MarshmudcoverGrade:  A-
Entire family:  No
2013, 52 min., Color
Unrated (would be G)
Aspect ratio:  16×9
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features:  none

This DVD is for the little ones in the family—though the music is catchy enough and the performance so accomplished that others may enjoy Roger Day: Marsh Mud Madness.

If you haven’t heard of Roger Day, he’s a Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning singer-songwriter who performs with a very young audience (ages 5-7) in mind. Day is the children’s Jimmy Buffett, a laid-back but enthusiastic fellow whose catchy, clever songs have the same goofy wordplay that made Buffett a hit with adults. His voice and stage mannerisms are even somewhat like Buffett’s, though that could be a regional thing. Both Day and Buffett were born in Alabama, and their music has that same unique sound that Buffett described as “Gulf and Western.”

In his most recent DVD, Day runs onto the stage at the Savannah (Georgia) Music Festival and with his very first song has the kids in the audience joining in with hand and arm gestures. Some of them are clearly older—up to second grade, I would say—but en masse they all still get involved. Day easily hooks them with assignments he gives for each song, and at mid-point in the concert he gets them to stand up and jump like a dolphin as he sings a song about it. So he knows how to handle fidgety little ones, and knows that if his unique back-up band (a violin, upright bass, and two percussionists) gets a groove going, he can talk to the children before he sings a song and teach them a thing or two.

Marsh Mud Madness is a unified set that offers lessons about the ecosystem of the marshes and beaches of the barrier islands on America’s eastern seaboard. What’s lost by having to watch a DVD of the performance rather than being part of that live experience is gained by the intercutting of nature footage that illustrates just what Day is singing about. Like one of the Kratt brothers, he seems just as at ease talking about nature as he does singing onstage. In fact, I would say that if you have a child who’s age seven and under who likes Kratt’s Creatures and music, Marsh Mud Madness will probably be a hit.  

MarshmudscreenDay weaves in lessons about the scientific method, creatures in the marsh and estuary, and vocabulary words like “endangered,” “habitat,” “nocturnal,” and “carcass.” “Estuary,” he says. “That’s a hard word to say. Everybody say ESTUARY.” And then he gets them to say it in a sing-song, quasi-operatic voice to show them that language itself can be fun.

Day takes the stage wearing the same sunhat and mud boots he wore as he explored Sapelo Island at the University of Georgia Marine Institute. Day had been commissioned to follow scientists around and come up with a musical album that would teach children about the ecosystem in and around the saltwater marshes and beaches of the barrier islands—and he nailed it.

The best songs are the ones that play with language and get a little silly, like “Mosquito Burrito,” “The Fiddler [Crab] Groove,” “Alligator in My Refrigerator,” or “Vulture Vomit.” I know. It sounds gross, but Day plays off that grossness by getting the kids to gross out with him, then explaining how cool it is that the vultures provide a necessary service to the ecosystem. Twelve songs are performed, all intercut with nature footage and lessons about nature and ecology, and only one of them—appropriately about the Periwinkle snail—is slow. The rest are upbeat and so catchy that Marsh Mud Madness should be a repeat-play hit with the pre-school and lower-grade set.

Simply put, Day outclasses every other children’s entertainer I’ve seen. My only complaint is that a CD isn’t included, because your child is going to want to hear these songs over and over again.