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19 November 2019 - Interviews from Montana Press and Grand Junction Sentinel added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
8 November 2019 - Interviews added to this page: Durango Herald, Times Colonist, LeaderPost, Relix, GuitarPlayer.com. Album reviews added to Crowing Ignites. Link to SeedChange.org video added to this page.
30 October 2019 - The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
16 October 2019 - Interview from DolceMag and interview link and in studio performance link from WFVU.org added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
26 September 2019 - The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
23 September 2019 - Link to q interview by Tom Power added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
20 September 2019 - Interview SouthBendTribune article added to this page. Review links are added to Crowing Ignites album page.
18 September 2019 - SOCAN interview video links added to this page. Article - interview by David Friend added to this page. WOUB audio interview links added to this page and Americana Highways interview added to this page.
6 September 2019 - John Aaron Cockburn will be joining Bruce for the fall tour dates. Link to audio interview by CFRC radio added to this page.
27 August 2019 - Link to listen to Pibroch:The Wind In The Valley added to this page.
19 August 2019 - Link to watch the interview from CanadianMusicPodcast added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
12 August 2019 - Link to new video "April in Memphis" added to this page.
7 August 2019 - Link to 'Bruce Cockburn on His New Album & Accidental Career' by canadianmusicianpodcast.com.
31 July 2019 - Here's a link to the True North Record store where you can get a signed copy of the new Bruce album "Crowing Ignites" but hurry as there are only 100 available.
22 July 2019 - The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
21 July 2019 - Acoustic Guitar Magazine - Acoustic Classic: Bruce Cockburn’s ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’ article added to this page.
20 July 2019 - Acoustic Guitar Magazine - Video lessons video and article added to this page.
18 July 2019 - While Bruce was in New York City he stopped in at >WFUV. This appearance was taped for a later airing, we will let you know.
17 July 2019 - Livestream videos from Paste & Relix added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
16 July 2019 - BayToday article / interview has been added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
7 July 2019 - Alternatives Journal article added to this page.
29 June 2019 - Interveiw from GoBe Weekly & Cranbrook Townsman added to this page.
27 June 2019 - Links to two audio interviews, Up North - CBC (10 minutes) & VishKhanna.com (50 minutes) added to this page.
19 June 2019 - Articles previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
17 June 2019 - The CBC Day 6 interview transcription and links to podcast have been added to this page.
16 June 2019 - The 2019 Setlists Archive has been updated. The transcript of the Reality Asserts Itself interview has been added.
12 June 2019 - Crowing Ignites 34th album first listen and album bio added to this page.
10 June 2019 - Link to Master Series - Songs at the Center interview/in studio performance added to this page. Video added to 8 June 2019 setlist archive. Articles previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
5 June 2019 - Many new Tour Dates have been added.
31 May 2019 - A new Tour Date has been added. Image Journal article added to this page.
26 May 2019 - Interview Bruce comes to Babeville 26 April 2019 has been added to this page.
6 May 2019 - Articles that were previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
5 May 2019 - Interview Lucky Clark on music added to this page.
22 April 2019 - Several Tour Dates have been added. Some older articles on this page have been backed up to the News Archive. Songs at the Center tv show should be available to watch in early May.
18 April 2019 - Photos from the recording session added to this page.
17 April 2019 - Bruce will be performing at Greenpeace Annual Gala, limited tickets and more Tour Dates have been added. Article on free concert Rise Up has been added to this page.
11 February 2019 - Park Record article added to this page. New album info added to this page. The Setlist Archives have been updated.
25 April 2018 - WMBR interview by Bob Dubrow links added to this page. The 2018 Setlist Archive has been updated, including link to videos from the whole show in Dallas at the Kessler!
25 March 2018 - Bone On Bone wins JUNO Award.
Interview by Daniel Lumpkin for Christianity Today
FAN REPORTS FROM PAST SHOWS
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Bruce Cockburn's Official Facebook Page.
The Cockburn Project
is a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The central focus of the Project is the ongoing archiving of Cockburn's self-commentary on his songs, albums, and issues. You will also find news, tour dates, an online store, and other current information.
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10 November 2019 - Bruce Cockburn views time as his most precious currency. The 74-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter intends to spend well what he has left, his role models being aging musicians such as John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) and Mississippi John Hurt (1892-1966), bluesmen who played their harps until their lips trickled blood, and strummed and pined through their last shaft of sunlight.
“In the context of contemplating retirement, I admire the old blues guys who never stopped working until they dropped,” says Cockburn. “That’s what I fully expect to be doing myself.”
Most of those blue legends kept playing out of financial necessity, of course, but they also loved what they did. “Growing old gracefully, I’ve learned, is much different than simply keeping going,” explains Cockburn. “We either die or we get old – those are the choices. At this point, I’ll choose growing old, and I’ll choose getting better as a musician, and as a human being.”
Over five decades, Cockburn, whose music has been formed by political dissent, religion, romance, and spiritual awakening, has released 34 albums over his lengthy career. He stresses that his work has experienced a large resurgence, now that he himself in his 70s, a period in life when many other people his age are shutting down the store, and segueing from living to passing away.
Indeed, a conversation with Cockburn isn’t merely a chronological recap of his life; it’s a vivacious discussion about today and tomorrow and the viaduct that links the two. It’s all about his willingness to explore new fields as an artist and as a human. His interaction with his fans, he says, has matured in novel ways in recent years. Up until a few years ago, he had resisted greeting audiences, or signing autographs following shows. Now all that is something he commonly does – and something he enjoys.
“There’s an element of unreality to those encounters,” says Cockburn. “When you are on stage, by default, you are larger than life, and that’s a distortion. If you stick around long enough to converse with people, it gets better and more interesting.
“I now have a multi-generational fan base, including kids who were raised on my stuff, among other things. These are people who’ve hung in there all these years, and now they’ve brought their own kids; what kind of huge compliment is that? The alternative is watching the audience turn into skeletons attached to the walls with cobwebs.”
Prolific and multi-dimensional, Cockburn’s stage life has been guided by ingenuity. He decided to go wordless on his recently-released Crowing Ignites album (his second instrumental album, following Speechless in 2005), and he shows no signs of calling off the hunt for the muse.
“I feel like I’ll get on to something – whether guitar-tuning, or a certain way of going at words, like the spoken word stuff of the ‘80s and ‘90s, when what I was doing was exploratory, and expanding the song form. The challenge is to find different ways to put all of that stuff together and still call it a song.”
Cockburn admits that now it’s harder than ever to find untrammeled paths, and confesses that occasionally he finds himself hovering in his own footprints. His job description, however, remains the same: trap the spirit in the scrawling of pen on paper, and then pull bright notes out of six-string, 12-string, and baritone acoustics.
“It’s easy to make mistakes (as a singer-songwriter), and now I mostly worry more about repeating myself than I do copying stuff from other people. In the early days, I went out of my way to avoid being influenced by other singer-songwriters. From the late 1960s to early 1970s, I made it a point not to listen to anything remotely close to what it was I was doing.
“So I didn’t listen to pop music, or singer-songwriters or anything else that was similar to what I was playing. Later on, it was easier because I had established a road for myself that wasn’t like anyone else’s. Now, if I have an idea, and if it seems like a good one, I need to make sure it’s not one that I wrote 20 years ago, and yes, that does happen.
“A lot of songs are stillborn because of that. You are never going to find new thematic material for songs, because life is life. But it’s a little harder as time goes on to find fresh ways of going at things, or not saying what you’ve said before.”
To stay prepared he has embraced everything from folk, reggae, jazz, rock, Latin, and Delta blues, an internationalist slant he has nurtured while travelling to such places as Guatemala, Iraq, Venezuela, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal.
One of his trips inspired a memorable song that made its way on to “Small Source of Comfort.” Cockburn followed his younger brother, John, a doctor in the Canadian army, to Afghanistan in 2009 for one week. John joined the army at age 55 and worked for the Canadian Forces at Kandahar Airfield. In “Each One Lost,” he recounts witnessing a plane arrive that was carrying the bodies of two Canadians who’d been killed that day.
