When it’s past 10 and baby Jason or Jessica won’t turn on the snooze button, you do what you gotta do: You sing. Or affect your best proximity.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to own ‘Til Their Eyes Shine (The Lullaby Album), you have a team of famous pop-music figures do the lullabying for you. This is one song collection that’s truly dreamy, a hypnotic anthology of vintage and original sleepytime tunes recorded by 12 women artists, including Gloria Estefan, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Dionne Warwick, and Laura Nyro.
This charity album was pulled together over the course of a year by Rosanne Cash and Jan Arnow, executive director of the Institute for Intercultural Understanding, a nonprofit group that develops educational programs about multicultural diversity, particularly for children. All the artists and songwriters have donated their royalties to the IICU. The beneficiaries may rest a little more soundly if they ever chance to hear this recording of sometimes tranquil, sometimes rollicking melodies.
Cradle songs such as Emmylou Harris’ rendition of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s ”Child of Mine” were traditionally used to calm not only the child but the singer as well. In this simple piano-backed song, the gentle sentiment of the chorus creates an aural blanket for wrapping a child in love: ”Oh yes, sweet darling/So glad you are a child of mine.”
Sung to a more complex melody, the star lullaby on the album is, in fact, a confessional narrative: The McGarrigle sisters’ original song ”Lullaby for a Doll” gives a dream-inspiring explanation of how a carefree young girl arrived in the happy position of suburban housewife. For another unusual lullaby, there’s Carole King’s mid-tempo original, ”If I Didn’t Have You to Wake Up To,” which lends a girlfriendly tone to the celebration of the mother-daughter bond.
Cash sings her ”Carrie” in a most unlullaby-like way: Its lilting folkie tempo blends with a soaring chorus that celebrates a new life, leaving you with no desire whatsoever to fall asleep. In fact, her James Joycean ode to making a baby in the Shangri-La Hotel opens the record with a sexy hint that for the next 43 minutes, men are to be felt, not heard, since no male artists are represented here.
Intriguingly, the fathers on ‘Til Their Eyes Shine seem to be taken for granted, even though they may be just as much a part of the framework of these women’s lives as are the children who inspired the songs.