Having just highlighted Peter Rowan, we figured that was pretty much it for the category of Buddhism-inflected bluegrass.
But not so fast! Meet Portland, Oregon’s Renegade Stringband, who are reportedly recording their first full-length album, to be called “The Worst Horse.” The title echoes Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s famous dharma riff from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (“When you are determined to practice zazen with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one.” — referenced as well by the one-time Shambhala Sun column (now archived online), “From the Worst Horse’s Mouth.”
Banjo frailer/vocalist Joe Seamons explains the meaning for the band:
“It’s a Buddhist concept. The idea is that the best have the least to gain, and the worst have the most room to improve, so it’s sort of optimism in spite of your own limitations.”
But do Buddhist concepts creep into the music itself? It seems so in this song from the new album, “Let Your Heart Take You”:
For more on the Renegade Stringband and the scheduled release of “The Worst Horse” next spring, visit their site.