In what is becoming an altogether too predictable creative course, the former frontman of Boston’s rock’n’rolling Del Fuegos was reborn as a rootsy singer/songwriter on his first solo album. The band’s 1989 swan song dipped a toe in such waters; to his credit, Zanes has the sincerity and the sensitivity to make something more than an adult refuge of the idiom. The quietly downcast Cool Down Time has its problems, most notably Mitchell Froom’s clichéd production sound (his signature here — familiar from records by Los Lobos and Elvis Costello — is more immediately recognizable than Zanes’) and keyboard work, which draws too much attention away from the low-key singer/guitarist. Though the tasteful Louisiana swampfunk arrangements gently overwhelm many of the modest songs, Zanes ably holds the spotlight on “Darkness Before Dawn,” “Carelessly,” “No Sense of Time” and “Treasures of Love,” tenderly painting their spare country soul in gorgeous romanticism.
Zanes’ next development was parenthood and a rousing third career as a bard of the junior set. His first two albums for kids were released on his own Festival Five label.