American Zen,
Level 1
(Shaolin, 2004)

American Zen advertises itself as being America's first Buddhist rock band. I cannot verify that, but I think the applause for this CD may be the sound of one hand clapping.

The music is pleasant, a sort of garage retro, with vox organ, a jangly guitar by Rory (only first names are used for the band) and even (I think) an occasional tambourine. Lead singer/acoustic guitarist Coyote plays a decent flute (in the style of Jethro Tull) on some tracks.

But putting aside why a Zen Buddhist would call himself Coyote, Level 1 also features lyrics and spoken poetry that can best be described by a few examples:

"My heart, my body, and my mind / Me, they did betray / What started out as a great dream / Had all been blown away."

"When children are not cared for / How much can they tolerate? / When children are distracting / Will obligation turn to hate?"

"Honey, honey / Sweet banana creme / White velvet skin / An erotic daydream."

The song lyrics are similar: "Captain Hook can drag me free / Waiting for my chance to be." Actually, Coyote may have gotten his name from his singing voice, which is brought forward in the mix and makes the words impossible to ignore.

He also sings "English has abandoned me" and "My long hair and California attitude must make you want to curl up and die." These phrases speak for themselves.

Listening to all 22 tracks on this CD could cause an out-of-body experience, but perhaps not to nirvana.

by Dave Howell
30 December 2006

Buy it from