Material: Master of his own genre, dubbed “toddlerbilly,” Matt Heaton spins humorous and soothing yarns for children and the parents who love them. A self-described mix of rockabilly, surf, roots and Irish music, his gentle touch comes fashioned to please listeners under the age of 10. Folksy covers of Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and Mr. Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” comprise much of his set.
Other classics feature twists, such as the mouth-trombone solo during “Rubber Duckie” or an outbreak-oriented spin on The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” (“We all live in a Covid quarantine,” floats shockingly easily off the tongue.) Originals, like the science-themed “Just the Facts” or the whimsical “Don’t Drink the Water (Your Butt’s Been In),” sport significant elements of non-threatening subversion.
Musicianship: Due to the pandemic, Heaton has been unable to jam with his Boston-based band, The Outside Toys, but his regular Facebook show, Mornings with Matt, prepared him amply for this premiere YouTube stream. A one-man show, Heaton capably entertains, casually strumming his acoustic and letting the songs’ lyrics speak for themselves.
Performance: Sporting a plain cowboy shirt and an open smile, Heaton’s easygoing presentation and playful attitude come tailor-made to attract new faces. Chatting fluidly between songs, taking requests and lamenting having never heard “Baby Beluga” prove he knows how to command his audiences to relax and have fun. Interactive segments, such as a dancing then freezing-on-command number and “Words,” which invites listeners to sing out fill-in-the-blank lyrics, surely engage young hearts and minds.
Summary: Heaton’s amiable style and whimsical material certainly satisfy his target demographic as well as their caretakers. Regretfully, there’s too much compositional familiarity between numbers and the occasional joke between songs would help to uplift his presentation. And while neither his voice nor playing style reach heights of shock or amazement, little ears are the ones best equipped to judge, so sit them in front of Heaton’s latest virtual performance and gauge their reactions accordingly.
Players: Matt Heaton, guitar