Good Times to Be Had with Groovy

Glenn McCarty

Artist: Denver & The Mile High Orchestra
Title: Groovy
Label: Go Fish Kids

Denver Bierman sounds like a guy who knows how to have a good time, or at least one who knows how to create a soundtrack for a good time.

And while Groovy, the latest from his swing band Denver & the Mile High Orchestra (DMHO), is billed as a kids' project, it’s more Benny Goodman than VeggieTales. DMHO is a legit band with serious chops, and on Groovy, they create a good-time, eclectic blend, folding some funk and old-school R&B into the mix for good measure.

The album is released on the Go Fish Kids label, and it will likely appeal more to school-aged kids and tweens than preschoolers (although their parents should have a blast with it). Compared to the corporate pop being pumped out by Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Cody Simpson, et al, Groovy isn’t just a breath of fresh air. It’s a wind tunnel. Instead of shoving relationship angst and consumerist greed down kids’ throats, Groovy places the emphasis on the groove, the whole groove, and nothing but the groove. “I Am a Promise” kicks off the album in big band fashion, Bierman’s jazz vocals scatting their way through the wall of brass, followed by “Movin’ to the Beat,” which a bit more funky.

This diversity becomes the norm on Groovy. Songs like “Groovy A,B,C’s" and “Get Down” take the album in a more funky direction, while “Prayin’ Man” and “Groovy” attempt a more modern sound. The lyric on “Groovy” is especially clever. Of course, asking whether the line “groovy, comin’ at you like a 3D movie” makes sense misses the point. It’s loads of fun, like most everything else on this album.

The band is most effective when it’s more in its element, as on “Sunday School Swing,” which sets Bible school classics like “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” and “The B-I-B-L-E” against a big band backdrop, tied together by an irresistible original chorus. The result is toe-tapping.

This is one band that knows its range, and on Groovy, Denver and his big band buddies have exploited those abilities to full effect. They’ve created an album suitable for the playroom, the living room, or the minivan, with plenty of fun corners for families to explore together. There really should be more of this out there.