“I had been in war zones before, but never with an actual military and with people whose language I spoke. I made a song out of it, and I’m grateful when that happens.
“While I was there, two girls were being treated who had been too close to a roadside bomb. Most of us don’t need to be reminded that war is horrible and fucked up. There are a few important people who need to be reminded of that concept.”
It’s interesting to consider Bruce Cockburn’s theme of spiritual growth as an individual path of self-reflection and accountability, rather than one that follows socially-sanctioned rules. At their core, his songs are stepping stones to self-realization and maturity.
“One’s condition is fluid throughout one’s life as an artist,” said Cockburn. “The work evolves because of that inner quest and you are shaped by all of your experiences in life… The closer you get to the inevitable horizon, the less inclined you are to put up with stuff you don’t need.”
Even after forty years in music, it’s evident there are few subjects Cockburn deems unworthy or off-limits. That bold range is manifest in a catalogue of songs touching on topics from the International Monetary Fund to the plight of refugees to dealing with land mines. He’s disciplined about writing on political opinions; something about the messy truth inspires his most bighearted, beautifully rendered music.
Indeed, Cockburn’s most endearing tunes include one of his political tracks, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” about the slaughter of innocent civilians from the air in Latin America, and the radio-friendly “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which peaked at Number 21 on the U.S. Billboard “Hot 100” in 1980.
Bruce Cockburn’s music has often been noted for its empathetic qualities, qualities that reflect the artist’s desire to expand his and others’ capacity for empathy and compassion and thinking outside the tribe, so to speak.
“For each of us I think that there is always a kind of inner struggle between having empathy with others and selfishness. So, for me, expanded empathy is a good thing. You need enough ego to survive – it is a kind of survival tool.
“I think we all feel it in different degrees. But beyond that, it’s the fairly obvious sense that we are all in this boat together, and we need to approach each other from that perspective. I’m on a constant campaign to suspend judgment of others. It shouldn’t be the attitude where you only look out for yourself, and to hell with everyone else. People are tribal with the group they feel closest to: their neighbors, their church groups, whatever, and their sense of self expands to include that group, and not anyone else.”
Striving to be both a tribe of one and the head of a family of tens of thousands, Cockburn’s sense of purpose always pulsates through both his close at-hand live performances and reverberations far afield.
“I believe that all living things are made up of music,” said Cockburn. “I see music as my diary, my anchor through anguish and pleasure, a channel for my heart.”
14 November 2019 - Bruce Cockburn has been on tour one day, and he's already been given two bags of books.
Cockburn is an avid reader, and he has authored a book himself: "Rumours of Glory," a memoir released in 2014.
"People give me books all the time," said Cockburn in a phone interview just hours before performing in Vancouver, Canada, on a tour for "Crowing Ignites," an all-instrumental CD that came out in September.
Cockburn, 74, is joined for this tour by his nephew, John Aaron Cockburn, who is adding accordion and harmonies to Cockburn's music and will be with Bruce.
Touring with his nephew "has been real fun," Cockburn said. "It's been working quite well."
And as a bonus for people who previously have been to a Cockburn show, "they won't have seen this particular presentation before," he said.
"We're doing a few pieces from the new instrumental album, but there is a cross section of songs from through the decades," he said.
Those decades, which start about 1970 with the Canadian musician's debut release, include more than 30 albums and hundreds of songs with Cockburn's genre-crossing guitar playing, dynamic lyrics and songwriting that has run the topical gamut from relationships to political and environmental activism.
His discography reflects a man constantly on the move, both professionally and mentally. While Cockburn isn't slowing musically, he has made changes in recent years to his touring schedule.
"I've got a young daughter at home and I want to be home sometimes. My touring is structured so I can do that," he said.
Instead of six weeks or more on the road, "now we go for a couple weeks and take time off," he said.
Any longer than that and Cockburn might need a trailer for all the books he has been given.
Right now he's struggling to focus on books with "serious stuff," he said.
"I read way too much news and magazine stuff," Cockburn said. It's interesting, informative and mind-widening, "but a lot of it is an invitation to wallow in the worst of humanity."
But he still can put a James Lee Burke novel away in a couple of days. He was given "Collected Stories" by Raymond Chandler for Christmas last year and "that was fun reading through those and it took very little effort," he said of the noir mysteries. "They're just fantastic."
He did bring his own reading material for this tour, before the two bags of "wonderful" book gifts.
The first was "Laphman's Quarterly." It looks like a trade paperback, but it's a magazine, he said.
"Climate" is the fall theme for the quarterly, with all kinds of juxtaposing articles, one by an ancient Greek writer, another by a current writer and so on.
It's interesting reading and works well with being on tour because you can read a bit at a time, Cockburn said.
The other book he brought is the biography "Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth and Neo-Nazism" by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke.
It was sent to him by a friend, who looked over the book and wrote, "It talks about God and war and it sounds like it's right up your alley," recalled Cockburn with a chuckle.
"It's an interesting and disturbing book," he said.
But books aside and on to Grand Junction, where he last performed about 10 years ago. "I'm looking forward to coming and playing," Cockburn said.
Grand Junction Sentinel
7 November 2019 - When iconic Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn takes the stage at Henry Strater Theatre on Nov. 16, he’ll be joined by his nephew, John Aaron Cockburn, a whole bunch of guitars – and an accordion.
The two are currently on tour in support of Bruce Cockburn’s latest release – his 34th – “Crowing Ignites,” an instrumental album, a first for Cockburn, who since the release of his self-titled debut album in 1970, has continued to put out albums every couple of years.
“That’s something I haven’t done before,” he said. “We did an instrumental album a few years ago, but it was a compilation of previously released tracks with a few new ones added. And this one is all new, so that’s the thing that’s most different about it.”
The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto “Accendit Cantu” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be,” he said in new release. It explores an array of genres, including folk. blues and jazz – with a few surprises, including the appearance of Tibetan singing bowls.
And while the majority of the album was written out of the studio, two pieces – “Bells of Gethsemane” and “Seven Daggers” – were built in house, he said.
“I went in knowing that I wanted to do that because they were layered with different sounds of instruments I can’t play all at once, and singing bowls and chimes and stuff like that,” Cockburn said. “That was the exception. But otherwise, everything on the album I had under my hands before I went in. Those pieces were a lot of fun to put together.”
So what could possibly be left to do for a musician who has won tons of awards and has released 34 albums – is there anything he still has on his list of things to do and people to work with?
The only thing Cockburn knows for sure is that he’s not slowing down anytime soon.
“That changes all the time. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’d be great to have such and such on an album or so and so doing this.’ A lot of my old heroes are kind of dead, so they’re not really available – people from the jazz world who were models for me when I was starting out,” he said. “At this point, I would like to just keep going. I don’t have a specific thing in mind. In a perfect world, I would get to do an album of covers someday, songs that mean something to me. But I’d also like to keep doing my own stuff until I can’t.”
While Cockburn’s show in Durango will include some of the pieces from “Crowing Ignites,” it’s not an instrumental show, he said, adding that he hopes listeners will enjoy the new album.
“I’d like them to take the album away with them (laughs), that’s the main thing. But failing that, it’s just music; there’s no message,” he said. “I hope people find a place for it in their lives and that it suits whatever moods they find compatible with it that they experience. That’s kind of what you hope for with an instrumental thing.”
~from Durango Herald - Katie Chicklinski-Cahill
7 November 2019 - Bruce Cockburn is no different than other writers who make their living through music. Some new compositions sit around for years, such as Gifts, which was written in 1968 but didn’t appear on an album by Cockburn until 2011’s Small Source of Comfort. Others spend considerably less time on the shelf.
Making music is an interesting process for the 13-time Juno Award winner, who always seems to be flipping between the past and present, deeply adverse to the idea of stasis. He could have taken an easy route when making his latest recording, Crowing Ignites. He could have settled into an easy groove for his 26th studio album. But he chose to push forward into another phase of his career, one of the most illustrious in Canadian music. What emerged were 11 new instrumental compositions that find Cockburn still exploring the outer acres of his very capable, very esteemed guitar talents.
