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October 19, 2012

New Music: Rabbit Days and Dumplings

When I first heard that Elena Moon Park, one of the regulars in Dan Zanes's band for some years now, was coming out with an album of East Asian folk songs of her own, I was pretty confident it was going to sound fantastic before I ever heard a track. Park has long since proved herself a remarkably skilled and adept musician on the Zanes albums, and contributions from the likes of Zanes himself (who also executive-produced) and the Kronos Quartet made the album sound even more promising.

It doesn't disappoint—in fact, if anything, Rabbit Days and Dumplings surpasses my high expectations, for two reasons. The first is Park's remarkable arranging skill. Whether she's staying close to a song's Asian roots (as in "Ti Oh Oh," from Taiwan, and the Japanese fisherman's song "Soran Bushi," which I was thrilled to rediscover years after encountering a choral version of it in college) or Americanizing it somewhat (as with the opening track, "Sol Nal," which has a Zanes-y feel to it, as well as the Beatles-esque "Summer Is Here" and several others), Park has a knack for setting a song in an especially fresh way, using a wide variety of instrumentation in the process.

The second is Park's voice itself, which is a revelation: I'd heard her, of course, singing backup on the Zanes albums for years, but I had no idea she'd sound this amazing as a soloist! Her singing is warm, clear-toned, with a surprising power and strength—and always incredibly appealing.

So I'm not surprised in the slightest that Rabbit Days and Dumplings immediately shot to the top of the list of repeated-play requests from our two boys upon arrival in our house. It's pretty much irresistible. All I can add is: Dan, you gotta let Park sing some more solos!

[Image courtesy of Festival Five Records]

2 comments:

  1. Caroline in San FranciscoOctober 22, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    Heard a good interview of Elena Moon Park on NPR. The interview includes bits of sample music. Just ordered a couple of CDs. Thanks!

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