“The Big Parade: Grammy-Winning Kids’ Singer Leads a Chorus Line of Famous Friends&#8221

The first time I really became aware of Dan Zanes he was plinking a mandolin on an episode of Sesame Street, gathering a bunch of kids and Williamsburg-style hipsters around him, Pied Piper-like, on the steps of some Brooklyn brownstone. With his owl's-nest hair, craggy features and scrawny, aging-rocker bod, he physically reminded me of my all-time rock-star crush, Paul Westerberg of the Replacements. Zanes is such a gentle presence too — a pleasure to interview. Kids' music is a shifty business — it's either too saccharine or too condescending or just plain too much. I can't stand Disney movies in part because of those overly dramatic, deafening soundtracks. Zanes' music rides a nice line between all those evils. It's just low-key, joyful, bouncy, ageless stuff. — Melanie McGee Bianchi, freelance writer

“Like a toddler with a leaky sippy cup, Dan Zanes casually dribbles a trail of notable names wherever he roams. For a decade, he’s been a family-music scion. …

From folk and country heirs (Loudon Wainwright III, Roseanne Cash) to A-listers (Sheryl Crow, Matthew Broderick) to blues institutions (Blind Boys of Alabama, at Lincoln Center no less), an impressive list of stars have hopped Zanes’ train. His famous admirers have performed with him live and contributed tracks to a series of eight albums that most recently includes 76 Trombones, pared-down versions of Broadway show tunes. …

Absent the bombast, these theatrical anthems (culled from a music-publishing catalogue owned by Paul McCartney) make ideal fodder for kids’ music, and particularly for Zanes’ signature treatment — a tattered lo-fi charm juiced up with virtuosic flourishes from his smiley, zany-instrument-wielding back-up band.”

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