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"Zen emphasizes rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into Buddha-nature, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others."(Yoshizawa 2010, - The Religious Art of Zen Master Hakuin Pg 41) (Sekida, Katsuki (1989), Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy, Shambhala)
'Certain records you make with a clear goal in mind, an audience , a genre. A kite to sail the wild winds of the market. Others you make to keep from losing your mind. This is of that second variety.' JpK
Songs about losing are nothing new. Country music is filled with them: my girl left and she took my dog and my truck. Heck, maybe songs about loss can be a theme on my radio show. If we do that show, I really hope I include something from The Zen of Losing by Jason P. Krug. The theme of loss runs throughout the album, - heck it is right there in the title - but as the title implies, this is not another recitation on loss.
Jason P. Krug is best known to my readers as a member of The Grimm Generation - a Connecticut band that helped pave the way for the long list of Connecticut artists I now follow. More than perhaps any other band I can think of, that band spoke language (musical and lyrical) that seemed to come from a place that I recognized so well. One of JPK’s losses was the ending of that band (which he describes as a self-implosion). There were other personal losses.
Having experienced someh pretty dramatic losses myself - at approximately the same time, I know that loss tends to make one isolate and internalize all of the complex feelings that the loss brings up. When does choose to talk about it, it may be difficult to get passed the self-pity and self-blame and anger and ugliness. But, Jason P. Krug is a poet and a philosopher, and as the title implies it seems likely that there was a lot of spiritual practice and discipline in getting to the point that this album could be made.
I do not think I am going to do a song by song review, but the album does begin appropriately enough with “Push Play” that employees some gypsy-like guitar work and a mellow groove to ease the listener into this sixteen song meditation on loss. “What’s so special about me?” Brilliantly, the rollickling “Last Days of Rome” follows with an infectiously peppy groove that belies the feeling of being in a wonderful situation that you sense will be end badly. (Even if you ignore that sense). It is the soundtrack to this dying empire - even as it is personal and specific in its intent.
Backed on the album by cellist Julie Kay, guitarist David Hogan,and Adam Hagymasi on multiple instruments - Jason P. Krug relentlessly but patiently guides the listener through the remaining songs that are filled with beautiful music, poetic lyrics, and stunning wisdom. Thinking on the definition of Zen with which I opened this review, I see this album as a personal expression of the insight gathered through practice and meditation and speaking for myself, it did benefit others. If you have recently (or ever) experienced loss, I think this album is essential. If you have never experienced loss, you would do yourself a favor by having this album on hand, because I have learned that loss can strike at any time.
The Zen of Losing sits high in the upper reaches of my favorite albums of 2016 so far, and it is one that will stay with me long after this year is over.