Festval Five Folk / Dan Zanes

Sea Music

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AllMusic Review by

Former Del Fuegos frontman Dan Zanes continues his homespun children's folk series with a set of shanties and other nautical delights on the appropriately titled Sea Music. In the grand tradition of briny stalwarts like Ewan MacColl, Paul Clayton, and A.L. Lloyd, Zanes keeps things simple, employing a small folk ensemble and chorus that allow the songs the infinite headroom that their menial subject matter requires. As expected, there's an underlying sense of whimsy that caters to the younger crowd, but Zanes seems genuinely inspired by the genre, offering heartfelt renditions of classics like "Shenandoah" and "Mingulay Boat Song" with a deep historical reverence. The performances are raw and authentic -- they were recorded in his kitchen -- and the instrumentation flirts with country, blues, and British folk with grace and humor. The Smithsonian Folkways-style packaging and extensive liner notes convey his passion for preservation, providing everything from chord changes to recommended recordings for further study, but it's the earthy enthusiasm that bubbles up beneath work songs like "Cape Cod Girls" and "Blow Ye Winds in the Morning" that resonates the deepest. Sea Music is quietly bombastic, thoroughly charming, and surprisingly authentic, especially when the quintessential drunk sailor song, "All for Me Grog," is led by an 11-year-old.

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