There to the left is the cover art for Dan Zanes' new album, Little Nut Tree, which will be released on Zanes' Festival Five Records on
September 13 now September 27. (Woo!)
As always, the album features a cavalcade of stars: Andrew Bird ("I Don't Need Sunny Skies,” a Zanes original), Sharon Jones (R&B classic “Down in the Basement”) the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars (the title track, originally by the Melodians), and Joan Osborne (another Zanes original, “Everybody’s Going to be Happy”).
In addition to the big names, longtime Zanes fans will be happy to hear that in addition to his band (featuring Sonia De Los Santos, Colin Brooks, Saskia Lane and Elena Moon Park), other past collaborators such as Father Goose, Barbara Brousal, Bonga, Simon Kirke, Donald Saaf, and Tareq Abboushi will be on the album. Also appearing will Shawana Kemp AKA Shine from Shine and the Moonbeams, who is poised to make a big splash on the kids music scene in the upcoming year.
Zanes is embracing the idea that this album is a "return" to family music. (His albums after the Grammy-winning Catch That Train! weren't necessarily in that vein, with spiriturally-themed, Spanish-language, and Broadway-sourced albums made in the meantime.) He cites Smithsonian Folkways albums as an inspiration and as for its general mood, Zanes says, "Little Nut Tree is the grooviest of the Dan Zanes and Friends family series CDs although you could still nap to it if you needed to." Nap to a DZ CD? Never!
And, yes, Donald Saaf is doing the artwork, full board book style, once again for those folks like me still wedded to the physical medium for their music.
OK, well, you probably need more, but it's enough to get started with. Dan Zanes has continued to release videos on how to make music on a variety of instruments -- guitar, mandolin, spoons, even. I was apparently not the only person who requested ukulele lessons, as Zanes has now released a ten-minute video of (very) basic ukulele technique. (Note: I actually think Dan had this recorded for a while, so I take zero credit for this whatsoever.) He covers the first three chords almost everybody learns when they first pick up the uke -- C major, F major, and G7. You know those three, and you can play a heckuva lot of songs. By the end he throws in C7 and F7, and you've got yourself a party. You also know a lot of lyrics to "Crawdad."
It's been a couple weeks now, but I didn't want to forget to mention the show Dan Zanes put on here in the Valley of the Sun. He and the Friends played at the lovely Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on a Saturday afternoon. Having now seen Zanes in concert three times, there's not much he and the band can do to surprise me at this point. He's got ten albums, and since a concert of 75 minutes or so only has time for maybe 15 songs (I think they played 16, including the encore), there must always be a handful of songs that are favorites of one fan or another that they don't get around to. Doesn't matter much, anyway, because Zanes always seems to be on a single-minded mission to lead a party, not a concert, and as soon as the first song ended and he invited folks into the mosh pit up front, and a bunch of families were happy to oblige. "Fine Friends Are Here," "Malti," and many more -- there were always people dancing up front and up and down the aisle steps. I was there with Little Boy Blue, and while it took him nearly an hour as he sat shyly in his seat, eventually he dragged me down front (it was for the gigantic train of "Catch That Train!"). While I say there isn't much that Zanes can do to surprise me in concert, his long-standing tradition of bringing in local talent to perform with him at his shows, is still one of them. As it turns out, I saw a neighbor there who mentioned that the daughter of one her friends would be performing with Zanes. Sure enough, six songs in, a young girl strode out onstage and played "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" with the band. The girl's name is Bebe, and she's the daughter of Eileen Spitalny, one of the folks behind the well-known Fairytale Brownies. The Spitalny family is also an even bigger Dan Zanes fan than I am, having seem him and the band even more often than I am. Maybe that's why she was totally unfazed by going out on stage and playing a song with a band in front of hundreds of audience members. (More poised than I'd be, probably.) Beyond Bebe, the "formal" musical guest were the Valley View Latin Jazz, a group of middle school students. They played a couple songs, plus an encore, with the band. Nothing like adding fifteen or so musicians to the stage... So, yeah, another fine DZ show. I realize that suggesting that folks see Zanes in concert is not swimming against the critical current, and in fact a lot of you probably have already done so. But if you haven't, you owe it to yourself to see how he works to bring everyone together at a show. And if you have, it's still possible to be pleasantly surprised. Disclosure: I received a pair of tickets for the show from the SCPA. Photo credits: Spitalny photo
Dan Zanes and Friends are returning to Phoenix for the first time in more than 3 years. And you should definitely be there when he does. I can speak from personal experience the joy and community engendered by his concerts. And, if you live in Arizona, on this Saturday, May 14 at 3 pm, you can, too. He's playing the gorgeous Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Now, you can go here and buy tickets, if you haven't already. But the Center is offering you the chance to win tickets, too. That's right, one lucky local reader will get a family four-pack of tickets to Saturday's show. Of course, "family" in Zanes' world is a very inclusive word, so if you want to bring three of your college buddies, that's totally fine. (I've seen it happen.) Here are the simple rules -- just comment below (you'll need to register with my anti-spamming system in order to do so) and tell me one song you hope to hear Dan play in concert. Alternately, you can comment on the post for this contest on the Zooglobble Facebook page. One entry per person per location -- that means you can enter twice, once here and once on Facebook. All entries due by 9 PM Phoenix time this Wednesday (the 11th). I will randomly pick one winner and let them know how to get the tickets. Thanks and good luck! Photo by Anna Williams
