Dan + Claudia Zanes

REVIEW: Dan & Claudia Zanes “Let Love Be Your Guide”


Dan & Claudia Zanes — Let Love Be Your Guide

Released on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Dan & Claudia Zanes’ 14-song album is a record designed for the whole family to enjoy.  Dan Zanes (the Del Fuegos) is a GRAMMY award winning creator of children’s albums and Claudia Zanes is a Haitian-American jazz vocalist (and therapist).  Their harmonies blend wonderfully throughout the album as do their messages, in songs that were born during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.

In a sea of watered-down music for kids — of songs that are not so easy for grown-ups around them to listen to — this is an all around stand-out for its quality. Clearly more than “just” a children’s album,  it’s a heavy-hitter for really anyone of any age to enjoy.  In the ocean of grating children’s music, an album like this is a island of comfort.

The lead title track, was conceived and written in its entirety on the night of Rep John Lewis’ funeral, and is a catchy and inspirational “be your guide when you’re weary, be your guide when you’re unsure.”

“Open Windows” continues the powerful optimistic message.  And “Long Hot Summer Nights” advises us to remember the long hot summer nights, when we’re back to work — a great life message, about so much more than the seasons. “Can you hold on and remember when September comes?”

“Ki Le Map We Ou Anko”(“When Will I See You Again”) is another perfect bit of life advice through song, with a link to Haiti in the lyrics.

Toward the middle of the album, the lyrics become more direct, offering life lessons and more specific targets. “Coming Down” is a song that jumps into the heart of more difficult obstacles, like oppression and hierarchies, and suggests that “someday we may all be free.”   “New Beginnings” is a dance number that’ll have anyone up on their feet dancing:  “open up your heart to new beginnings,” and the duo says this is a celebration of their own new beginnings in Baltimore.

“In These Trouble Times” is another offering of hope — “god gave us the gift to hear that storm on the water,” and was penned during the pandemic about the new ways of connecting that emerged for all of us (e.g. via Zoom).

“Reparations Is a Must” takes a direct hit at the legacy of slavery in our country, in a classic protest-song style.  It features an intro of Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead from station WEAA, and guest vocals by Reverend Korcoran Smith, Kenan Smith, and Lily Smith.  “Hold On” circles back to a simpler message of the reminder to keep on holding on.

The songs are a real treat as they blend messages that are simple with layers of complexity for people of all ages to enjoy, with skilled and professional folk musicianship.

All songs on the album were written and produced by Dan & Claudia Zanes.

Core musicians on the album were Claudia Zanes on vocals and flute, Dan Zanes on vocals, guitar, lap steel, harmonica and mandolin; Isabelle DeLeon on percussion, Mike Lowry on drums and Jeff Reed on upright bass. guests on the album include Guests on the album, all locals, include Amadou Kouyate, Eze Jackson, Greg Corneille, Yesenia Mejia Herrera, Ashley Sierra, Isabelle DeLeon, Mike Lowry (Future Islands), Jeff Reed, David Morales Mejia, Kylie Grace, Eva Grace, Haven Grace, Prince Phillip, Reverend Korcoran Smith, Keenan Smith, Lilly Smith, Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, J Pope, Black Root, and Max, Grace, and Phillip Ferrell.

Find more information here: https://folkways.si.edu/dan-and-claudia-zanes/let-love-be-your-guide


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