CD Review: Martha’s Trouble “A Little Heart Like You”

Martha’s Trouble

A Little Heart Like You (Aisling Records)

By Brian Arsenault

Martha’s Trouble, for the uninitiated ‘til now like me, is a husband and wife folk duo — Rob and Jen Slocumb — who had great critical success with their first album a few years ago, did the touring thing, released more albums with some success and then devoted some years primarily to their two young children.  A happy outcome of that kid commitment, besides presumably happier children, is their album of lullabies, to wit:  A Little Heart Like You.

The Slocumbs wrote several of the tunes here and interpreted some traditional lullabies as well.  The result is pleasing without being saccharine and, hey, we’re talking lullabies here.

Martha’s Trouble (Rob and Jen Slocumb)

If you had a musical cousin somewhere in the hill country, a sweet girl, a thoughtful girl, a sometimes sad girl, her singing would probably sound a lot like Jen’s. Rob’s deeply rooted acoustic guitar playing supports and enhances her voice throughout.

Fiddler Natalyn Weinstein is but one of several skilled players who lend a hand on gentle stringed instruments played gently.  The playing throughout seems as soft as a gentle hand, especially to one who spends most of his time hearing electric and brass.

The “standards” you know: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,”  “You Are My Sunshine” (perhaps the best ever), “Hush Little Baby (Mockingbird)” and so on but you may never have heard them done as real music for children, as songs of some integrity unembellished by fake kid voices and tinkly instrumentation. Trust me, a kid would prefer to fall asleep to these versions.

“Goodnight Sweet Child” is an example of the same kind of quality in composition and execution in the songs the Slocumbs wrote themselves. “Little Heart” is a poetic notion with which to characterize a young child or babe. “Precious Love” typifies the whole album, a love song to their babies.

That’s what raises the album above the pretty or simply cute.  It is an expression of parental love and a good one.

A secular Yankee like me inhaled a bit deeply at the inclusion of “Jesus Loves Me” and “Bedtime Prayer.” Is that bravery on the part of the Slocumbs in an age when so many run away from any representation of faith?  Or is it simply an unselfconscious shot at hope for higher love for their kids in an all too often cold cruel world?

At least in their version of “Bedtime Prayer” they left out the verse I knew and recited nightly for many childhood years with the terrifying line about dying “before I wake.” Who, as a child, completely comprehended that phrase about God taking your soul to keep? Who does now?

I can’t close without noting that I like very much that the album credits include a thank you to businesses in Auburn/Opelika, Alabama that provided “support” in the making of the CD. The list includes an insurance agency, a chicken finger restaurant, a dentist and a salon. Local sponsors. Cool, huh?

If you have a baby or a young child in your family and maybe you can’t sing a note or plunk a chord or even if you can, get this for an early musical experience.  Fortunately, there’s a baby due in our family in August and I now already have a great gift for him. And his parents.

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To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault, click HERE.


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