Time once again for all the news that didn't fit into a separate post due to time, interest, contractual, or legal obligations -- it's your favorite pun-titled file folder of a blog post, the Ketchup Report! Yaaay! (Cue Kermit the Frog wild arm-flailing here...) The World of Happiness single, the "We Are the World" of the kids' biz, "A World of Happiness," is here. Except your kids might actually want to listen to this new song when they become parents themselves. Sales of the single, produced by Tor Hyams and Joanie Leeds, benefit Autism Speaks. The single includes a whole host of folks besides Leeds and Hyams -- Molly Ledford (who gets the honor of leading off the track), Frances England, Ralph Covert... it just goes on and on. A bunch of the participants will be recording a concert later this month for broadcast on Sirius/XM Radio later on. Anyway, it's $1.29 well-spent right here. I could probably start a whole separate post listing all the recent crowdfunding projects in the kids music world. Heck, it's almost getting to the point where I could start a blog listing all the recent crowdfunding projects in the kids music world. I've been partial to Kickstarter, of course. The two most recent projects have been a Professor Banjo and his successful second-album project and Ryan SanAngelo and his not-one-but-two-Kickstarter-projects. But other sites do the same basic thing. Van Oodles didn't quite succeed in making a video for a song of his, but LA indie-rockers Ellen and Matt and Chicago's Laura Doherty are both looking for funds for their next disks. Should you feel so inclined, help out Ellen and Matt here and Laura for her new album Shining Like a Star in the widget there to the side. -- For a limited time, Doctor Noize's "Bananas" iWhatever app is free. Download the ever-so-slightly-educational app here. (Note: may no longer be free.) -- Finally, with Earth Day coming up, a it's time for Earth Day-related tunes. Dan Zanes has a new, original tune, "Hail the Creatures" written by Zanes for a new exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo. You don't need to be near Philly to enjoy the track, just near an iTunes-enabled gadget that can download this, with proceeds benefiting the Zoo. (More details on the tune and the Zoo's new exhibit here.)... Bill Harley is offering a free download of "Keep It Green" from his 1996 album Big Big World -- you can get it here... And finally, DARIA is offering a mini-CD of 6 "earth friendly" songs, free just for the price of an e-mail address (and an earth-friendly suggestion).
I know that people sometimes criticize the Grammys for being not quite attuned to the "real world," especially in the genre categories, but most readers of this site would probably look at this year's list of kids music nominees as being more familiar and representative of the year in family music than the list of Top Kid Audio (as Billboard calls it). The Top 25 list is headed up by Kidz Bop 18 and followed up by... er... Kidz Bop 17. Kidz Bop gets a total of 4 albums on the list. Disney gets a stunning 15 albums on the list, including 3 Hannah Montana-related disks (one being a karaoke disk). Add a couple Nick/Viacom show soundtracks, the Chipmunks, Charlie Brown Christmas, a Cedarmont Kids album, and a no-name collection of kids' Christmas sing-along songs, and what you're left with in terms of what you might think of as an actual independent artist hitting the charts is, er, nothing. Now that's not entirely true. One of those Nick/Viacom soundtracks is Music Is Awesome, Vol. 2, the Yo Gabba Gabba! collection, though it could be argued that that's just a college rock album marketed slightly differently. The other album is They Might Be Giants' Here Comes Science album, which has spent a whopping 52 non-consecutive weeks on the Kid Audio chart since its release in September 2009. But it could be argued that TMBG's other fan base helps out considerably as does Disney's distribution power, which no doubt helped get the album in places most kindie artists can only dream of. Compared to last year, the genre didn't do appreciably better when compared to the industry as a whole, given that 3 of the Top Kid Audio albums charted in the Billboard 200 in both 2010 and 2009. But the broader issue is that it's impossible to fully measure the genre's impact. I wouldn't be surprised if Justin Roberts' Jungle Gym (which reached as high as #10 and spent a couple weeks on the Kid Audio chart is being underreported if a lot of his album as sold via toy stores, for example, or at Justin's shows (I don't know if he's self-reporting to SoundScan). And Laurie Berkner's Best of... must have just missed the cut-off, because her album spent a full 3 months in the Kid Audio Top 10, and has spent 28 weeks there total since being released in late June. One wonders, however, whether kids' music would have wider visibility in the industry if it figured out some way to better quantify all the albums being sold (or if SoundScan reduced the fee to become a reporter). I would guess that the percentage of "unreported" sales is higher in this genre than in others, and that maybe a few more artists (rather than TV and movie soundtracks) might squeeze their way in were those "unreported" sales finally reported.