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Play favorites with... Barry Louis Polisar

Barry Louis Polisar picks

Every Wednesday Click Track finds out what the city is listening to with Play favorites -- a weekly column where we ask a Washingtonian what's been in heavy rotation on their stereo. If you're familiar with Maryland singer-songwriter Barry Louis Polisar it's probably for one of two reasons. One, your parents played you his songs when you were a little tyke - he's an award-winning children's songwriter who has entertained multiple generations with his songs over the past 35 years.

Or two, you heard his song "All I Want Is You" in the 2008 indie-hit movie "Juno." Funny story about that one, Polisar explains: "Jason Reitman,was looking for a song by Yo La Tengo called 'You Are the One I Want' and in a dyslexic moment he typed in 'All I Want Is You' on iTunes and my song popped up. And he tells the story that he played it, liked it, had his music people call me and secure the rights."

Lately Polisar has been listening to a lot of his own songs. But not his versions. A recent two-disc tribute album -- curated by a longtime fan who grew up on Polisar's music and eventually covered some of his songs with his rock band -- collects 60 covers and Polisar picked out some of his favorites.

"I Looked Into the Mirror, What Did the Mirror Say?" - Radioactive Chicken Heads
"I have to choose at least one song by the Radioactive Chicken Heads, because that's Aaron Cohen's group. He kind of spearheaded the project. They are an L.A.-based band. Punk sound, but they also perform in these giant costumes, it's very bizarre. I've had a lot of my songs recorded by other people over the years. Often times childrens' artists, what they do is they take my songs and smooth out all the rough edges. Make them a little bit more palatable to the masses. Get rid of anything that might potentially be offense. Aaron Cohen and his band just did the opposite. They sung my song in its full glory and I heard it and just laughed out loud. I wholeheartedly appreciated what his band did to the song."

(The "Juno song" and more, after the jump.)

"All I Want Is You"
"There are three different covers on the album. One is by this group called the Vespers and they do this really melodic, folk version.. My song was originally written and recorded as a children's song on one of my albums back in 1977. The Vespers do this really lovely, lilting folk version. Then Noga Vilozny does this very sultry blues, jazzy version that I love. Then a third version is by Eric Hartereau, who is a Britanny folk singer from France. And he translated the song into French."

"All I Want Is You" - The Vespers

"All I Want Is You" - Noga Vilozny

"C'est Toi que j'veux" - Eric Hartereau

"Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose"
"Before my song appeared in 'Juno,' before it sort of took off and went viral, my signature song was probably 'Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose.' There are two covers of that on this album. One is by Ham and Burger, they do this kind of techno-pop version of [the song]. There's also a klezmer version of the song. It's so funny to hear it done in a klezmer style, with clarinets and the whole klezmer sound. But even more interesting is that Deborah Berman and her band, the Nogoodniks, translate the song in Yiddish. So it ends up being this Yiddish version of the song. As funny as the song is in English, every time I hear [this one], it just makes me laugh.

"Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose" - Ham and Burger

"Shtek Nit Dayn Finger in Der Noz" - Deborah Berman and the Nogoodniks

"I Never Rode the Railroads" - John Winfield Blake
"It's recorded by a local artist named John Winfield Blake. I have actually known him for 35 years. That song pre-dates my career as a children's singer and songwriter. John had heard my song, which I had written probably in like 1973 or 1974, and he went into a recording studio in the early '70s and recorded this ... it's almost this country, old-timey sound. Just him and a guitar and maybe a dobro. He has this Hank Williams-esque quality that I love."

"I Never Rode the Railroads" - John Winfield Blake

"I Love Your Eyes" - Loverlee
"This reminds me a little of the song from 'Juno.' Through the years I've written probably seven or eight what I call kid-like love songs, songs like 'All I Want Is You' or 'I Need You Like a Donut Needs a Hole.' And Loverlee does a cover of one of the, 'I Love Your Eyes.' It's got this real loose, laidback feel to it that I just think is kind of fun.

"I Love Your Eyes" - Loverlee

By David Malitz  |  February 3, 2010; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Play favorites  | Tags: Barry Louis Polisar  
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There's really no way to pick just a handful of favorites from this collection of sixty songs. I have so many favorites--ranging from the sweet love songs that many of the artists recorded--to the rip-roaring funny covers that were re-imagined...I have about half the songs on my web site for people to listen to for free: and iTunes has samples too!
--Barry Louis Polisar

Posted by: barrylou | February 3, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Barry and Robbie Schaefer (of Eddie From Ohio, and XM's KidsPlace Live) will be doing a first-time live co-bill Saturday Feb. 13 at U-Md's Clarice Smith Center (recital hall). It's for the kiddies, so it's 2-4 p.m. Oh, and it's a benefit show, too, for Hungry for Music, a DC based mostly volunteer group that donates musical instruments for kids. Treat your kids (and yourself) and do good at the same time.

Posted by: imisssiskel | February 4, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

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