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The Sound: Dan Zanes & Friends

October 19, 2010

Okay first things first, if you don’t have kids or never plan to have kids, then you might want to skip this post. Go read the previous post or click on one of the links on the right. But if you like good music, you may want to stick around.

Alright, everyone else ready. Good. As the father of an 8-year old boy, it’s difficult finding songs appropriate for children that won’t drive you crazy listening to them a million times (because you will hear them over and over). A few years back I came across Dan Zanes through a duet he sang with Natalie Merchant, a favorite of mine.

Dan was a singer in an 80s band, the Del Fuegos, who hadn’t played since the mid 1990s. While searching for good music to play for his young daughter in the late 90s, he was dismayed that the choices were very limited and nothing for the whole family to listen to and enjoy existed. So he gathered some of his musician friends and recorded Rocket Ship Beach, an album full of old folk songs, a few classic children’s songs, and a few originals. None of the songs were pushing a toy line or talked down to kids, and not every song was a kid’s song, so adults got some great renditions of classic songs, like a stellar version of Over the Rainbow.

More albums followed, along with videos hitting rotation on Sesame Street and the Disney Channel. Trusting his audience, he even recorded albums in Spanish, one full of old sailor songs, one full of old Carl Sandburg tunes, another full of gospel songs, and his most recent full of Broadway tunes.

He’s into his second incarnation of band, but I can honestly say, their concerts are some of the best I’ve attended. It’s more like a big family party than a kids concert. Grant it, I wouldn’t go without my kid, that would be kind of creepy. It exposes children to the American songbook of folk, blues and rock, as well as some international tunes. That, and Dan is simply a good singer, great guitarist, and damn fine showman.

This past Sunday, I took my son to Dan’s concert, our 4th time seeing him. As usual, it was a lively affair and we had a great time

For some more “adult” songs by Dan that won’t leave you embarrassed to play without the kids, look up Loch Lomond, Colas, Jesus on the Mainline, Que Fortunidad, Up Above My Head, Hello, or Over the Rainbow on iTunes.


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