“Our original plan for this album was to make Speechless 2, because there’s a whole album left over from pieces we didn’t use,” Cockburn said of Crowing Ignites, the second instrumental album of his career after 2005’s Speechless. “We could have made a pretty nice album out of that, but I ended up with so much new stuff it took on its own life.”
The songs on Crowing Ignites say plenty, even though they don’t have words.
The new song Sweetness and Light was written on a particularly positive day, Cockburn said; the title simply reflected what he was feeling at the time. Easter was written on the holiday of the same name, while April in Memphis was written, on Martin Luther King Day, in reference to the anniversary of King’s death. Naming songs is never difficult, especially when lyrics are involved. But with an instrumental album, the task is more of an abstract exercise, he said with a laugh.
“There is an element of pointing at ideas or notions in the title-giving stage, but the music is just the music. The issue of ‘saying something’ comes into it not so much in the inventing of the music, because what I want to say is the music itself. But you have to give these pieces titles, otherwise you’re stuck with Opus Such and Such. I don’t care for that approach.”
Cockburn, 74, is ending a brief break from the road (spent at home in San Francisco, with his wife and daughter) with a string of dates to support Crowing Ignites. He’ll be joined for his nearly sold-out show at the Royal Theatre on Friday by his nephew, John Aaron Cockburn, on accordion and guitar. Cockburn enlists his full band when the shows call for sonic sophistication, but he’s enjoying the understated approach the duo set-up provides. “For this time period and the nature of the album — it’s basically just a bunch of solo guitar — it didn’t seem appropriate to celebrate that album with a band, particularly.”
Shows on his Canadian run won’t be heavily focused on the new album, and the new songs he is committed to doing will be presented in a redesigned manner, Cockburn said. “A piece called Blind Willie, for instance, where Colin Linden plays a great slide guitar part on the album, will be done by John Aaron on the accordion. They will have a different feel, but they give you the same kind of rootsy energy that the recorded version has.”
That Cockburn chose to make an album with no lyrics at a time when he could have said something powerful was a curious decision. Long outspoken, on topics ranging from Christianity and environmental disaster to war, many expected him to offer his eloquence on climates both political and personal. He never felt pressure to add his voice to chorus, however, which at this point in his career should go without saying. Of the songwriters working today, Cockburn — who recently offered his thoughts about the environment on False River, a song from 2017’s Bone on Bone — is as credentialled as anyone, and has nothing to prove in 2019.
“I haven’t felt motivated to add to the clamour,” he said. “Everybody who listens to me, or takes me seriously, knows what we’re dealing with here, and would agree with me on what I’d say about Donald Trump, et cetera. Donald Trump gets more attention than he deserves as it is, he doesn’t need help from me in that regard.
“It’s not like I’ve been silent on that stuff. People are wondering: ‘Why an instrumental album now?’ But I don’t think it’s a meaningful issue, that I did an instrumental album now. I could have done it at any time. It wasn’t a case of: ‘Jeez, I don’t want to talk about this now or talk about that now.’ There’s lots to talk about, but there’s also lots of talking going on, and nobody is really paying attention to what is being said.”
What: Bruce Cockburn
Where: Royal Theatre
When: Friday, Nov. 8, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $57.50-$89.75 from the Royal McPherson box office (250-386-6121) or rmts.bc.ca
TimesColonist.com / Mike Devlin
6 November 2019 - “The original was to do Speechless Two,” Bruce Cockburn explains, while describing the origins of his new record, Crowing Ignites. On 2005’s Speechless, he recorded some of his prior instrumental compositions, placing a particular focus on his stellar acoustic-guitar work. (Speechless earned him a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist.) But, while Crowing Ignites once again finds Cockburn on an acoustic, this time the 11 compositions are all new. He explains, “We had a lot of unreleased material, including recordings that didn’t make it on Speechless. But, once I started coming up with a few new pieces, they just didn’t stop coming.”
I wasn’t there but, apparently, when you performed in the Relix office, some of our younger staffers were unaware that your song “Waiting for a Miracle” was not a Jerry Garcia original.
Yes, the kids recognized the song because they are paying attention to the Dead and Jerry’s music. That association is entirely complimentary—it’d be nicer if everyone went, “Oh, yeah, great song,” but that’s the way it goes. I was at the home of someone I know in Oakland, playing some songs to help cheer up his son, and this woman from next door sat down for a while. She was a big Dead fan and, when I played that song, she had no idea it wasn’t a Jerry Garcia song. She was quite skeptical of me claiming that I wrote it. I said, “Yeah, it’s my song,” and she looked at me like, “He’s bullshitting me.” [Laughs.]
These things happen. They don’t happen to me very often because, compared to other songwriters, not a huge number of famous people have recorded my songs. Some have tried, but I don’t know if I’ve ever met a Jimmy Buffett fan, for instance, who has made the connection that he’s recorded some of my songs.
As a young person, it didn’t really matter to me who wrote the song. “Ivory Joe Hunter, who the hell was that?” Now, it’s a bit more fashionable to pay attention to those things, but it’s not that big a deal.
I imagine that some people have been surprised that you released an all-instrumental record during this politically charged era?
Yes, apparently everybody’s expecting me to say something bad about Donald Trump. But everybody else is doing that already; I don’t need to do that, too. He gets enough attention.
Plus, when I look around, everyone’s nattering away: Liberals are bad. Liberals are weird. Liberals are gonna do something bad to my kid. And then, on the liberal side of it, all the conservatives are gonna do these bad things. It’s ridiculous. But who’s listening? We’re all only listening inside our little echo chamber.
What we need is something that promotes unity, something to pull us together and to allow to look at each other and go, “Hey, we all appreciate the same thing here.” That happened in a different kind of way in the 1980s, with Stealing Fire. In the Reagan era, I’d play these shows, and I’d look out at the audience. In response to songs like “Nicaragua” or “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” people were looking at each other going, “I’m not alone here” because there was no media coverage at that time with a dissenting view. But when all these people were in a concert hall and listening to this music, they were looking at each other and going, “Oh, yeah, all these people feel the way I do about it.” It’s empowering, and a great feeling for me, to witness something like that.
What we need now is something that will come out and do the same thing in a much more difficult context, where you’re dealing with people that just don’t agree with each other. Many of us are coming to recognize that it’s not sustainable to continue like this. There are people interested in exploiting this intentional fragmentation. We’ve got to fix it. I don’t think a song can fix it, but I think a body of popular sentiments expressed in song might.
The song “Bells of Gethsemane,” on Crowing Ignites , features a number of singing bowls. How did that came about?
I went into the studio with all the pieces composed, except for that one and “Seven Daggers.” Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of singing bowls. They sound so beautiful, and I’ve just always wanted to use them for something. But, the application of them to my normal music is kind of limited because I can’t play the guitar and play those bowls at the same time. Also, they’re not tuned to A440; they’re tuned to whatever they’re tuned to and they’re suggestive of notes, but they are not very clear that way. You have to establish a context. I just thought, “I want to make a piece out of singing bowls. I want to build something using those.” I have all these other things—orchestral chimes, and various other ring-y things that I’ve accumulated. The intention was to build a piece out of all that stuff. So, I put down a couple layers of singing bowls, chimes and various other things, and added the baritone guitar over the top. I was very pleased with how it came out. It’s exciting for me to get that rich sound into a recording.
Your songs often have overt political messages. How do you respond when people receive them in a way that doesn’t entirely align with your intent?
I have to let go of my intentions for a song once it’s out there. I’d go crazy trying to understand where everybody could possibly take my ideas, or how they want to interpret them, unless it’s something really flagrant or they’ve completely got it backward. If someone came up, for instance, and said, “Oh, I really like that ‘Rocket Launcher’ song. I really want to go down and kill Guatemalan soldiers; it gave me all kinds of energy to do that,” then I’d have to take them up on it. I’d have to say, “Oh, no, that’s not the idea.”
