Review: Family Dance - Dan Zanes

Family Dance is billed as being by "Dan Zanes and Friends." By inserting the "and Friends" part in there, the listener gets the impression that he or she, too, could gather their own friends round the piano in the living room, drag in a small amp and guitar, and record a really hip version of, say, "Skip To My Lou."

That listener, of course, would be completely and utterly wrong.

The reason they would be wrong is that Dan Zanes has a whole bunch of really talented friends who can actually sing and play their instruments. On Family Dance, for example, Rosanne Cash turns in a nice duet with Zanes on the obscure (for me) kids' song "Fooba Wooba John," Loudon Wainright III helps in a raucous version of "All Around the Kitchen," and Sandra Bernhard "sings" (sort of) on a Dan Zanes original, "Thrift Shop." The less famous of Zanes' friends are no less talented -- Barbara Brousal sings one of her songs, "Malti," while Rankin' Don puts some life into those most tired of kids' songs "The Hokey Pokey" and, yes, "Skip To My Lou."

There's not much difference between this album and, say, Zanes' later House Party. The later album is perhaps ever so slightly more diverse (there's not much bluegrass in Family Dance), but however you felt about House Party, you'll likely feel the same way about Family Dance. It draws from the same well of kids' classics, American songbook classics, some foreign nuggets, and a few solid Zanes originals.

The CD is appropriate for, well, just about anybody. Kids age 3 and older might appreciate it more, but more than any other kids' artist out there right now, Zanes is a practitioner of "family music," meant for the whole family. Available from Zanes' own label, Festival Five, or finer online and bookstore vendors. Definitely recommended.

(And Zanes would definitely recommend that you get your family and friends together to sing and play music -- it's one of his attitudes that I find most refreshing. But hold off pressing that CD, OK?)