Alan Senauke’s new CD, Everything is Broken, is a collection of (mostly) American songs with dharmic themes. Some are very old; others are by contemporary luminaries like Dylan, Waits and Springsteen. Taken together, the songs highlight the fact that dharma is not a reality of any particular religion; it’s one of the human heart and our short existence here on earth.
Senauke is a Zen Priest and folk singer, so I feared that this might be a lame zennification of some of my favorite music. Happily, Senauke’s CD has broken my jaded expectations. Sometimes he did rewrite things to “zennify” them. Case in point is Blind Willie Johnsons’ great “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The original lyrics say: “I have a bible in my home/if I don’t read it and my soul be lost, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.” Senauke’s version deftly combines imagery of Ezekiel and Buddha: “There’s a wheel turning in the middle of the air/if I’m reborn on the wheel of life, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.”
Kudos to Senauke for including Greg Fain and Ben Gustin’s “Our Hero,” a poignant and hilarious take on the Lotus Sutra, and trusting it to hold its own among such heavy company, which it does. In the liner notes, Senauke says he prefers the song to the ancient text itself. I thank him for that, as I’ve always felt guiltily too lazy to tackle that spiritual classic.
Senauke assembled a terrific bunch of singers and musicians to accompany him, capturing a delightfully loose “Americana” vibe that honors the originals. I recommend this CD, and think Senauke would concur that you should also go to the sources. Start out with the awesome Blind Willie Johnson and you will hear suffering and liberation as One Taste. (The CD and MP3 versions of the album are available online, including at Clear View Project Products.)