Personnel: Dan Zanes (vocals, electric guitar, 6-string guitar, 12-string guitar, lap steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, banjo, autoharp, mandolin, harmonica); Donald Saaf (vocals, guitar, tenor banjo); Barbara Brousal (vocals, mandolin); Sophia Mockler (vocals, violin); David Jones (vocals, whistle, concertina); Cynthia Hopkins (vocals, accordion); Anna Zanes, Zuri Barnes, Jenny Marshall (vocals); Marc Ribot (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dobro, banjo); Lyris Hung (violin); Dave Hofstra (tuba); Rob Friedman (organ); Yoshi Waki (bass instrument); Jerry Marotta (drums, drum, percussion); Colin Brooks , Wayne "Rankin Don" "Father Goose" Rhoden, Aggie Decaul, Simon Kirke, Sam Sullivan, Louise Sullivan, Tareq Abboushi.
Fans who have followed Dan Zanes since 2001's Rocket Ship Beach probably noticed that the usual hubbub didn't attend the release of his 2004 album Sea Music. That was by design -- Zanes wasn't sure a crowd accustomed to "Polly Wolly Doodle" could handle songs not aimed squarely at kids (drinking and general debauchery were among the subjects). He was wrong, of course -- Sea Music is among his mostly highly regarded discs -- and one hopes the lesson will lead to the masses discovering Parades and Panoramas, possibly his best and definitely his most ambitious CD yet. Zanes, wild-haired and wildly optimistic, refuses to strut the musical easy street: Panoramas is adapted directly from Carl Sandburg's 1927 book The American Songbag, a collection of the poet's observations of a "ragbag" America. Because of its origins, the disc can sound straight out of a Coen Brothers movie -- you can practically see the dust kicking up on "Roll the Chariot" and "The Railroad Cars Are Coming." But the effect, rather than dulling the music's colors and textures or sweeping it into a corner alongside other Americana oddities, brightens what's on offer. Credit the unsurpassed inventiveness of Zanes and his usual collaborators, including Donald Saaf, Barbara Brousal, and Cynthia Hopkins. Some of these 25 songs are silly ("The Monkey's Wedding"), some devastatingly sad ("Lonesome Road"), and some flat-out, stunningly beautiful ("When the Curtains of Night Are Pinned Back"). All, however, will stay with you and your kids, permanently pinning back the curtains on a panorama you never knew existed but are enchanted to discover. ~ Tammy La Gorce