”Sleep My Baby,” ”Sleep, Little One,” ”Sleep My Darling Sleep” You wait for nine months to have a baby, and then when the baby finally arrives, all you want it to do is sleep. However mildly, all lullabies make this desperate point. But something else is going on in the soothing songs of Earth Mother Lullabies From Around the World, volume 1 by Pamala Ballingham. As singer Ballingham points out in her introduction to this collection, lullabies are the words of parents musing over their (they hope) unconscious children — they’re really love songs to babies.
So how do we say ”I love you” to our kids? We buy them stuff. From Appalachia’s familiar ”The Mockingbird Song” (”A mocking bird diamond ring horse and cart ”) to the obscure Japanese ”Sleep, Little One” (”a lovely flute and a thunder-sounding drum”), these songs are full of promised presents. This is just another way of saying, ”I’ll tend to your needs,” and it’s a lot more lyr-ical than ”I’ll change your diaper when you’re wet and clean behind your ears.”
Musically, the 10 songs are lovely: haunting melodies mostly in a minor key, sung by Ballingham (Voyage for Dreamers) in a rich soprano with harp, flute, and mandolin accompaniment. If there is a certain sameness to these pleasant tunes, so much the better. After all, what is counting sheep if not an exercise in monotony? A-