Smithsonian Folkways has officially welcomed “Let Love Be Your Guide”, the first duo album by internationally renowned family musicians and family to the proGram, Claudia & Dan Zanes. The collection is a welcoming, freewheeling musical conversation about anti-racism, racial justice, and the joys of community. Conceived during the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings and coronavirus pandemic, the songs describe the new terms of togetherness – how we understand it, how we build it, and how we strive for more. Claudia & Dan like to describe their style – rooted in many different traditions including gospel, country, R&B, and traditional Haitian music – as electric folk. At the core it’s two voices and an electric guitar. The eclectic, warm, and accessible music the duo makes reflects the kindness and openness that underpin their message: out of isolation and hardship we can learn how to accept and heal the wounds of the past, and how to change and face the future with grace and compassion, regardless of our age. In addition to the usual ways that music enhances our daily lives, Claudia & Dan imagine that families will use these songs as a starting point for important and uplifting conversations at home. “Let Love Be Your Guide” was written and recorded in Baltimore shortly after the couple moved to the city from Brooklyn at the end of 2019. They had been there just a few months when the pandemic hit and they were left, like all of us, at home. In an effort to connect with others, they decided to record and share a new song online every day, creating a Social Isolation Song Series. The popular series, which was later acquired by the Library of Congress, delivered inspiration and hope by bringing people together when we were forced apart, providing light when things were so dark for the artists and their virtual audience. The series ended after two hundred days. The experience changed the couple as they realized more clearly what folk singers have always known: songs are here to inspire and uplift, but they’re also here to tell the stories and reflect the times, and these were indeed unprecedented and unforgettable times.
I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with family to the proGram, Claudia + Dan about the new release, “Let Love Be Your Guide”. We dive into how it formed out of the Isolation Song Series and how a new place to call home helped build onto the existing possibilities. Stories are told, laughs are definitely had and the inspiration of a first time duo album, by a duo meant to be, are easily felt when check ing out our chat. As always, the best way to dive into a new album is to find a way to get it into your earholes and heart and see how it wraps itself around you. I have a feeling you’ll see how an album about some serious themes can still be inviting to all and a celebration of each of us.