Jake La Botz
Jake La Botz was teaching meditation in a northwest Georgia prison when something unexpected caught his ear. He was not sure at first, but he could swear it sounded like a band was playing in the room next door. And not just any band, for that matter, but a genuine, bonafide, soul shaking gospel band.
I remember getting really excited because both of my worlds were coming together, La Botz recalls. The two sides of my life converged into this one beautiful moment that just stopped me in my tracks.
La Botz did not realize it at the time, but that marriage of music and meditation would go on to form the bedrock of his captivating new album, Hair On Fire.
The collection balances the wisdom and patience of La Botzs decades of Buddhist training with the grit and vigor of his Chicago upbringing to create a sound that is at once unabashedly vintage and decidedly present. The writing is raw and direct here, cutting straight to the heart of things with honesty and urgency, and the performances are similarly spare and unvarnished, fueled by lean, spacious arrangements centered around La Botzs well worn vocals. Add it all up and you have a spiritually enlightening dose of neo noir American roots from a writer whos unafraid to wear his soul on his sleeve, an alternatingly dark and hopeful collection that tips its cap to everyone from Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen to Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello as it ruminates on compassion and vulnerability, strength and surrender, growth and redemption.
There is a saying in Buddhism that you should practice as if your hair is on fire, La Botz explains, meaning that there should be an urgency to your meditation. Life is short and, if you want to wake up and see what it is all about, now is the time.
And in the end, that is what Hair On Fire is all about. There is no past or future, no us or them, only the present, only this very moment in which we are all inextricably intertwined in an impossibly beautiful cosmic convergence. Sometimes all it takes is a gospel band next door to remind you of your place in this great big universe.