The Sound: Classic American folk music.
In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: Dan Zanes, Pete Seeger, Laura Doherty
Best Moments: Serving as more of a mantra than a song, “Keep on the Sunny Side” once again proves irresistible. In today’s hectic, oft crazy world, the simply refrain of the century+ old traditional tune never felt more appropriate or necessary. Mitchell’s recording of this classic includes Amy & Levon Helm, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, and is just about the loveliest thing I’ve heard this year. Along those same lines, “Lovely Day”, with it’s spot-on sentiment “…then I look at you and the world’s alright with me”, reminds us that there exists a bottomless well of inspiration and positivity in the silly faces, cheesy grins, and maybe even those adorable sad-lips, of our little ones.
Mitchell and her daughter Storey conspire to turn John Martyn’s “Fairy Tale Lullaby” into your daughter’s newest favorite snuggling-up song. It’s as perfect a 2 1/2 minutes as you’ll ever spend with your child wrapped in your arms under, ideally, an old quilt once belonging to your grandmother.
Bonus Thoughts: Watch Elizabeth Mitchell, family & friends perform “Green Green Rocky Road” with Dan Zanes live at the Many Hands Haiti Benefit Concert in Florence, MA last month:
Bonus Bonus Thought: Design your own “Sunny Day” mask, like the one on the album cover, here.
Okay, Time to Wrap it Up with a Nice Little Bow: Elizabeth Mitchell is a picturesque covered bridge connecting modern families to old timey music. This is a role Dan Zanes has played for countless children over the past decade, but in 2010 it’s squarely Mitchell’s gig. Her albums, and this latest is no different, are textbooks for an all-ages folk music class for which there is no prerequisite. So regardless of whether you yourself grew up with Seeger, Jenkins, and Guthrie, “Sunny Day” can bring you and your children up to speed on traditional American music (and even a little Chuck Berry), all in under 45-minutes.
I’ll admit that Mitchell’s softness is not for everyone. To be frank, until my own musical path led me to Dylan and the Band back in my early-20’s, I would have all but ignored an album like “Sunny Day”. Now, as a fan of music and, to an extent, of music history, I cherish sharing songs like “Shoo Li Loo” and “Keep on the Sunny Side” with my kids. As luck would have it Mitchell brings my introduction to American roots rock-n-roll full circle through her relationship with The Band’s Levon Helm. The legendary drummer and vocalist appears on several tracks here, including “Mystery Train” which will sound very familiar to fans of “The Last Waltz”.
“Sunny Day” is an elegant collection of folk songs performed with an uncompromising intimacy, and stands as Elizabeth Mitchell’s best album to date. And I can’t help but think that the more folks who listen to it, the less insane this planet would be.
*Elizabeth Mitchell’s “Sunny Day” was provided to OWTK for review. The opinions expressed above are unbiased and true – no arm twisting took place in the review process.