Home Schooled – The ABC’s of Kid Soul
ou must realize that after a certain age we become in possession of a mind of our own.” My primary gripe up until age 16 was a perceived lack of freedom, which makes Patrizia and Jimmy’s “Trust Your Child Pt. 1” the first song I would’ve written had I paid the same attention to piano lessons that I did baseball practice. Numero Group’s Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul naturally represents the interests of children fairly well in areas of great import: parents, school, dancing. In these respects, kid-soul is a lot like grown-up-soul: marvel at its breadth of emotion and how simply it is expressed.
Age is the only unifying theme on Home Schooled as geography and circumstance vary widely. Florida, Oklahoma, California. Siblings, neighbors, fellow prodigies. Home Schooled’s best track comes from two Jersey brothers paired with a Delaware boy, hilariously named the 3 Stars. “Jersey Slide Pt 1” is the serendipitous product of all of kid-soul’s conflating factors: pairing a muted, darling horn arrangement with charmingly vague dance steps—“Slide to the right / Pick your left foot up and down / Slide to the left / Put your right foot all around”—and bratty encouragement.
Still, understanding the history behind these tracks mostly serves to add a layer of discomfort and uncertainty to their quaint excitements. That huge elephant in the corner? We call him Joe Jackson. Many of Home Schooled’s tracks were born out of similarly aggravated circumstances, and without the accompanying wealth and fame. Chicago bluesman Mack Simmons’s studio was funded with drug money. Arrow Brown ran a harem out of his home. Harold Moore Sr. included his two-year old daughter in Jr. Moore and the Soul Sisters, billed the “World’s Youngest Recording Group.” Add the compounding effect of children singing music often written and played by adults—it’s doubtful that pre-teens stumble into nimble dance-funk and harmonized choruses on their own—and it’s difficult to think through Home Schooled without bumping into the heebie jeebies.
Home Schooled, though, still finds brilliance in simple childhood memes. “You Are My Dream (School Time)” and “Now That School Time Is Through” bubble with innocence and humor. Deno, the album’s roundest, shyest voice, melts into the guitars with drowsy affection, “Can you come out to play?” and fades right with the song, “Sleepy / Sleepy / Sleepy.” Jr. Moore and the Soul Sisters’ instep groove, “2009 Cherry Soul Sound,” scratches by on the back of its 11 year old guitar player, his siblings muffled vocal exuberances washing through. Remember how youth measures and distorts time: on the ballad “Time,” Otis the 3rd reminds us how long things used to feel, when they were good, “Time / When you’re walking hand-in-hand / With someone you love / On a trip to Disney Land.”
A compilation of schoolchildren performing soul music brilliantly subverts expectations; careers have finite lengths, the difference between male and female all but disappears, and the potential of the performers is almost totally muddled, irrelevant even. Promise’s “I’m Not Ready for Love” nails the complexity, a group of girls denying what they cannot possibly understand, a lovely, polite inversion of girl-group principles. Still, they sound awful growed next to 8 Minutes, who spill all the damn milk just one track later: “Here’s some dances! / Ba ba bup Ba ba ba bup / HERE’S SOME DANCES!”