Think of an abstract painting. If someone were to have a conversation about Salvador Dalí and his melting clocks, I’m sure he would have something to say, but it would be foolish if he thought that what he understood those things to represent was universally grasped by everyone. It’s true no matter how simple an idea seems to be. Something like motherhood means different things to different people. We can talk about motherhood and apple pie, but there are some people who didn’t have a very good time with motherhood or don’t enjoy apple pie. You have to have a lighter grasp of your intentions, once the piece is out there. Once it’s out, it’s up for grabs.
7 November 2019 - Cockburn's new album is a full batch of recently written glory showcasing his fingerpicking prowess, knack for texture and masterful sense of melody.
"Once the lucky accident of finding an interesting riff happens, then I’ll get down to the more deliberate work of figuring out what’s going to happen next,” Bruce Cockburn explains. The national treasure from the Great White North won the 2018 Canadian Folk Music Awards Solo Artist of the Year honor for his 33rd album, Bone on Bone, and now the outrageously prolific fingerpicker has a deep new album of acoustic instrumentals on his hands called Crowing Ignites (True North).
Cockburn, who relocated to San Francisco five years ago, is a consummate singer-songwriter, as renowned for his lyrical poignancy as for his exceptional electric and acoustic guitar skills. His albums usually contain an instrumental gem or three, and his last all-instrumental affair, 2005’s Speechless, was a compilation of mostly previously recorded material. Crowing Ignites, on the other hand, is a full batch of recently written glory showcasing Cockburn’s fingerpicking prowess, knack for texture and masterful sense of melody.
The album’s enigmatic title is a nod to Cockburn’s Scottish heritage and a literal translation of the Latin motto, Accendit Cantu, which appears on his family crest. The guitarist says he appreciates the qualities it conveys, calling it “energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.”
“Bardo Rush,” the album’s kickoff cut, exemplifies Cockburn’s ability to maintain a driving rhythm while wheeling through melodic double-stops. “April in Memphis” reveals another side of his fingerstyle technique, consisting of cascading arpeggio rolls and free-time linear licks that ebb and flow. Throughout the proceedings, long-time producer and multi-instrumentalist Colin Linden adds welcome layers to Cockburn’s canvas, such as the bluesy Dobro on “Blind Willie.” The duo cut the record over a week in March of this year, at a converted condo that formerly housed a firehouse in San Francisco.
What inspired you to reconnect so heavily with the guitar?
The original concept was to do Speechless II, because people had responded well to the first one. But once I started actively looking for instrumental ideas, I ended up with so much new stuff that it became its own thing.
Do you tend to write tunes on the instrument that you ultimately use to record them?
A song often ends up being attached to the instrument, unless it’s an acoustic six-string, because I have several and they are interchangeable from a compositional point of view. But it makes a big difference if a song is written on an electric guitar, the 12-string acoustic, or something as unique as the dulcimer or the charango, because then the instrument’s characteristics become part of the song.
For instance, “Seven Daggers” starts with a layer of charango providing a rhythmic ostinato that runs through the entire piece. It’s kind of the South American equivalent of a mandolin, but instead of eight strings in four unison pairs, it’s got 10 that are tuned in a peculiar way, with the lowest-pitched string in the middle. The charango was the first instrument I had Linda Manzer make for me back in the ’80s. I’d gotten to know her from a distance when she was apprenticing for John Larrivée in the ’70s, which was when I got my first handmade guitar. Subsequently, she made me a couple of electrics and a couple of acoustics.
I layered a Manzer 12-string part on “Seven Daggers.” “Bells of Gethsemane” started out with a track of Tibetan singing bowls, and then the jangly parts were layered, including a track I played on a baritone guitar made for me by Tony Karol. All of the other songs on Crowing Ignites were written from practicing and exploring on an acoustic six-string.
Was there a particular workhorse for the recording?
Actually, I recorded all of the six-string parts using a little guitar from Boucher, which is a small company in Quebec. When I was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in the fall of 2017 at an event in Toronto, a guy from Boucher gave a guitar to each of the guitar players, including Neil Young, Michel Rivard from Beau Dommage and myself. I didn’t expect much of it, because promotional giveaway items aren’t usually the best, but this Boucher guitar turned out to be fantastic.
I had a Martin 00-18 a long time ago, and this guitar reminds me of that one. It’s proportioned in a way that my aging, arthritic hands can get around the neck a little more easily. I’m having so much fun playing it. [Boucher says Cockburn received a custom shop version of its SG-161-U, featuring unique inlays and special appointments. The guitar is based on an OM Hybrid from Boucher’s Studio Goose series and personalized with the company’s Ultimate Pack, which includes a master grade Adirondack red spruce top and AAAAA-grade Canadian flamed maple back and sides.]
How did you develop the opening track, “Bardo Rush”?
I started out fooling around on my 12-string, which I normally keep tuned to double-drop D, but a whole step lower, so I guess that’s double-drop C. But when I tried it on the six-string, I felt it had a better vibe and more fluidity, so “Bardo Rush” ultimately wound up on the Boucher tuned to double-drop D. The main melody section is made up of double-stops. It’s a harmonized riff that starts off in the fifth position and moves down from there. Underneath all the melodic stuff, I’m hitting quarter notes with my thumb on the sixth string in a Big Bill Broonzy or Mance Lipscomb kind of way, to keep a low drone going.
It’s interesting how you anchor your plucking hand with your pinkie underneath the soundhole while you hit bass notes with your thumb and the middle strings with your middle fingers.
It’s terrible technique from a classical perspective to have your pinkie anchored like that. But to be able to dig in to the groove the way I want to, I need that anchor. It helps me keep the thumb rhythm intact.
What’s the story behind “April in Memphis”?
On Martin Luther King Day of this year, I was at home and exploring on the guitar, and I simply tuned the second string down from B to A while leaving the rest in standard. A large part of using alternate tunings is to get open strings ringing out and notes running against each other that you don’t have access to in standard tuning. In this case, with an A on the second string, I found that if I played an E minor–style chord, I got this interesting effect of the 4th coming up all the time, especially when using a rolling, arpeggiated picking pattern.
Once again, I use double-stops to play the melody. Different picking approaches deliver different emotional effects, and this piece came out a bit wistful and mournful, in a way that seemed to reflect the poignancy of how Martin Luther King’s life ended so unfortunately, with his assassination, during the month of April, in Memphis.
“Sweetness and Light” has the opposite feeling. It’s simply beautiful.
Yeah, and that came from fooling around with using opposing motion in DADGAD. I’ve got fingers on the first and third strings, two frets apart. It makes something that resembles a chord. When you move it over a string, you’ve got another thing like that. But then I thought, What happens if I reverse them?
I had the first finger on the third string and the fourth finger on the first string, and then I switched them. So that top moves down a whole tone while the bottom note moves up a whole tone. And then I move it over a string and I do the same thing. The melody builds from that series of moves. It happened really fast, and I didn’t have to give any thought at all to the title. The song popped out and wanted to be called “Sweetness and Light” right away.
“Blind Willie” is a fun bluesy number named after Blind Willie Johnson. Care to share some insights?
It’s in the same tuning as “April in Memphis,” with only the second string dropped a whole step from standard. The tune is in the key of A minor. The idea was to arrange something like a gospel tune in structure, which would have the equivalent of a repeating chorus with all sorts of melodic improvisation in between. Once again, I’m thumping quarter notes in the bass. Other than the main riff, the tune was essentially improvised with Colin Linden playing slide on my Dobro.
He’s produced many of your albums and plays lots of different instruments. What do you do on tour when you don’t have him on hand to act as your Swiss army knife?
Good question. The solo pieces obviously are not much of a problem. The only problem they present is how to put them into a band show like I’m doing right now without losing the momentum. I can pull off a piece like “Blind Willie” on my own, but it is better to play it along with someone else. The fall tour starting in September when Crowing Ignites comes out will be a duo with my nephew John Aaron Cockburn, who plays guitar and accordion.
What’s your amplification strategy?
I play Manzer acoustics equipped with Fishman electronics. It’s one of their older systems that incorporates an internal mic as well as an onboard pickup. I had those signals split into two output jacks. I run an XLR from the microphone straight to the house. The pickup signal runs through a few effects including a Moog tremolo, TC Electronic chorus and reverb pedals, and a couple of Boss echo units that feed into a passive stereo D.I. That stereo signal blends with the microphone signal to give the full sound to the P.A. system. I use in-ear monitors so I don’t have to worry about feedback.
