While love and spirituality are still the topics, the album moves away from Hindu chants to a more universal direction
Jai Uttal’s new album, Dust & Tears, is a gem. It is essential Jai but in a new dimension, as beautiful as his many other works, but more available to the (my) western ear. On Dust & Tears prayers are veiled, but ever present. “Psalm” is a spiritual and musical blockbuster of melody, arrangements, vocal, and chorus. I’m happy putting the entire album on repeat, which is exactly where it is while I write this.
– Joan Baez
Fairfax, CA – Grammy-nominated world and spiritual music legend Jai Uttal will release his 22nd album Dust & Tears tomorrow on all platforms, linked from https://ffm.to/dust-and-tears. The album is a departure in that it’s mostly English lyrics, as opposed to the call & response Kirtan chants of much of his previous work.
Dust and Tears is one of the most introspective, profoundly personal albums in the vast catalog of the beloved world and devotional musical innovator Jai Uttal. It is also one of his most boldly adventurous recordings—an inspired synthesis of divine poetry and song from across the ages and around the globe. The musical palette is relatively spare but nonetheless sparkling and spellbinding—weaving together myriad world music flavors to create a wondrous, warm tapestry of devotion and love.
Over the course of nine pristine tracks—gorgeously recorded, as always, by Ben Leinbach—Jai invokes and honors the great singer-saints of India’s Bhakti tradition, the beauty of Old Testament palmistry and the heartfelt songs of America’s wandering, folk-singing storytellers.
In creating Dust and Tears, Jai collaborated closely with his wife of many years, the yoga teacher, dancer, and author Nubia Teixeira. She suggested the idea of transmuting ancient mystical songs into the language and music of our own time and contributed substantially to the album’s richly poetic lyrics. “The reality is that Nubia wrote well over 50 percent of these words,” Jai notes. “Sometimes it was a little bit more me; other times it was a little more her. And sometimes, it was both of us. What a fabulous gift to collaborate with my wife in this way.”
Jai’s 17-year-old son Ezra Uttal also played a key role as the album’s keyboardist, creating sublimely layered orchestrations and earthy synth solos.
Along with these family members and Leinbach (who played bass and percussion as well as co-producing the album), Jai assembled a small but gifted coterie of his frequent musical collaborators, including trombonist Jeff Cressman, accordionist Sunniva Brynnel, percussionists Visvambhar and Vrinda Sheth, and backing vocalists Sandy Cressman, Prajna Vieira, Natalie Cressman, Sandy Griffith, Lakshmi DelSanto and Lucía Lilikoi.
A few more musical guests lent their colors, but the production remained intimate, leaving ample space for each individual talent to shine, not least of all Jai. His vocal performance on Dust and Tears hits new heights of ecstatic bliss and plumbs new depths of despair and longing—the voice of a prophet, crying forlornly in the wilderness yet lovingly swaddled in layers of angelic harmony.
“In my kirtan, mantra, and prayer singing over the years, I’ve felt deeply connected with the men and women of the ancient past,” Jai says. “People who invested their hearts and souls in these words—these mantras—and who connect with us today, and lend us their shakti, their hearts, their emotions, and the power of their prayers, to increase the power and potency of our prayers.”
Jai will be doing his annual Valentine’s event at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on Saturday, February 11. Tickets are $15-$30 and are available at https://secure.thefreight.org/12070/jai-uttal.