Krishna Das: Door of Faith

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Karuna Music/Artemis Records; 130 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10011; www.karunamusic.com and www.artemisrecords.com.

Those accustomed to hearing Krishna Das chant and sing in the company of his whimsically named and often lively Kirtan Posse may be surprised by the starkness of the settings for these seven prayers. Much like other productions by pop producer Rick Rubin (who masterminded the late Johnny Cash's brilliant American series), Door of Faith presents Krishna Das's resonant baritone voice, with its woody grain and deeply reassuring presence, backed by minimal accompaniment: Das's harmonium on all tracks and—here and there—lightly applied violin, piano, organ, cello, trumpet, acoustic guitar, and esraj (a bowed, sitarlike stringed instrument), plus the beguiling harmony of his daughter. The lyrics (anecdotally introduced in the liner note introductions but not translated) include prayers to deities (Sita, Shiva, Hanuman) and pledges of dedication to the spiritual path.

Programmed in an uninterrupted flow but indexed for selective play, their overall effect is that of a meditative suite, the devotional intensity rising and falling within a relatively narrow spectrum. Das's powerfully intimate vocal performances invite the listener into an openhearted space where contemplation, relaxation, and yoga practice are welcome. An enhanced CD, it also includes seven minutes of video documenting parts of the recording session as well as Krishna Das in conversation with Ram Dass.

Contributing Editor Derk Richardson writes about popular culture for Yoga Journal, Acoustic Guitar magazine, and SFGate (www.sfgate.com). He lives in Oakland, California.