Posts tagged folk

Dan Zanes and Friends

welcome_bandbenchAll I really need to say about Dan Zanes is that he is fabulous (and though he’s from New Hampshire, he did spend some time growing up in New Brunswick)! He’s about bringing people together, sharing and collaborating ideas, and just having fun. On top of the great band he regularly plays with, every album features a diverse collection of artists and a truckload of different styles of music. If you want to expose your kids (and yourself) to different types of music from around the world but don’t know where to start, or just can’t get into the Putomayo collection, DZ is a really nice intro.

The 2007 Grammy award winning “Catch that Train” (this album is my fav) features the gospel of Blind Boys of Alabama, Zulu folk songs sung by the children of South Africa’s Agape Orphanage, Natalie Merchant singing a scottish ballad, and topped off with a beautiful Mexican folksong.

“Family Dance” (2002) will get your kids up and moving, but I will add this caveat – waking up to “Hokey Pokey” at the crack of dawn one Sunday morning did not sit well with Boo’s dad (it was a 3 coffee morning) and has sadly turned him off DZ.

“Night Time” (2004) is a sweet album, great for tuning down your day. Amy Mann is always a nice touch, and Lou Reed singing music for kids? I love it.

DZ also released Rocket Ship Beach (2000), and Grammy nominated House Party (2003). In 2008 he showed his social activist colors with the release of “¡Nueva York!”, weighing in on the Immigration debate in the US by highlighting how immigration enriches music and culture. This album is full of songs from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere.

His latest album, “The Welcome Table: Songs of Inspiration, Mystery & Good Times” (2009) is an upbeat collection of new and previously released recordings of North American gospel traditions, but they’re much less Blind Boys of Alabama style gospel, and more zydeco-get-up-and-dance.

It was really hard for me to choose a song to post, since he’s so eclectic one song isn’t a good representation of what he’s about. “Catch that Train”, though, is one of my personal favs…

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Elizabeth Mitchell

41NQ9BP6JZL._SL500_AA240_ I first found Elizabeth Michell (a folk-rock singer and guitarist from NY) at one of Ottawa’s growing number of baby boutiques – her CD was playing in the background. Her sound was what inspired me to think differently about kids music and gave me hope that if you go looking for it, you can find some fabulous albums. While I haven’t yet listened to her other band, Ida, I’ve fallen in love with her children’s albums.

Mark Demming’s review stated it best –

Most commercial childrens music seems to be made under the assumption that youngsters are incapable of appreciating subtlety and need to be aurally slapped about the face with melodic and lyrical repetition in order to make sense of what they’re hearing. Elizabeth Mitchell is an educator and musician who thankfully knows better.

The simplest way to describe her music is indie-folk. It’s primarily just her and her guitar, with help from her husband, singers like Lisa Loeb, and a gaggle of delightfully adorable kids that jump in on the odd song. I think that’s one nice thing about these albums – it’s nice to hear kids singing along and being a part of the music, but it’s not overkill – they pop in, are utterly adorable, and then the album moves on to another song without kids entirely. The other great thing about Elizabeth Mitchell is that while her style is definitely folk, it’s a little more indie and edgy, particularly on Catch the Moon and You Are My Little Bird. It can take you a song or two before you even realise you’re listening to a kids album.

The songs include a mix of traditional folksongs (Woodie Guthrie, Elizabeth Cotten), and indie/pop/rock covers (Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan), and have elements of gospel, bluegrass, and even a little Johnny Cash. They also feature a nice mix of soft, lullaby-like tunes in French and Spanish, and upbeat, interactive songs that you won’t resist bouncing along to. I’ve even pulled out a tambourine (Boo’s favourite thing) a few times.

The first two albums (You Are My Flower and You Are My Sunshine, both released 2002) are much shorter and more traditionally folk. Catch the Moon (with Lisa Loeb, released 2003) is a little more pop and polished, and You Are My Little Bird (released 2006), which is my personal fav (and comes with a chord book for those of you who can strum a guitar), is a nice balance of everything.

You can listen to her albums on her website, YouAreMyFlower.org. It’s also available on Amazon.com and Emusic.com.

You can also check out these videos on YouTube:

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