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Night Time!

Dan Zanes

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Album Review

Dan Zanes has certainly come a long way from those sepia-toned days in the '80s, when he fronted boozy alternative rockers the Del Fuegos. The new millennium found him trying to reconcile the seemingly disparate strands of family life (as a devoted father) and his artistic ambitions. He solved the conundrum by recording "family-friendly" albums in his basement and releasing them on his own label. These are clearly songs aimed at kids — but they are well crafted enough to be equally enjoyable for adults. For this album, Zanes sought to undertake some themes that evoked the night, and, as usual, he enlisted a stellar cast of "friends" to help round out his muse. The result is a gorgeously reflective work for all ages. One listen to "Night Owl," which pits Zanes' gentle, rootsy vocals atop a languid country- blues acoustic figure, offers clear evidence of this music's broad appeal. Zanes, supported by Aimee Mann's guest vocals, even adds owl hoots for the kids — yet the track is sturdy enough that it wouldn't be out of place on a Steve Earle album. Another highlight is a wildly original interpretation of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," with guests Lou Reed and the beatboxers/rappers of the Rubí Theater Company. Old punker John Doe (of X) even comes out for the kids, teaming up with Zanes on Woody Guthrie's "So Long (It's Been Good to Know You)." Dar Williams also pops up on a stirring, mystery-laden version of the traditional "Wild Mountain Thyme." Despite the homespun nature of these projects, major publications (Billboard, the New York Times) have been taking notice and offering raves. Night Time is clear evidence why. Zanes is onto something special with his non-patronizing, well-intended family tunes. It wouldn't be out of place to call this adult alternative music for kids. Paradoxical for sure, but this is good stuff for hip moms and dads to listen to when the kids aren't even around.

Biography

Born: 1961 in Exeter, NH

Genre: Children's Music

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

After years of rocking in the 1980s with the Del Fuegos, singer/songwriter Dan Zanes created his own band, the Dan Zanes Trio, in 1994. The group got started when Zanes was hanging out with producer Mitchell Froom in Lower Manhattan; after adding drummer Jerry Marotta, they began playing their sparse blues and folk-rock to small crowds in clubs like the CBGB Gallery. Produced by Froom, the trio's debut LP, Cool Down Time, a raw rock effort influenced by '60s-era R&B, appeared in 1995. In 2001...
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Night Time!, Dan Zanes
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