“We all play a part and we’re about to embark on a musical fantasy…”
That certainly is what I did six years ago when I found his first release, 2010’s The Musical Stylings of Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, and fell in love with his fresh take on the old ragtime style. I bought that album on Amazon MP3 and ordered a vinyl copy of the EP State Hotel (which I still have after getting rid of almost all of my vinyl) but wasn’t sure if Crimmins was a flash in the pan artist. There’s plenty of musicians who release one amazing album and disappear afterwards. I was thus very, very excited when Blair announced the follow up album, 2013’s Sing-A-Longs, kind of more of the same and kind of a new sound for Blair, I loved it just as much as the first album.
It was around this time I first met Blair. He played The Lizard Lounge in February 2014. I was just 17 and the show was 21+. Still, I got in touch with him and he met me outside the venue during soundcheck to sign my record, get me some merch and sign a CD for my grandfather, also a big fan. Neither of us tire of telling that story, I confirmed with him before my interview with him last year.
This year Blair has shaken off the adult moniker of “Blair Crimmins and the Hookers” for his children’s album All Aboard as “Captain Crimmins and the Story Boat Band. I had known about his ambitions for a kids’ album since a show at Club Passim in 2017, when he told me he wanted to model it after Harry Nilsson’s 1970 album/film The Point. I’d never considered Crimmins’ work as Nilsson influenced until I started listening to it, when it became quite apparent. “Puppy Love” on All Aboard feels particularly reminiscent of Harry Nilsson’s “Puppy Song” (though the Nixon-era cynicism of “signs that say no friends allowed” is appropriately absent.)
All Aboard is not a departure from Crimmins existing ragtime style. If anything it’s more a continuation of Musical Stylings than Sing-A-Longs or Gotta Sell Something, with “Venus Flytrap” standing out as particularly reminiscent of “Demon Like Me” in instrumentation, composition, and mood. Meanwhile tracks like “Yawning” feel particularly like that Nilsson vibe he told me he was going for two years ago, with a bit of a swing and goofy tone.
Behind the lovely melodies and sophisticated instrumentation, Captain Crimmins teaches children some important lessons. “The Seesaw Song” preaches the importance of friendship and the pains of isolation, “Frankenstein (Needs A Hug)” demonstrates both not to judge a book by it’s cover and that sometimes those who seem mean just need affection, and I don’t know if I’m reading into this silly tune too much, but “Monkey On Your Back” seems to be a surprisingly subtle and effective message about letting go of difficult memories and cutting out toxic people.
The 11 track album weighs in at 33 minutes, comparable to Crimmins’ previous three releases. Bookended by an intro and outro “Captain Crimmins’ Theme,” the album is a jaunty romp that children of all ages will love.
All Aboard is out March 15 on CD or MP3 download from Amazon, or available now for Kickstarter backers.
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.