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The Okee Dokee Brothers: Better than Laughing Gas

By Sam Payne

Some months ago, I had to have a tooth filled. Now, I don’t know how your dentist works, but mine has a TV screen on a big arm that he can position right above your face as he works on you. And his assistant comes in and asks you what you want to watch on Netflix. And that, right there – deciding what to watch on Netflix, as the dental assistant hovers with the remote, is the hardest thing about the dental appointment every time. And usually, for me, finally choosing something to watch is kind of a pencil drop. But on the day in question, there in the Netflix lineup was a trio of films from The Okee Dokee Brothers, the Grammy-winning duo made up of Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing. I knew something about these guys, and I’m interested in great music being made for kids, and so I had the dental assistant click on a film called Through The Woods, The Okee Dokee Brothers adventure on the Appalachian Trail, really sort of a video scrapbook of Joe and Justin’s hiking trip along the trail that runs 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. And there I was, dentist drilling on my teeth, trying to keep from laughing out loud as Joe and Justin, out on the trail, try to make up a secret handshake. And when they connect with The Wright Kids (a family bluegrass band in Virginia) for a soulful jam on Blue Moon of Kentucky, that was it. I was undone. I had to gesture to the dental assistant to turn it off before I made a fool out of myself or got myself hurt.

Since then, my eleven-year-old son and I have devoured everything we can get our hands on from The Okee Dokee Brothers catalog, including three albums (Through the Woods, Saddle Up, and Can You Canoe), accompanying films about adventures on the Continental Divide, the Mississippi river, and the Appalachian Trail (the films are all available on Netflix), and also their most recent book, a take on the folktale “The Fisherman and his Wife” called “The Thousand Star Hotel” (it comes with an audiobook version on CD, and an album’s worth of songs). It was a delight to have Joe Mailander, one-half of the group, join me in conversation on the show. You can find more from The Okee Dokee Brothers at www.okeedokee.org, and watch for the episode featuring my conversation with Joe at www.byuradio.org.

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