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Wonderville is Adam Bauer’s second solo kirtan album, following 2014’s critically-acclaimed release of Shyam Lila. Collaborating with award-winning producer Ben Leinbach, Adam co-produced this album of all-new chants (and one cover), recorded in India and the USA. The broad range on this devotional celebration moves from warm and tender to robust and rooted.

Bauer’s voice expresses his deeply intimate expression of devotion through sacred mantra chanting. The album presents Bauer’s vocals and harmonium in context of a rich collaboration of traditional Indian instrumentation (tabla, pakhawaj, bansuri, sarod) and the sounds of classic Americana (mandolin, pedal steel, guitars) and features piano, cello and other instruments played by masters of their craft. While there are similarities to Krishna Das’s familiar voice and phrasing, it’s no wonder that Adam spent 7 years playing and touring with the Kirtan icon. But Adam makes each of these chants and the expression therein totally his own, with a gentle insistence that penetrates the space, closing the gap between singer and listener. Very likely you’ll be inspired to sing along, or at least hum loudly. There are many points along the journey where it all lifts off, singers and players alike, fully in unison as one. With a lineup that includes Hans Christian, Steve Gorn, John McDowell, Chris Gartner, Visvambhar Sheth, Gawain Matthews, Robert Powell, Kendra Current, Lakshmi Devi, Sandy Griffith and co-producer Ben Leinbach, it’s no wonder that the high frequency musical flow is palpable and contagious in the best possible way. It’s a downright hoedown at times, and soars high to the sky of ecstasy in other passages.

Featuring chants to Krishna, Shiva and Ganesh, Wonderville presents Bauer for the first time integrating English lyrics into his songs, and showcases an interpretation of an all-English song which has melted hearts around the world since being included in his epic live performances. Basic tracks were recorded by Vipal Asthana in Varanasi, India, on the solar eclipse March of 2016, and masterfully mixed & recorded by Ben Leinbach in San Anselmo. Adam has brewed up a heady stew, whistling while he works it, stirring and seasoning in all the right places with reverence and authenticity. The lengthy tracks allow plenty of room for development and artistic freedom to be explored and, for the most part, perfectly landed. People get ready, there’s a chant train a’comin’ — y’all hop on board, y’hear? iamadambauer.com, mantralogy.com

by LLOYD BARDE

Common Ground: Wonderville Review