‘Mystery’ New Album by Seán Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band Just Released!
Seán Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band create a universal style of cross-cultural spiritual music through the depth, authenticity, and sincerity of their own New Orleans, American and ancestral roots. Their music merges conscious lyrics, sacred chants from around the world, and roots, rock, gospel, and global grooves. Known for creating interactive, soul-stirring songs to dance and sing along with, as well as to grieve and heal, their music has been embraced around the globe. In 2005, Seán founded the band as a post-hurricane Katrina philanthropic music project, raising funds across the country for relief from the devastation of the storm. The theme of searching for grace and inspiration amidst challenge and destruction has permeated their music ever since. The band features vocalist/lyricist/harmonium player Seán Johnson, Alvin Young on six string fretless bass and electric guitar, and percussionist/vocalist Gwendolyn Colman.
For Immediate Release
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New Album From Seán Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
Set For October 29th Release Via Be Still Records
New Orleans Band Conjures A Universal Style Of Rootsy East-West Spiritual Music To Kindle Courage And Faith Through The Unknown
‘Mystery’ is a highly anticipated release following the band’s last hit album, ‘Unity,’ which debuted #1 on the iTunes World Music Chart and #3 on the Billboard chart. ‘Mystery’ explores themes of doubt, sparks of faith, and evokes a sense of trust in the fertility of what cannot be seen or explained. This collection of ten evocative songs addresses the current challenges of our time and offers inspiration to kindle the courage to move through the unknown. The album honors the wild and mysterious ways of spirit, an often hidden and unnamable force that can feel so distant, and yet in time can secretly heal a wound, mend a broken heart, and restore our humanity.
The opening song ‘Listen To Your Heart’ is the prologue to the album. It’s a short, simple, intimate tune that plants seeds for the songs that follow. Johnson soulfully sings, “Listen up, listen to your heart. Not to the voices that are pulling you apart, no, listen up, listen to your heart.” He elaborates, “This sweet song encourages faith in a deeper inner voice of wisdom that can overcome both the corrosive voices in our head as well as the toxic voices in our wider culture that so often stir dogma, division, doubt, and fear. It felt like the perfect tune to open the gates to the album.”
Ghettoblaster Magazine premiered the second track on the album, the dance-friendly ‘Turn That Wall Into A Door.’ The song’s distinctive elements draw from diverse places: a worldbeat flavor and lyrics that feature inspiring words of wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson; an ancient yogic mantra for transforming obstacles to opportunities; and the uplifting New Orleans horn arrangement from one of the city’s most beloved and gifted trombone players Mark Mullins (Bonerama) with the Levee Horns (Bobby Campo on trumpet and Jason Mingledorff on tenor sax). The blending of English and Sanskrit mantras stirs the heart, while luscious harmonies from Debrissa McKinney (guest vocalist) with Gwendolyn Colman brighten the vibe.
The third track ‘Sadhu,’ premiered by Look At My Records!, is a boisterous song that merges ancient Shiva mantras of transformation with fierce guitar, bass, hand and kit drums, and ecstatic singing to drive an inspiring and liberating message to get out of our heads and live in this moment. ‘Sadhu’ is a real showcase for Alvin’s guitar playing, which he approached as an homage to some of his favorite 60’s British guitar heroes including George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page.” The potent rhythmic horsepower of the song is fueled by percussionist Gwendolyn Colman’s tight interplay with virtuosic drummer Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit), who blend earthy middle eastern doumbek and driving roots rock drums to propel the song.
The title track of the album was premiered by Offbeat Magazine. Johnson says, “The seed for ‘Mystery’ came in a conversation with Alvin, talking about how much we valued mystery as an essential part of our spirituality. I immediately felt inspired to write a song that spoke directly to this reverence and relationship with mystery. Something that I like about the song is that some parts have a rootsy, gutsy, funky feel– and there’s also a really trancy, psychedelic, more ethereal section that conjures the cosmos. This combo of vibes creates an earthy mysticism that I think is an essential quality in our overall sound.” Instrumentally, the song features Young’s funky guitar and bass, Gwendolyn’s primal calabash beats, Jeff Sipe’s deft drumming, with Chris Rosser souping it all up on keys.
Mark Mullins with the Levee Horns return again on the mantra-centric love song, ‘In Each Other All Along.’ With the support of the horn section, the band digs deeper into their New Orleans roots on this song, which Alvin describes in shorthand as Dr. John meets Eric Clapton. The title of the track is drawn from the verses Seán speaks in the middle of the song by the mystic Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi, “The minute I heard my first love story, I went looking for you everywhere. Little did I know how foolish that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” The song’s outro features love mantras sung by Johnson and Colman in playful celebration mingling with the jubilant second line, street-party sounds of the horns.
‘Hanumate,’ the sixth song on the album, is built around a signature Saharan desert meets Peter Green-inspired guitar part concocted by Young. This fierce, trancy song’s mantras and melodies are inspired by Hanuman, the beloved Hindu deity whose stories tell of his epic battles with demons, in unwavering service of love. The song is driven by the synched up groove combo of Jeff Sipe’s kit and Gwendolyn’s frame drumming. The pinnacle of the song features a call and response chant guided by Gwendolyn that builds strongly into ecstatic multi-layered mantras, punctuated by an acrobatic, percussive sargam vocal landing right back to the foundation of Young’s tangy guitar lick.
