s easy on the parents’ ears!