Music Review: Love Songs of a Zen Monk
Love Songs of a Zen Monk
With a title like that, you might expect a blank CD inside the cover.
After all, Zen is nothing if not contradictions. But since its morsels provide such practical instructions for living—especially for Westerners not born to its traditions—its endless enigmas spark creative inspiration, and, in Yoshin David Radin’s case, gratitude.
Radin’s voice and concerns might sometimes be confused with those of Leonard Cohen, a friend who writes, “now and then someone arises/thank you, bro,” in the liner notes. Radin’s voice is a haunted house; backup vocals are whispers from the psyche. Many of his lyrics, some sung by Billy White (who produced the album) and Morley Kamen, refer to “My Master”; musically, that’s Cohen.
A monk’s “love songs” aim higher than romantic ballads, but folksy melodies, string-band instruments, and country harmonies blur the distinction. While some selections veer in the direction of didactic instruction or new-age feel-good prayers, others rock, and still others reverberate with transparent wonder like raindrops on a lake.
The ego, the wellspring of the creative act, is the biggest delusion of all, according to Zen.
Radin knows this well but wrote the songs anyway. The selection “Can You Hear My Applause” raises the inevitable question: with one hand clapping?
Practice how to lose, he advises. In his beautiful, haunting failures to entirely capture what he seeks, Zen lurks in the space between the words, swaying with the beat.