Jake La Botz was teaching meditation in a northwest Georgia prison when something unexpected caught his ear. He wasn’t 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 I could feel both of my worlds coming together in that moment. The two sides of my life converged into this one, beautiful experience, and it just stopped me in my tracks.Jake La Botz
La Botz didn’t 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. Recorded with an all-star band of players including engineer/drummer Alex Hall (JDMcPherson, Neko Case), bassist Beau Sample (Pokey LaFarge, Cactus Blossoms), and NRBQ guitarist Scott Ligon, the collection balances the wisdom and patience of La Botz’ decades of Buddhist training with the grit and vigor of his Chicago upbringing to create a sound that’s 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 Botz’ well-worn vocals. Add it all up and you’ve got a spiritually enlightening dose of neo-noir American roots from a writer who’s unafraid to wear his soul on his sleeve, an alternatively 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.
The tender “Hope The Sunshine” reaches for the light in the midst of a long, dark winter. La Botz wrote the song while living in his newly adopted hometown in Minnesota.