Are you in full instrumental mode?
I’ve got this instrumental album coming out, so it will be the focus, but it’s not like the whole show is going to be instrumental. People want to hear songs they’ve heard before, and I want to sing them, so the material will be a mix of new and old.
~from GuitarPlayer.com - Jimmy Leslie
Editor note: This interview most likely took place summer of 2019
17 October 2019 - The way food is grown and distributed today means exploitation, displacement and hunger for nearly 1 billion family farmers.
Longtime SeedChange (formerly USC Canada) champion, Bruce Cockburn wants that to change. Listen to his message below and let’s remember who grows our food. Let’s work toward justice for small-scale farmers.
Besides being a legendary Canadian musician, Bruce Cockburn has been a donor and champion of our work for nearly 50 years. He became the voice of our public service announcements when SeedChange founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, retired. He also travelled to our programs in Nepal and Mali, witnessing first-hand the impact of donors’ support.
~from https://weseedchange.org/ (was USC Canada)
17 October 2019 - There was a very brief period a few years back where Bruce Cockburn wondered whether he was still a songwriter.
There was a very brief period a few years back where Bruce Cockburn wondered whether he was still a songwriter.
“It was just after I released my memoir,” said the singer-songwriter who plays Centennial Hall Sunday.
“I had invested all of the energy normally used in songwriting into my book (2014’s Rumours of Glory), and when I was done I looked around and wondered if I was still able to do it.”
That question was laid to rest with Bone on Bone, which went on to win Contemporary Roots Album of the Year at the 2018 Juno Awards.
Now the iconic folk-rocker (and guitar wizard), known for an eclectic range of hits like the incendiary If I Had a Rocket Launcher, the lilting Wondering Where the Lions Are, and the heart opening Lovers in a Dangerous Time, is preparing to follow up with an all-instrumental album called Crowing Ignites.
Q: What was the genesis of Crowing Ignites?
A. My manager Bernie (Finkelstein) and I had come up with an idea to do what was going to be called Speechless 2. Speechless (which came out in 2005) was a compilation of previously recorded songs, with a few new tracks added on. We thought, OK, let’s do the same again, but I ended up writing so much that it became its own album. I had a lot of fun with it, and brought in these loosely structured songs with some improvisation, while others are less improvised. In the case of Seven Daggers I just played a charango (an Andean stringed instrument) pattern and then started putting stuff on top of that.
Q: Will you be devoting your tour to just instrumentals?
A. Not the whole show. I think people would be unhappy with me if I did that, and I know I’d be unhappy. There are a few that have made their way into the set list, though. There’s a piece that was constructed in the studio with me playing all the parts; the band I’m touring with can play those parts, while I get to do all of the show-off moves.
Q: Because of your propensity for releasing instrumental albums, as well as your similar interests in mysticism, I tend to put you in the same category as Richard Thompson.
A. We’ve been on the same bill a number of times, and Richard is a great guitar player. We have different skill sets, and I’m definitely an admirer. I guess that’s my way of saying that I don’t mind being lumped in with him.
Q: You’ve been living in the U.S. for a decade now, which must be very eye-opening for you.
A. I actually lived in the States the first time in the ’60s, during the Vietnam War, and that was similar in some regards. When I first started hanging out there again with my then-girlfriend and now wife it was a very different scene. It was Obama’s America, and it had a very different feel. In spite of what I felt were many flaws in that administration there was a generally positive atmosphere, and a kind of sense of hope in the air. That’s not so evident right now.
Q: It’s strange how the current government hasn’t quite galvanized the music scene in the same way Johnson and then Nixon did.
A. Well, when someone like Kanye West is a big Trump supporter … it’s definitely weird. People are very polarized, though it’s hard to find Trump supporters in San Francisco. It can feel like an echo chamber at times, because of the degree of polarization. You can’t really have a conversation with anyone about this stuff unless it’s partisan.
Q: You’ve been around long enough to have seen the way the political pendulum swings. Is it that worrying to you?
A. I think of someone like Ronald Reagan, who had a very public smoothness. I once spoke with (then-Sandinista leader, now Nicaraguan President) Daniel Ortega’s wife Rosario about a trip they took to Washington to meet the Reagans. They were invited to this party where everyone was very hospitable and nice, but at this point Reagan was saying things like he supported the (U.S.-backed right wing rebel) Contras and saying “I am a Contra.” In a diplomatic context he was nice, but from a global perspective he was awful.
Q: You can’t really call the current U.S. President a very smooth politician.
A. I think his cosmic function is to create chaos and disorder. It’s one of his two talents; the other is getting attention.
~from Leaderpost.com - Tom Murray
16 October 2019 - Canadian singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Bruce Cockburn has given us a lifetime of deep songs and engaging performances. His newest effort is an all-instrumental album called Crowing Ignites. The odd phrase is a literal translation of the Latin expression that is on the Cockburn family coat of arms.
Click through for an audio interview : WFUV.org
That anchor in tradition and Cockburn's identity drives the new music, which he says invites participation. As a songwriter who skips the words on this go-around, the listener is challenged to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.
In Studio A, Cockburn performed the flamenco-tinged "Angels In The Half Light," and he also sang "States I'm In," from the 2017 release, Bone On Bone.
(click through for the videos of the instudio performance)
As he also told me in our conversation, life and his music is a journey that finds it's own path. Fifty years after his debut album, Cockburn recalls his own 50th birthday, and how life magically got easier and more rewarding because so much of the heavy lifting was already done.
Recorded: 7/18/19; Engineer: Sam Lazarev; Producer: Sarah Wardrop; Photo: Nora Doyle/WFUV
~ from WFUV.org
11 October 2019 - Musician Bruce Cockburn has been a singer and songwriter of poetic lyrics and bon mots for more than five decades.
Click through for video interview
There are times when being a part of history, albeit a tumultuously famous (some might even say infamous) one, becomes a badge of honour, the tipping point from which many other seismic life events are launched. Toronto’s Yorkville scene in the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s was such a place. Although today’s well-heeled visitors to the area might not be able to fathom it, Yorkville in those earlier days was comparable, on a smaller scale, to New York’s bumping Greenwich Village. The hub of a creative, nonconformist, bohemian, longhaired subculture, Yorkville’s hippie scene was entrenched in a tie-dye plethora of folk, rock and jazz music, suede and leather-fringed jackets, a surfeit of free love and, oh yes, a lot of marijuana smoking, which five decades later would become legal — a fact that no one would have imagined at the time.
One of Yorkville’s greatest contributions to music aficionados was the exceptional quality of musicians who got their start in the 40-plus coffee houses and bars that dotted the streets of the Yorkville scene, which encompassed Hazelton Avenue, Cumberland Street, Avenue Road and Bay Street. The famed Penny Farthing coffee house attracted big-name talent such as James Taylor, and Simon & Garfunkel. And the renowned Riverboat Coffee House, where stars such as Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young played, is also where Ottawa native Bruce Cockburn — folk singer, songwriter, author and multiple Juno awardee — often played. On the big stage, the singer shared a concert bill with a who’s-who of musical proficiency, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. With his ever-present round-rimmed spectacles, and his long, dark hair curling out from underneath a fedora trimmed with leather strips, Cockburn’s gentle, commanding voice and poetic lyrics captivated audiences. They knew all the words to his wildly popular, songs-for-the-decades hits, such as “Wondering Where the Lions Are” (1979), “Rumours of Glory” (1980), “The Trouble with Normal” (1983), “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” (1984), “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” (1984) and “Call It Democracy” (1986), to name just a few.
