A helping hand: Valley musicians provide a key assist for a Grammy-nominated children’s album

  • A number of Valley musicians worked on “Be a Pain: An Album for Young (and Old) Leaders,” an album by Boston singer Alastair Moock that’s been nominated for a Grammy award for children’s music.

  • Anand Nayak produced the Grammy-nominated children’s record “Be a Pain: An Album for Young (and Old) Leaders.” Gazette file photo

  • Valley musicians Scott Kessel, second from left, Anand Nayak, third from left, and Paul Kochanski, far right, assisted Alastair Moock, in center wearing hat, on his Grammy-nominated children’s album. Photo by Jeff Rich 

  • Boston folksinger and children’s songwriter Alastair Moock has won his second Grammy nomination with his few album, “Be a Pain: An Album for Young (and Old) Leaders.” Photo by Joe Wallace

Staff Writer
Published: 12/3/2020 4:04:00 PM

Valley musicians have had a tough go of it this year with the pandemic, as have performers everywhere. But some local players can take some satisfaction in being part of a children’s album that’s been nominated for a Grammy award.

“Be a Pain: An Album for Young (and Old) Leaders,” by Boston folksinger and children’s songwriter Alastair Moock, has contributions from a number of Valley musicians, including Anand Nayak, who produced the record. Also adding to the album are singer and fiddle player Rani Arbo, singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst, drummer Scott Kessel, bassist Paul Kochanski and singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, a former Valley resident who performs regularly in the area.

It’s the second Grammy nomination for Moock, who also got a nod in 2013 for his children’s record “Singing Our Way Through: Songs For The World’s Bravest Kids.” Anand, the longtime guitarist for the stringband Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem and for other groups, also worked on that disc with Moock, a good friend.

In a recent phone call, Nayak said he was happy to see “Be a Pain” get a Grammy nomination, though there’s also a somewhat bittersweet element to the news, given the musicians wrapped up work on the album late last year and had planned to tour to promote it this spring when it was released.

Then, of course, COVID-19 arrived on the scene “and that was the end of any touring plans,” said Nayak.

The songs on “Be a Pain” tackle subjects such as social justice and leadership, looking at historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Billie Jean King, and Pete Seeger, as well as current figures such as Pakistani women’s activist Malala Yousafzai and environmental activists — people who can “inspire our kids to move the ball forward,” as Moock puts it.

In an interview earlier this year with the Boston Globe, Moock said that though his music had long contained some degree of “political stuff,” it took him a while to figure out how to present it in a way that would be inviting and engaging to listeners, especially children.

“One of the things I learned . . . was that you don’t have to always provide answers,” he said. “The instinct is to say ‘everything’s going to be fine’ when you’re working with kids and be reassuring. And you can’t be overly scary, obviously, but at the same time, be honest.”

On the album’s bluegrass- and folk-flavored opening track, “What is a Leader?” on which Arbo also sings, Moock includes the lines “If a leader walked into the room / would you know it right away? / What would they look like? / What would they talk like? / What would a leader say?”

On his Facebook site, Moock recently wrote that though he’s thrilled by the Grammy nomination and by all the work that Nayak and the supporting musicians gave him, he’s discouraged that he and the other Grammy nominees this year for kids’ music are all white.

“It’s disappointing to — once again — see no acts of color among the five nominees,” he said. Women have also been under-represented in the category, he added. “It’s not just about the GRAMMYs — it’s our radio playlists, festivals, series lineups, and the makeup of our small world of gatekeepers and decision-makers. We need to do better.”

For his part, Anand says he enjoyed working on the album. He’s done production work for a wide number of different artists over the years, including Rani Arbo & daisy Mayhem, and given the lack of playing opportunities right now — Anand says he’s had just a handful of live gigs since the pandemic set in — he’s looking to expand his production work.

And maybe, he added, “there will be an opportunity to take Alastair’s new songs live at some point. At least we can hope.”

To learn more about “Be a Pain” and Alastair Moock, visit moockmusic.com.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.




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