The Virginia-based Buck Howdy bills himself as "The King of Kids' Cowboy Music." While that might sound like an example of "big fish/small pond," his 2005 album Giddyup! does nothing to make someone doubt that claim and might even gain some fans outside the genre.
Let's start with the best-known song, "Baked Beans." It's a silly story about gastrointestinal distress on the range that would grow old very quick if it weren't so expertly crafted. I mean, between listening to the album and satellite radio, I've heard the song 15-20 times at least -- a song about "cutting the cheese", for goodness' sake -- and it's still tolerable. (Which is a good thing, because I'd imagine 5-year-old boys would want to listen to the song 15-20 times. In a row. Every day. For, like, six months.)
That song is tolerable over repeated playings in large part because the musicianship is top-notch. Howdy's small band plays western swing, bluegrass, and traditional country tunes with precision. Howdy has an appealing voice with just enough twang. The album just sounds great.
The album is split evenly between Howdy originals and covers. If you're worried that the whole album is jokey, don't be. With the exception "Baked Beans" and "My Favorite Kind of Bugs," the originals are straightforward cowboy songs (albeit targeted at 6-year-old cowpokes). Some of the covers work well (Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John"); others, while not bad, left me with a "why bother?" feeling ("Hokey Pokey").
Those of you buying the album for the Trout Fishing in America performances will likely be disappointed, as they don't make much of an impression in their songs ("S'mores," "Giddyup!"). Laurie Berkner's appearance is another matter -- her duet with Howdy on Dale Evans' "Happy Trails" is sweet and makes you wonder where Berkner has been hiding that fabulous voice on her own CDs.
"Happy Trails" is one of my two favorite songs on the album; the other is the last "Bonus Track." To reveal too much about the song would ruin the surprise, so I'll just say that it's a song that will likely amuse the 6-year-olds and possibly make the adults laugh out loud.
Giddyup! is probably best for kids aged 4 through 10. It's available in the usual online and offline suspects. If you want to listen to most of the album (though, sadly, not my two favorite tracks), you can listen to the tracks here. Unless you or your kids have a genetic twang deficiency, you will probably find something to like in the album. Recommended.