A man whose words shone like beacons in his lyrics, Cockburn’s ability to interact with others throughout his younger years was one that was fraught with angst and rage. “I was wrapped up in myself — not in a narcissistic way, but in terms of mistrust of the world. I was not open to other people,” Cockburn says. “A lot of my adult life has been a big learning curve in terms of empathizing and loving people. In the process of navigating through life, I have learned things — sometimes quickly, and sometimes as an uneven trickle. Every time there has been a discovery, there has likely been a song. We all have a lot in common throughout our lives, including scars. None of us gets out of our childhood/youth without some damage. The scars unite us; if we find those scars in a person and are open to the energy they offer from that place, then it is a binding agent. We are all in this together.”
After spending some time in Paris performing as a street musician, Cockburn attended Boston’s esteemed Berklee College of Music, where he spent a few semesters before quitting. “I was learning things at Berklee, but I had this strong feeling, a prompting that I needed to be elsewhere, do something else, which I’m still doing. Whatever predisposed me to listen to those promptings, it all worked out pretty well.”
Ironically, many decades later, Cockburn was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee. (One of many he has been awarded.) “I didn’t have to do the work and I got my degree,” he laughs. Cockburn’s awards are many: he is an inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (2001); recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award (2014); an inductee into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2017); and the 2017 recipient of the Folk Alliance International People’s Voice Award. All of these awards are certainly balms that boosted the confidence of Cockburn, who, throughout his 20s and 30s, felt like a stranger in a strange land. “It certainly softens the effect of feeling like a loner,” he says. “But the feeling of affection and embrace that comes from the audience is really what fills me.”
For an extensive part of his career, Cockburn was known as much for his sense of rage as he was for his mastery of music. He credits acquiring a sense of perspective on that rage as a part of growing up. “A lot of what I have written comes from that place [of rage],” he says. “When I wrote ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher,’ I didn’t feel like I was venting. I know the song was the cause of head scratching for some people, but for me it was an expression of pain and outrage at what I felt — what I empathized with — which was the plight of the Guatemalan refugees. I was trying to paint an emotional picture of what I felt — it came from a deep place. How it was perceived by people who weren’t familiar with the situation was really an expression of their rage. The radio success of that song was a big surprise to me.”
“Every Time I Hear That Music I Am Transported To Some Windswept Headland, Sipping Whisky Out Of A Seashell”
Like many of his activist peers in the ’70s and ’80s, Cockburn used his music as a commentary on political events that were concerning to him. He does not consider himself an activist per se (he considers himself more in the domain of reactivism than activism), but his political voice and opinions have definitely resonated in an impactful way on a wide range of issues over the years, including native rights — particularly the Haida peoples’ struggles around land claims in British Columbia — as well as human rights atrocities in third-world countries, third-world debt and the ecological decline of the environment. His politicking has taken him to Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal, to name a few. And while some of his politically active counterparts, such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, felt that their careers were impacted by their activism (Sainte-Marie discovered that the FBI had a file on her in the 1980s), Cockburn feels his outspokenness did not affect him. “I was inducted into the Order of Canada (1983), and then promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada (2003), so I don’t think that suggests any kind of repression,” he says. “I have allowed my mouthing off to be used for people who are truly activists, and I feel good about being allowed to be used that way, if the cause is good.”
The most active cause Cockburn is currently involved in is the raising of his daughter, Iona, who is seven. “I have limited time to be in her life and I want to make the most of it,” the singer says. Cockburn, 74, married his current wife, Mary Josephine (M.J.), an attorney, in 2014. “A lot of the kids think I am Iona’s grandfather,” Cockburn says, with not a twinge of awkwardness in his voice. A proud father, Cockburn describes Iona, who is bilingual, as sharp, independent and a constant source of amazing stuff. “She learns songs really fast and knows all of the lyrics to my songs; her favourite is ‘Call It Democracy,’ although I am not sure why.”
Jenny, now 43, is Cockburn’s daughter with his first wife, Kitty Macaulay. “When I was a parent in my 30s, I don’t think I was good at it. I was self-involved and focused on my art. But it all came out OK. Jenny has her PhD and teaches at a college in Montreal.”
Crowing Ignites, which is to be released in September, is Cockburn’s newest album. It was produced by Cockburn’s long-time friend and collaborator, guitarist and songwriter Colin Linden, whom the singer has known since he was 14. A fully instrumental album, Crowing Ignites (a literal translation of the Latin motto Accendit Cantu) embraces Cockburn’s Scottish heritage, one with which he feels a deep kinship. “As a Scottish Canadian, I feel like I am part of a continuous line, one that runs through from earlier times, and will hopefully continue. Somewhere, I am a little bead on that chain,” Cockburn says.
This newest album of Cockburn’s embodies a journey of musical experiences, including Tibetan cymbals, chimes and singing bowls — and, of course, the classical bagpipe music of Scotland, featuring a style of bagpipe musical effects called pibroch. “Every time I hear that music I am transported to some windswept headland, sipping whisky out of a seashell,” Cockburn says with a smile. “The effect is hypnotic and meditative — I get a rush when I hear it.”
Cockburn’s philosophy on life centres on taking what understandings and glimpses of life he experiences and sharing them through his songs. “I am the person I am because of all the stuff that I have been exposed to, which has resulted from the choices I have made, and the choices that I have been handed. I have always tried to be available to the next thing,” he says.
The anger and sense of rage that have been a lifelong and intrinsic part of Cockburn’s personality — the undercurrent that drove many of his lyrics, as well as his outspoken championship of many causes — seem to have been pinpricked, dissipating the pent-up helium of wrath. In its stead, there is an increased aura of thoughtful insight, a wry sense of humour and a relaxed sense of openness. In fact, I noticed in Cockburn a significant change from the 2016 interview I did with him (albeit over the phone). He feels warmer, more loquacious and willing to share an easy laugh.
“Behind the pain-fear etched on the faces, something is shining, like gold but better.” Certainly, these celebrated lyrics to “Rumours of Glory,” which Cockburn penned and sang with such elegance in 1980, seem to have come full circle, becoming a prescient way of life for the singer — whom author Nicholas Jennings called “a troubadour for the common man.” But says Cockburn with a laugh: “I really don’t know what that means.”www.brucecockburn.com
~ Dolce Magazine - Bruce Cockburn. Photos Carlos A. Pinto.
2 October 2019 - Bruce Cockburn’s 34th studio album, Crowing Ignites, was released on Friday, Sept. 20 on True North Records. The instrumental album contains 11 original songs and was produced, recorded and mixed by Bruce’s long-time confidant, Colin Linden. The album was recorded in a former fire hall located just a few blocks from Bruce’s home in San Francisco.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Bruce about his latest album, the upcoming North American tour, and what comes next for a guitar legend.
Ted: The liner notes explain that the title, Crowing Ignites, was translated from Accendit Cantu, a Latin phrase that appears on the Cockburn family crest. I’m curious to know whether you’ve always been aware of this part of your family history or was this a more recent discovery?
Bruce: Not exactly recent, but it doesn’t go all the way back either. I’ve always been aware of, and always felt kind of connected to, my Scottish ancestry, but I had not ever particularly researched the family history. My Dad did that in the ’70s and ’80s … but I think it was actually my brother who came up with the family coat of arms with that motto on it. It was initially translated as music excites, which I thought was very exciting, and so does he, because what more appropriate (laughs) family motto could I have? But later on I came across other versions of it that weren’t – it was clear that none of these were actually translations. So I actually just went back and translated the Latin, and it came up “crowing ignites,” which I thought had a much better ring to it than the other versions in English. [It’s] just a strong poetic phrase. As far as the ancestry side goes, my Dad actually put it together in a kind of self-published book. He’s the one that did that work; not me. But the connection to Scotland has always been there and remains. It was in the ’90s when we discovered that motto, but the translation was only this year … I was looking at that Latin phrase and thinking … “It doesn’t say ‘music excites,’ and it doesn’t say ‘he arouses by crowing,’ and it doesn’t say a couple other things that people claimed it said. So I got excited and went after it and translated it. And then when I discovered what it really said, I got much more excited … Then my wife said, “You gotta use that for your album title.” So I did.
Ted: Was the concept for Crowing Ignites being an instrumental album in place before the selection of the album title?
