You Sing, I Write: Album Review: Zan Zone's "Time & Materials"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Album Review: Zan Zone's "Time & Materials"

An award-winning songwriter, Zan Burnham has been writing since the early 90s for his band Zan Zone. While previous recordings have featured electric instruments in a rock ‘n’ roll format, his latest release, Time & Materials is a stripped down acoustic approach. With mandolin, dulcimer and banjo accompaniment combined with acoustic guitar, bass and percussion, the album has an enjoyable eclectic vibe. From instrumental tracks “Skydog Salute” and “Bipolar/Hilarity Rag” to the more emotional “Better Dream,” the band’s talent is undeniable.

A mix of folk, Americana and blues, Time & Materials is a versatile release that offers much to its listeners. Whether it’s an eight minute instrumental song or a bluesier track (aptly titled “The Blues”) featuring multiple harmonica interludes, the album has that laidback, personal and at times campfire feel.

“Even though I’ve written a great many rock songs, there’s an intimacy that seems to feel so natural in a song composed and played on an acoustic guitar. You feel like your song expresses exactly the profound experiences and passionate feelings that inspired you to write,” Burnham said. I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments.

Starting off Time & Materials with “Better Dream,” the listener quickly feels the emotion in Burnham’s longing vocals. “Clock is tickin’ there upon the wall/Sunset scatters long shadows in the hall…I hear whispers and screams/Maybe there’s somethin’ better/Maybe there’s a better dream,” he sings with fitting finger picking as the questioning of life and its adequacy is displayed. In addition, a confused edginess is felt mid-song throughout the more somber lyrics.

“Carey Won’t You Sing For Me” is a more uplifting track with the man in the story requesting a beautiful song from his lady, Carey. “Carey won’t you sing along/You put such magic in a song/Your notes are never wrong,” Burnham sings. Obviously, the title says it all.

Time & Materials encompasses many instrumental tracks. While on any other album this may seem peculiar, Zan Zone proves to be the exception. Each song allows the listener to decipher as he wishes, making up his own story as the guitar or banjo plays along. The flow between each track seemingly provides the album’s own tale. Case in point: “September Rain” segues nicely after instrumental “Charles O’ Connor” so well in fact; it seems that both songs belong as one.

Whether it’s providing self introspection on “That Flame” or jamming throughout eight minute track “Skydog Salute,” Zan Zone demonstrate their prowess on each instrument. The variation keeps the listener on his toes, not quite sure what to expect next. While solely instrumental tracks are often hard to sway the listener, Zan Zone manages to keep the audience engaged, and that for any band is an impressive feat.

For more information, check out Zan Zone on MySpace. You can read this review, originally posted on

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