"Catch That Train!" - the long awaited first new family CD from Dan Zanes & Friends since 2003's Grammy nominated "House Party" - features all the fun and music making that everyone has come to expect of Dan and more. The CD features guest artists Nick Cave, Natalie Merchant, Blind Boys of Alabama, Kronos Quartet and South Africa's Children of Agape together with the added bonus of a QuickTime version of the video for the title track currently airing on Playhouse Disney.
With each new Dan Zanes and Friends release, many fans worry that his homespun magic will eventually hit the right note with the masses. Zanes' music, as offbeat as it is organic, is so special to forward-thinking young families that plenty have batted around half-baked plans to attach a password to it. Anybody else can sell out, the thinking goes, but please, please not him. Catch That Train, then, is bound to meet with a lot of hand-wringing. For one thing, it's the first Zanes and Friends release since the crazy-haired, asparagus-stalk thin artist started appearing in videos on the Playhouse Disney channel. For another, Starbucks has stepped in to lend a promotional hand. Those are ominous indicators indeed, but if the largely on-track Catch That Train proves anything, it's that Zanes isn't lock-stepping it with the boardroom goons just yet. Once again, the high-profile collaborators (The Blind Boys of Alabama, Nick Cave, Natalie Merchant) could cause a childless hipster to heed the all-aboard call, but also as on previous discs, it's the usual suspects who supply some of the strongest tracks: Barbara Brousal on "Mariposa Ole," Father Goose on "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," and the Rubi Theater Company on "Walkin' the Dog." True, "Let's Shake" seems suspiciously TV-ready; skip it and pretend it never happened. Then keep your fingers crossed that, once this train leaves the station, Zanes--plainspoken hero to so many--won't trade it in for a stretch limo. --Tammy La Gorce
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