“Songs from A Peaceful Heart” album cover. Design by Maura Shephard

New music from longtime singer-songwriter Lynn Deeves just came into my life, and the timing couldn’t be any better. “Songs from A Peaceful Heart” opens with “May All Beings.” The sound of a gentle gong and acoustic guitar gives way to Deeves singing the lines, “May all beings be happy and free/May all beings transform their suffering/May all beings live as one/May all beings be at peace.” The lyrics come from a chant from Deeves’ meditation community and make for a perfect song to bring us across the finish line of 2020 and step into 2021.

The album, the first from Deeves in several years, was released last summer, but I found out about it two weeks ago. When I sat down to listen to it, I realized almost instantaneously that it was just what I needed to hear. I find my heart heavy as we start 2021, still unable to gather for live music. Daily COVID-19 cases in Maine continue to rise; however, with the rolling out of vaccines I’m starting to let a few strands of hope into my heart. Listening to the baker’s dozen of offerings on Deeves’ album is like having skilled hands loosen the muscles in my shoulders that have been snarled knots of anxiety for 10 months.

One of the original tracks on the album is called “Ripple,” and it speaks of faith in human kindness being restored and how every action matters and every person counts. Deeves’ vocals are rich and pure, and her band, which includes Robby Coffin on acoustic guitar and Alfred Lund on percussion, lays down a perfect bed for her voice. The song also incorporates parts of the traditional gospel song “This Little Light of Mine.”

Deeves also penned  “Lean In,” which takes a breezy look at the value in not turning away from your problems. “I used to hear the blind spots, now I have them in for tea,” sings Deeves, and you can almost see the smile on her face and brightness in her eyes.

“Songs from A Peaceful Heart” closes out with “Silence is an Ocean.” “Listen to the ocean, that’s enough for now,” sings and chants Deeves with some backing vocalists and the thrum of a single repeating drum. The last 30 seconds of the song is the sound of water and the strike of a gong.

Lynn Deeves. Photo by Cyndy Thayer

Deeves is a Caribou native who has been in Richmond for many years. She learned her first few guitar chords when she was in the sixth grade and, around the same time, started to sing and perform, primarily in school talent shows. Deeves joined a rock band when she was 19, and they played in clubs and at colleges all over New England and Canada for 17 years. When she reached her mid-30s, Deeves started writing and performing original music in coffeehouses and at festivals. What’s more, she released four solo albums and a live collaborative album with fellow Mainers Anni Clark and Dan Merrill. She told me she’s missing live music terribly as both a performer and fan but hopes to enjoy both once it’s safe to do so.

Deeves shared that Carole King’s “Tapestry” album was a key influence, and she’s always loved Karen Carpenter. When she gravitated more towards rock music, Deeves became a fan of Toto, Doobie Brothers and The Subdudes, then made her way to the groove and soul sound of Keb’ Mo’ and the “truth-telling vulnerability” of Indigo Girls. “Generally, I’ve always felt a deep kinship with gospel and blues influences,” she added.

“Songs from A Peaceful Heart” was written, re-imagined, arranged and compiled between 2017 and 2019. The album’s co-producer is Bob Colwell from The Boneheads and the two musicians ventured to the Morning Sun Mindfulness Center in Alstead, New Hampshire, to record all of the backing vocals with two friends in the center’s meditation hall. “The energy was perfect. I wanted to infuse that grounded energy in the project, and I think we got it,” Deeves said.

Deeves’ intention was for the album to offer healing, joy and peace, and when the pandemic hit during the tail end of the recording process, that message took on deeper meaning. “It has become even more important as so many of us are looking to find new ways to feel connected and at ease.”

As I mentioned earlier, “May All Beings” is also what’s called a loving-kindness chant from the Plum Village community, a worldwide circle of mindfulness practitioners – including Deeves – who follow the tradition of Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Much of the past decade for me has been in learning, sharing and practicing what I’ve learned here,” said Deeves, who is donating two-thirds of proceeds from the album back into a community that’s supremely important to her. In fact, Deeves said that her meditation practice has become the cornerstone of her life, especially in times of stress and suffering for so many. “I can find calm within the storm and not be disconnected from pain that is occuring inside and around me. I can also find small, meaningful ways to be of service and be in a community of practitioners who are committed to these ways of service/being/taking care of ourselves and one another.” Deeves said she’s pretty sure that’s why she’s here on the planet.

“Songs from A Peaceful Heart” is available on streaming platforms and is available digitally and on CD at lynndeeves.hearnow.com.

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