After the intensity of the previous songs, ‘Jai Ma Saraswati’ offers a soft, warm landing. It’s a gentle, heart-opening song that invokes the archetypal mother energy, particularly in the form of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of music, art, creativity, and knowledge. Johnson says, “From the moment I started singing this song with people whose voices always filled and uplifted the room, I was excited to record it with Alvin and Gwendolyn. We created a more intimate version sung by Gwendolyn and I with Alvin contributing to the soothing, open vibe on keys and slide guitar. A dear friend describes the song as ‘a long warm hug.’”
‘Dark Night,’ a song that arose out of a family tragedy, is the next track. Johnson shares, “My brother Jeremy passed away in July 2013 in a drowning accident. In the midst of mourning Jeremy’s loss, a friend advised me to write a song to help me grieve. I took that assignment to heart and ‘Dark Night’ was born. It’s a song about grieving, the journey of losing someone that we love, beginning as a lament and ending as a cathartic prayer to connect to the spirit of our loved one in new ways. ‘Dark Night’ features the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, sometimes referred to as the death-conquering mantra, said to help one to gain insight into the mystery of death. ‘Dark Night’ is dedicated to Jeremy, to my family, and to everyone moving through the shadows of grief.”
The next song, the Celtic-themed ‘Healing,’ which Seán wrote in Ireland, acts as a kind of balm after ‘Dark Night.’ ‘Healing’ begins and ends with an ancient Irish chant Brigid Duil Omos, which invokes the Celtic goddess and saint Brigid, who is regarded as a powerful source of healing. The verses are drawn from traditional Irish blessings. Some of the highlights of ‘Healing’ are the beautiful melodic touches that Chris Rosser contributed on piano; the lovely fiddle playing of guest musician Andrew Finn Magill, who brought a traditional Irish flavor to the song; and the homey warmth of Young’s slide guitar.
The simple meditative mantra Om Namah Shivaya is considered to be one of the most powerful and auspicious mantras in the yoga and Hindu traditions, and is the heart of the final song on the album ‘Savasana.’ It’s a mantra that is associated with the spiritual energy of transformation, and symbolizes the inner self that remains intact through the changes and endings in life. Om Namah Shivaya is traditionally sung to awaken peace, wisdom, healing, patience, and to help move through change, transformation, and even destruction, with more grace. This song is meant to support anyone in daily relaxation as well as in the final relaxing pose of a yoga class.
The album’s producer Rosser, founder of Hollow Reed Studio, in Asheville, NC says, “Before we started work on the album, we listened to many live recordings of their tunes, and the energy and participation coming from the audience was incredible! So, I was excited for us to figure out collectively how to best present these songs on a recording that retains the dynamics and excitement of a live performance, but with depth and nuance that encourages repeated listening.”
Johnson concludes, “My wish is that ‘Mystery’ will be an album of medicine songs that folks can turn to again and again to draw strength, nourishment, and inspiration amidst the challenges, uncertainties, and pain of life– a soundtrack to help us keep the faith amidst the chaos.”
Colman adds a final note, “I have often felt that I have been guided to the places that I have landed. I never could have planned many of them and yet looking back, it would seem that something greater than myself led me there. To feel protected, loved, blessed, seen, to be surrounded with heartfelt love and community I think is something most of us want. Many of these songs are a wish that others might enjoy these things. I hope listeners will feel moved to sing out loud! Find their part and make up their own. Join us on this journey! I hope they will feel moved to move. I want our sound to hold you, inspire you, lift you, shake you up, tickle you, and lay you down gently to heal and rest over and over.”
The full production team on ‘Mystery’ includes band members – Seán Johnson, vocalist, harmonium player, and lyricist (performance credits include Jai Uttal and Girish); Alvin Young, guitar and bass (performance credits include Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, James Booker, James Black); Gwendolyn Colman, percussionist and singer (performance credits include Jonathan Goldman and Aashish Khan); Jeff Sipe, drums (member of Aquarium Rescue Unit, Leftover Salmon, Zambiland Orchestra); Chris Rosser, keys, dotar, backing vocals, producer, and engineer (performance credits include Lizz Wright, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Free Planet Radio); Andrew Finn Magill (fiddle on ‘Healing’); Debrissa McKinney (vocals on ‘Turn That Wall Into A Door’); Mark Mullins (Bonerama) with the Levee Horns (Bobby Campo on trumpet and Jason Mingledorff on tenor sax) on ‘Turn That Wall Into A Door,’ and ‘In Each Other All Along.’ The album was recorded in Asheville, NC at Sound Temple Studios and Hollow Reed Studios. Mastered by Michael Hines at Nomatic Studio. Creative direction by Tam Starita. Released by Be Still Records.
Seán Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band’s ‘Mystery’’ LP is available across all digital service providers on Friday, October 29th, 2021.
Please enjoy the accompanying digital album booklet here that includes artwork, lyrics, and liner notes.