Bruce: Oh yeah. It’s not a concept album other than the fact that it’s all instrumental, and that was the intention to do that. Instrumental music, for me at least, isn’t really about anything in particular. It’s about itself … It exists, and it has the capacity to touch you in whatever way it does, and that’s it. … Pieces get titles because you have to call them something, and sometimes you get lucky and think of a title that really fits the piece. Sometimes the titles are obvious right away, and other times you have to struggle with it for a while. But in terms of the album as a whole, the plan was to initially to make a Speechless Two. We were going to collect the various previously released instrumental pieces that weren’t on Speechless and then add some new pieces to that and basically do the same thing we’d previously done ’cause there seemed to be some interest on people’s part on having that, and it appealed to me. But then I started writing pieces, and they just kept coming. So it became Crowing Ignites instead of Speechless Two.
Ted: You recorded the album in a former fire hall in San Francisco. Did you encounter any challenges converting the space into a functioning recording studio? From the photos that I’ve seen online, it looked like there were several hard surfaces you may have had to contend with.
Bruce: No, actually, far from it. It was the easiest thing. Kind of the most hassle-free recording I think I’ve ever done. … The room sounds great as it is. It’s true when you look at pictures you see a cement wall, but the cement wall is very heavily textured so it doesn’t reflect the sound … at all. And there’s a lot of wood in the room, so it really sounded nice. I had heard music in there before, and so I knew that it sounded like it did, and it just seemed like the combination of that and its proximity to where I live and my daughter’s school and so on it made it very convenient. My friend, who owned the place, was very happy to let us use it. Colin … went out and rounded up the gear and brought it in and set it up. It didn’t take much. It came in suitcases and it set up on a table, and there it was. I brought in all my stuff that you can see in the pictures: chimes and Tibetan singing bowls and all sorts of things with strings on them, and then we just – we spent a great week making a record.
Ted: While it sounds like the studio came together quite well, did any particular song present any unique challenges? I understand that “Seven Daggers” and “Bells Of Gethsemane” were constructed in the studio, and you used a vast assortment of unique instruments on each song. Did you have any difficulty putting them together, micing and recording them?
Bruce: Well, … not beyond what you’d expect. Let’s put it that way. I mean, everything’s a challenge. You’ve got to get it right, but there [were] no real difficulties at all. The most complicated one is “Seven Daggers.” We constructed that one and “Bells of Gethsemane,” as you pointed out … in the studio. All the other pieces, I knew what I was going to do when I went into the studio. But with those pieces, all I knew was that I had an idea for certain kinds of layering that I wanted to do. In the case of “Seven Daggers,” I wanted to use little kalimba things that I have, and the charango. … The charango can be tuned so it will play in A minor with the kalimbas. So we created loops out of those and made a layer out of that and then just started adding things to it. [Then] Colin put on the baritone guitar part, and I played the 12-string over top. That was the most elaborate of the constructions. “Bells of Gethsemane,” I just put down a layer of singing bowls and then another layer of singing bowls and then a layer of chimes and some other stuff and just played over top, playing the baritone myself on that one. So I wouldn’t call them challenging. There’s a process, but the only real challenging part, which is always there, is to get past the conditions of the day … How tired are you? Or how imaginative do you feel at this moment? … Those kinds of things. But that’s always there.
Ted: I recognized a few of the musicians that perform on Crowing Ignites. However, one name that I didn’t recognize was Bo Carper’s. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about him.
Bruce: Bo Carper is a guitar player that I’m acquainted with here in San Francisco – a very good guitar player actually. We met at a social gathering, and we ended up jamming together, so that’s how I found out what kind of guitar player he is. Because I don’t really know many people in the music scene here, I [contacted] him and asked him if he knew any percussionists, because I was interested in having somebody play percussion on some of the pieces. He gave me a couple of names. … One I didn’t get a hold of, and the other one … was already booked for the time period that we needed him for. So that didn’t pan out … I let Bo know that, and he said, “Well you know I’m a really great shaker player.” I had never heard anyone say that about themselves before, so I immediately perked up. And so he came in and played shaker. I thought this will be fun to try, or whatever. It’s not what I was exactly looking for, but it might work really well. And I think it does, and I think he did a fantastic job. A couple of the pieces we played live together, and then a couple of them he did as overdubs. Colin was involved in every aspect of the album, and he plays on the aforementioned “Seven Daggers” and also on “Blind Willie,” putting a great slide guitar part on that. And then Janice Powers, Colin’s wife, plays keyboards, as she’s done a lot of times before for me on other albums. She’s really great at coming up with these atmospheric keyboard kind of landscapy parts that I think contributed greatly to the overall effect of things.
Ted: Another person listed on one of the tracks is your daughter, Iona. What was it like including her in the recording of the album?
Bruce: It was fun. She got to clap along, and she was excited to be able to go in studio and clap her hands. I don’t know if it’ll mean too much to her in the long run, but it was fun at the time.
Ted: Let’s talk about a few of the songs from Crowing Ignites. The press release states that “Bardo Rush” came after a dream. Would you like to discuss the contents of the dream that inspired this particular song?
Bruce: The title was inspired by a dream. The piece is a piece. The piece wasn’t inspired by anything except I’m playing the guitar, I think … “This could be a piece [and it] sounds like a good idea.” All the pieces really are independent from other influences in that way. Sometimes I feel a connection … I’ll just sidestep here for a moment. A piece like “April In Memphis” was written on Martin Luther King day this year. “Easter” was written on Easter Sunday last year, and the fact that those pieces came on days that were sort of special days and had a certain mood that seemed to go with those days suggested that the titles should reflect that. In other cases, it was a matter of finding … a verbal phrase that somehow caught the feeling of the piece or that seemed appropriate to something in some way, some mysterious way. [Returning to] “Bardo Rush,” I do dream work. It’s sort of Jungian based dream analysis, you could say, and the Bardo plane is something that’s referred to in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, quite apart from Jung and everything. Jung used that, and other psychology uses that, as a metaphor in a way. The Bardo plane is where you end up when you die and don’t go to Nirvana, and it’s kind of analogous to being in limbo in Catholic terminology. It’s like kind of waiting, wandering in this dead place, and you can be drawn back into the Buddhist frame of reference, of course. You can be drawn back into other lives, new lives. What you want to do is try to get out of that, if you can, so that you can just not have to go through it all. So for the purpose of the Book of the Dead, it’s recited in the presence of the newly dead, assuming that they’re still hanging around and can hear this, and it’s intended as a kind of a … travel guide in a way to navigate the Bardo. … I liked “rush” because it’s a fast piece, and it seemed to fit … Wandering into Bardo is not necessarily associated with rushing, but because the piece was fast, it made a good phrase … “Angels In The Half Light” – that title did come from a dream. [It was] a specific dream, in which I was being girded for battle, basically by angels. The angels were in battle dress … They weren’t glowing figures with wings, but they were clearly angels, and they were getting me dressed up in some sort of bunker to go out and face some sort of adversary. I don’t remember what I thought was out there … It was a dark and spooky dream, but I had the clear support of this contiguous of angels, which made it feel pretty good. So there’s a case where a title actually was lifted from dream imagery directly.
Ted: The song “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” was written for the Lawren Harris-inspired guitar that luthier Linda Manzer created as part of The Group of Seven Guitar Project. Did you play that guitar on this recording?
Bruce: No. I played my guitar, but I did play that guitar, Linda’s guitar, at the event that opened that show at the McMichael Gallery. All of the luthiers had somebody come in and play their instrument as part of the event. So I kind of wrote the piece for that event and then played it on her guitar then. But no, in the studio it … was an electric guitar. It was my big fat Gibson electric that I used on that.
Ted: The press release states that “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” was originally slated to be included on the Bone On Bone album but wasn’t released.
Bruce: It was recorded and mixed then [and] with the band that appears on the rest of that album (Bone On Bone). It was a bit of an anomaly, but it seemed to fit well, and I wanted to put it out because I just loved Ron Miles cornet playing on it. It’s so beautiful, and I regretted having left it off Bone On Bone – not because it weakened Bone On Bone, because I think we did the right thing, but it was just too bad not to have it out there. So to get another chance to let people hear it was a good thing.
