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Archive for the ‘Dar Williams’ Category

[ATTENDED: February, 20, 2012] Dan Zanes at State Theatre

President’s Day was Family Day in New Brunswick.  And despite the bitter cold, we had a nice time walking around, seeing the Philadelphia Zoo exhibit and, most of all, seeing Dan Zanes.

We have loved Dan Zanes since we were first introduced to him (like everyone else–as soon as we had kids).  I knew that Zanes was in the Del Fuegos, although (even though I lived in Boston for many years) I’d never heard them.  I have since listened to them but found them to be lacking, especially compared to Dan Zanes’ solo stuff.

So Dan Zanes has been releasing children’s albums for a number of years, now.  He has access to some pretty high-profile guests (his album Night Time features Aimee Mann, John Doe, Lou Reed and Dar Williams).  But even without the high-profile guests, the records are fun, warm and very inviting. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAR WILLIAMS-“Teen for God” (2005).

Dar Wiliams has a new disc in which she revisits her old songs (by herself and with guests) and which includes a bonus Greatest Hits disc.  I have listened only once to the disc, but it includes this song which fits perfectly with this story.

Williams has always been an excellent lyricist.  Her rhymes are strong and her descriptions and ideas are first-rate.  Normally, her songs are emotional and intimate, although this one is less so.  It’s serious and funny at the same time.

It begins with a teen at the Peach Branch Horse and Bible Camp where she’ll “pray for the sinners and their drunken car wrecks and vow that I’ll never get high or have sex.”  It’s interesting to compare this song and the implications of the teens for God circa 2005 vs what Franzen is talking about circa the early 1970s.  And it’s fascinating, and rather depressing frankly, how much more conservative times have gotten since then.

What really sells “Teen for God” are the final few verses, where we realize that we shouldn’t take too much of what the teens pledge to be long-lasting (like so many things that teens believe). “You gotta help me, God. Help me know four years from now I won’t believe in you anyhow and I’ll mope around the campus and I’ll feel betrayed all those guilty summers I stayed”

And all of this existential religiousness is set to a perky folk rock song.  The “Teen for God” chorus hits a perfect delayed chord, and is a wonderful singalong.  Perhaps even at a campfire.  On a retreat.

[READ: November 18, 2010] “The Retreat”

This essay is about Franzen’s childhood (always a good source for his stories) when he joined the hippie “Fellowship” at First Congregational Church.  Franzen is older than I am by a  few years, so a lot of things that he writes about from his childhood are things that I knew a little about or caught the tail end of.  So, in this case, I recall my church having Saturday night folk masses, where everyone played acoustic guitars.  I loved it and my parents hated it; when I recently asked a neighbor if they still do that she laughed at me and said they’d stopped it like 25 years ago.  Which explains a lot.

Anyhow, the article discusses an upcoming retreat that the ninth graders would be taking with the other older Fellowship students.  Franzen was a big fish in the 8th grade Fellowship but was a little nervous about the older group.  He loved retreats and wanted to go but didn’t think his parents would approve.  Luckily for him, his parents were in Europe at the time.  [This seems to be some kind of thing that parents did in the 70s–go to Europe for an extended period while the kids stayed home.  My parents never did, mind you, but some seemed to.] (more…)

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wimpy4SOUNDTRACK: DAN ZANES-Night Time (2002).

zanesI’d only ever heard of Dan Zanes as the guy from the Del Fuegos (who probably got the biggest boost of their career when Juliana Hatfield sang about them in “My Sister”).  But once we had our first child, everyone told me to check out Dan Zanes’ “kids” records.  Night Time is one of our favorites.  It’s often played at night (obviously) as a good bedtime CD.

There a few rousing tracks on it but mostly it works as a mellow disc, perfect for winding down the day.  Zanes’ “kids” music is absolutely not just for kids (well, one or two tracks certainly are), because he uses his rock roots to play good roots rock (and folk).  Another fun thing about this disc (and most of his discs, in fact) is that he has a whole host of cool rock people to sing with him: Aimee Mann, John Doe (from X), Dar Williams and Lou Reed!

So, while you get a few traditional kids song (“Pay Me My Money Down,” “Rattlin’ Bog”) you also get a few traditional songs that work well for kids, but are fun for adults to sing along to (“Side by Side,” “What a Wonderful World,” “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh)”).  There’s also originals by Zanes (the fantastic “Night Owl,” “Smile Smile Smile” and the gorgeous closer “Linger for Awhile”) and some nontraditional songs (Zanes likes throwing in “world” music titles) like “Que Fortunidad,” and “Siyahamba”.

And it all sounds great.  There’s a horn section on a number of tracks, bringing a very rich texture.  But he also uses solo guitar or even mandolin.  And Zanes’ voice sounds fantastic.  He’s slightly gruff sounding, but in an endearing way.

I don’t know if I ever would have listened to these discs if it weren’t for having kids; but even if you don’t have kids, don’t let the “kids” label scare you away.

[READ: October 17, 2009] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

I was thrilled when this book came in the mail.  (Yes, we do order some books to keep).  I’ve enjoyed the whole series quite a bit, and there was so much hype about this book (it was ranked #1 at Amazon.com!) that I was very excited to get it.

This book’s title is something of a double meaning.  Dog days of summer, and also the animal itself (a dog features in several panels).  And so yes, the story takes place over Greg’s summer vacation.

The first half of the book I didn’t find quite as enjoyable as I wanted.  It’s not bad by any means, but a lot of the conflict from the other books is absent.  Because it’s summer, there’s no school conflict and for reasons that aren’t explained, Rodrick isn’t really in the story that much (maybe he’s on tour with Löded Diper) [which, yes, is still funny].  And Greg has a fight with Rowley, so they don’t speak for a while.

In many ways these are exciting developments because there’s a lot of newness in the storyline.  But, like a soft pillow, I missed my favorite conflicts! (more…)

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I don’t have any news to add about the Festival yet; however, I just learned that I could add a map to my blog post, so, here’s a map to the Festival.

I was also looking at the lineup for last year’s Festival, and although there’s only a few artists signed up for this year so far, last year’s lineup is pretty impressive.   There were 70 artists altogether, including (band links are to the Festival’s site):

Broken Social Scene
Cat Power
Dervish
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Jian Ghomeshi
Aimee Mann
Joan Osborne
The Sadies
Ron Sexsmith
Martha Wainwright
Dar Williams

Pretty cool.  These are some of my favorite artists.

And here’s the cool interactive map!

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