Personnel: Aiko Shimada (vocals); Elizabeth Falconer (koto).
Albums aimed at children can go two ways -- a few are sublime, but the vast majority go for the lowest common denominator, talking down to the kids and just being generally stupid. Without a doubt, Oyasumi falls into the former category. Singer/songwriter Aiko Shimada (who's been making a name for herself as a writer and performer) offers shimmering vocals on music from her native Japan, while Elizabeth Falconer (an American who fell in love with Japan) is an inspired and accomplished counterpart on koto. The material's drawn from a number of sources, some traditional, some more contemporary (including a beautiful Japanese version of "Twinkle, Tinkle Little Star" that brings fresh life to a tired old standard), and some original, with "Aiko's Lullaby" a real standout. But, truth to tell, there's little to choose between any of the 16 tracks here, as the standard is so high throughout. The arrangements are flawless, with Falconer inspired and endlessly inventive on her instrument. Where Shimada contributes guitar, it's subtle and often unusual, but fits perfectly with the song, and her vocals, almost whispered at times, create a lushness when double-tracked, managing the interesting trick of being full and spare at the same time. For Falconer, an avowed Japanophile, it's a way of exploring her passion; for Shimada it's a way to reclaim her heritage. That the two Seattle residents come together so well is excellent. That they make lullabies which aren't just for children, but that can also please and soothe people of every age, is a sure sign of success. ~ Chris Nickson