In Kids & Family

Dave Fox has played folk music for almost 40 years. (PHOTO: Deone Jahnke)

In Kids & Family

Will Branch is a full-time folk musician living in Walker's Point. (PHOTO: Deone Jahnke)

Fox and Branch offer quality music for Milwaukee families

Originally, the idea of hip kids' music sounded like a good one. After all, since parents have to endure the same kiddie songs over and over, shouldn't they at least get to enjoy them? With that thought in mind, lots of bands cropped up, claiming to be part of a new-school movement of music appealing to both kids and adults.

Unfortunately, these days the kids' music market is so saturated with bands claiming to be "family friendly" and "smart and hip" that it takes just as much time as it did before to wade through and separate the quality from the crap. The best family music, it seems, comes from musicians who don't try too hard to make "hip" kids' music. Once again, sincerity and lack of pretension go a long way.

Such is the case with Fox and Branch, a folk duo that truly falls into the "family music" category because it plays timeless music that appeals to fans of all ages. Fox and Branch play a free show at Anodyne Coffee, 2920 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.

Fox and Branch's music is revived from decades past in a fresh and fun new way. Band mates Will Branch and David Fox, both Milwaukeeans, play a mix of old blues, jug band songs, fiddle tunes, New Orleans-flavored numbers and Cajun tunes. Their children's shows include sing-alongs and allow kids to try the washboard and the limberjack, a traditional Appalachian toy.

"We play folk music for families -- traditional folk songs for children, with some original tunes thrown in," says Branch.

As a teenager, Fox performed in a Madison jug band, and to this day, his guitar work is influenced by the blues greats he met and spent time with during this period. Prior to teaming up with Branch, Fox performed for many years with his wife, Penny, and later with acclaimed local folk musician, Lil Rev. In 1997, Fox was named World String Blues Champion at Avoca, Iowa.

Branch, originally from Shorewood, makes his living through music. He also performs as a solo act, playing his own songs and traditional material. His first solo recording, "Press On," received airplay on many folk radio stations around the world.

OMC recently tracked down Fox and Branch's Will Branch and asked him to elaborate on his kid-focused music.

OnMilwaukee.com: Why do you like playing music for children?
Will Branch: Playing for kids is always fun. They have a ton of energy and are always excited about music.

OMC: Do you and/or Dave have your own kids?
WB: Dave has two grown children, a son and daughter. I don't have kids, but I feel like I do, since I play music for them almost every day.

OMC: Who are your influences?
WB: I grew up on Pete Seeger and Ella Jenkins, and they are still my favorites. I like Dan Zanes and Bill Harley out of the contemporary people out there. This is a good time for children's music -- there are tons of performers out there.

OMC: Is it different making music for kids, or is the process similar to making music for adults?
WB: Making music for kids is the same as making music for adults -- you put on your best show. Most of our shows involve kids and their families, so it feels much more like a community event than playing at a club or bar.

OMC: What role does the audience play in your live shows?
WB: At our shows, the audience is a big part of everything we do. People should expect to sing, dance and move around. Kids will get a chance to try some of the instruments we play, too.

OMC: Do you and Fox have "day jobs?"
WB: I'm a full-time, freelance musician. Dave is a schoolteacher -- he teaches third grade at MPS.

OMC: How many CDs do you have?
WB: We have two CDs of family music out -- the latest one came out Feb. 5 and is for sale on our Web site and will be available at upcoming shows.

OMC: How long have you and Dave Fox been playing together and why does this relationship work?
WB: Dave and I have played music together for almost 10 years. We've toured the Midwest and East Coast playing for grown-ups and kids. We have similar beliefs about music, in that we think it should involve the audience and be down-to-earth. We get along well together.


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