Austin, Tex., songwriter Joe Scruggs writes painfully pretty songs and sings them in a soft, sweet voice. This combination would be insipid if it weren't for Scruggs' lyrics, which are so clever in some cases that they actually improve on second hearing.
Scruggs' seventh album, Bahamas Pajamas, starts with a winner. ''Busy Box Band'' incorporates the ubiquitous infant crib toy into an impromptu concert. As the baby is ''laying down a beat'' in her crib, siblings join in on sax and guitar and parents dance in the hall to Busy Box sound effects.
Scruggs has a knack for the high-concept. In his updated ''Humpty Dumpty,'' the king's men call 911 and look for Super Glue. ''Star Sun,'' which seems to owe a great deal to Jimmy Dean's 1961 pop hit ''Big Bad John,'' makes the sun the bad guy in a Western. The message: Use sunscreen.
For all this wit, Scruggs' strongest songs are the soft ones, where he evokes the security children get from the routine of daily life. ''Almost Home'' describes the end of a vacation, ''Gingerbread Man'' a bedtime ritual. Both will make kids smile -- and parents blink and swallow hard.