Dan Zanes has gone Bob Dylan on us.
By that, I don’t mean that the internationally known kids crooner of Cobble Hill is putting out mediocre albums, mumbling his way through songs and living the life of a hermitic nomad like the former Robert Zimmerman is doing nowadays.
But Zanes has taken a page from the Dylan playbook: he’s now a born again zealot.
As my Semitic friends might say, oy vey! Every track on Zanes’s new album, “The Welcome Table,” is about God.
There’s a song called “We’ve Been Down this Road Before,” that claims that “God is walking in this night among us all/He’ll guide us when we wanted and He’ll catch us when we fall.”
Another tune, “Up Above my Head,” presents as fact that “there’s a heaven somewhere.”
And there’s even a song called “In the Land of Egypt” that consists of passages from Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Those are sections of the Bible, I’m told.
The preaching on “The Welcome Table” is relentless. There are repeated references to humans being, “God’s children.” There is a song that suggests that the world would be a better place if we’d all just “get on board” the Jesus train. Another resuscitates the tired trope that any task can be achieved, even the relocation of a mountain, if one believes in God.
You may have observed from my tone that I have a problem with this.
Well, I am an atheist, so I have a problem with all things that treat the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful deity as a fact, when faith is, by definition, a belief in something that cannot be proven.
If that faith convinces you that there is a God, that’s fine by me. But do I have to hear about it when I put on a record for my beloved grandchild? It’s difficult enough to teach her about the scientific processes that cause rain and snow, the fact of Darwinian evolution, the complex fiscal patterns that rule our economy, and the moral failings of our elected leaders — now Zanes wants me to bring God into the equation?
Having stated my belief in a lack of Belief, it must also be said that “The Welcome Table” is Dan Zanes’s best album to date.
Contradiction? No. Like Bob Dylan’s much-maligned “Shot of Love,” which came out during the singer’s “religious period,” Zanes’s new album features his best singing and production since he gave up his rock life with the Del Fuegos and started performing for kids.
The man found God — and, Jesus, this album cooks.
But is it for kids? That depends. Do you want to explain to your children that they don’t actually control their destiny, but God does? It’s quite a disempowering philosophy — one that forgives all sins and absolves all laziness, provided you believe in God.
Dan Zanes’s “The Welcome Table” goes on sale on Feb. 27. For info, visit www.danzanes.com.