Ted: The song “The Groan” was originally composed for a Canadian documentary entitled La Loche. I recently watched the film about the aftermath of the shootings that took place in the northern Saskatchewan community in 2016. What lead you to the producer Les Stroud and this particular project?
Bruce: I had met him before …We were at some awards event together, and he performed in Toronto some years back … He got in touch and asked if I was interested in doing a score, and I was. But that piece, “The Groan,” as you would’ve seen, is not in the movie, but it was the first thing I thought of when we first started talking about it. He had used what he considered to be sort of stock stuff of his TV show that he had put in there as his kind of sample score, so we had a model to work to … It was a little bit bluesy and stuff, and I thought that was a good way to go, and that piece, “The Groan,” just kind of came to mind. But when I played it for Les he wasn’t sure about it in the film, and when I started really putting music together with film it was clear it wasn’t the right kind of thing for the context. But I had this piece … which I liked … The handclaps and the drums and stuff like that – it was just a guitar piece, but I did want Colin to play mandolin, old bluesy mandolin, and I kind of knew that going in. So I kind of had that in mind. But the handclaps and the drum thing were an add on.
Ted: Speaking of instruments, you used several instruments from quite varied origins on Crowing Ignites. As you previously stated, the concept for the album came before the title, but as a listener, I found it intriguing that an album titled after the motto of a Scottish clan would feature instruments from such places as Africa, South America, Nepal, France and the Appalachians.
Bruce: It is a bit weird because it’s everything but bagpipes (laughs). There’s no actual Scottish instruments there anywhere. But this is what I have. I have a room full of this stuff, and I wanted to use it all, or as much of it as made sense. So we just brought it all into the studio and set up. But the singing bowls and Tibetan element … there was [a] concept going in that I wanted to build a piece using those, because I love the sound … I had the same idea with the kalimbas and the charango. But Appalachian dulcimer … I don’t use it in the traditional way exactly. I’m playing it as if it’s a hammer dulcimer, but I don’t know how to play hammer dulcimer. So it just does a drone thing in “Pibroch.” … I’ve been interested in music from everywhere for as long as I can remember really seriously thinking about music … Over the years I’ve acquired these various instruments, and it’s nice to be able to put them to use.
Ted: Bernie Finkelstein (Bruce’s manager) mentioned that you’ve been rehearsing with a new sideman for the upcoming tour. I understand that you’ll be performing with your nephew, multi-instrumentalist John Aaron Cockburn.
Bruce: Yes. He was in the band on the Bone On Bone tour. But doing a duo thing is kind of a new thing for me. I did it once before … I’ve done isolated gigs like that here and there. Colin Linden and I have done a couple things where we played together … But the only other time that we really set it up as a tour that I can recall was Salt, Sun and Time. I toured with Gene Martynec, who plays on that album, and the album is … just guitar. There’s a few other little bits and pieces, but mostly it’s just the guitars playing on the songs, and we toured like that … You know, that’s like 40 years ago. It’s been a while. I’m looking forward to it quite a bit.
Ted: What can fans expect to see at any of the forty-plus dates on the upcoming North American tour?
Bruce: Well, we’re still working out exactly what we’re going to do, but it’s not going to be very different in terms of the content or the song list … from a regular show of mine. There’ll be some old stuff and some new stuff. There’ll certainly be some pieces from Crowing Ignites. But it’s not going to be a night of instrumentals. I think that people would be disappointed if they paid money for a ticket and that’s what they got. Most of the people that pay attention to me would want to hear lyrics, I think. And I do like singing songs. So it’ll be a mixture of things.
Ted: Looking to the future, any plans that fans should be looking forward to following the Crowing Ignites tour?
Bruce: I’ve never been very good at making plans, and I haven’t given it any thought at all other than the fact that this tour is going to run, and then we haven’t booked anything for the first part of next year at all. So I’ll be taking some time off. But what I’ll do in the time off, and any plans for future recording and all that sort of stuff remain unknown. I expect that, unless I’m incapacitated in some way, I’m going to keep on doing what I do … Eventually, there’ll be something else, but right now I’m just thinking about the stuff at hand.
Ted: Once again, congratulations on Crowing Ignites. I’ve listened to it several times while preparing for the interview, and I think it’s beautiful. It truly highlights your passion for the guitar. I wish you all the best on the upcoming tour, and I appreciate your chatting with me today.
Bruce: Well, thank you. I appreciate your interest, and thanks for the kind words. Nice to talk to you.
See Bruce live - Tour Dates
~from Roots Music Canada.
23 September 2019 - One of Canada's finest lyricists has decided to lose the words — at least for the moment.
Bruce Cockburn's new album, Crowing Ignites, is his second foray into instrumental music. Instead of lyrics, Cockburn's deft and soulful guitar playing takes centre stage. He dropped by the q studio to perform songs from the new album, including a duet with our own Tom Power.
Bruce Cockburn wordless on instrumental 'Crowing Ignites'
By Andrew S. Hughes South Bend Tribune
20 September 2019 - Bruce Cockburn’s 34th album, “Crowing Ignites,” comes out Friday, a few days before he performs Tuesday at Goshen College.
His longtime fans may be surprised, however, to learn that it’s his second instrumental album, following 2005’s “Speechless,” because now would seem to be the perfect moment for a Cockburn album with lyrics.
The Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter, after all, has written some of the most searing, poetic and incisive topical songs of the last five decades.
That includes three of his most popular songs: “Call It Democracy,” about the International Monetary Fund and how it creates insupportable debt in the Third World; “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” about military attacks on Guatemalan refugees; and “If a Tree Falls,” about the destruction of the Amazon.
But Cockburn has chosen, for now, not to use his music to address Donald Trump’s presidency or the general, global rightward shift away from democratic ideals.
“There’s so much blather out there that I’m not sure more words are the point,” he says by phone from San Francisco, where he has lived for the last several years. “What we need to find from a societal point of view is some bonding agent, whether it’s more words or something else. I could get up there and say all the bad things I feel about Donald Trump, but what’s the point?”
Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn) makes it clear, however, that he’s taken that position for himself, not everyone.
“That’s not to say people shouldn’t write great songs about whatever gets their attention,” he says. “It’s just not me right now.”
But he isn’t entirely “speechless” on the subject of current events when asked.
With the Amazon being ravaged by fires this summer, Cockburn acknowledges that “If a Tree Falls” is relevant again 32 years after its release, and that time is running out to protect the environment.
“I feel like we’re getting pretty close to that wall, not Trump’s wall, the real wall,” he says. “I’ve got a young daughter and grandkids. I’ve got a vested interested in this. … I’ll probably be gone when the (excrement) really hits the fan, but my daughter and grandkids will be here. It’s a daunting prospect.”
And Cockburn, who became a Christian in the early 1970s, says evangelical Christians who support Trump are “extremely misguided,” while the people who call the shots in the evangelical community “feed off power.”
“The world doesn’t need a theocracy,” he says. “It didn’t need one before, and it doesn’t now. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put God at the center of our lives; we should, but that’s personal. … I think any one-issue campaign is dangerous, no matter what the issue is, because it ignores a lot of other things.”
Cockburn has ignored little around him in his music career, and because of that, he’s never been easy to categorize.
A finger-picker, he has moved seamlessly through a number of genres, including folk, blues, world music, reggae, jazz, rock and pop.
His lyrics have been just as restless in their subject matter, including — but not limited to — love and romance, pastoral descriptions of nature, war and war zones, the environment, poetry and music, Native people’s rights, refugees, land mines, and general slices of life. Sometimes, he delivers them in French, rather than English.
After Cockburn became a Christian soon after the 1970 release of his eponymous debut album, Christian themes and imagery then became a hallmark of his lyrics — never in a dogmatic, preachy or proselytizing way but as an interrogation of faith and ethics.
As a result, he hasn’t enjoyed much commercial success in the United States — just one single, 1979’s “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” has made it into the Top 40, peaking at No. 21. “Call It Democracy” reached No. 88. That’s it for “hits” here.
But his concerts tend to sell out, because his fan base is devoted.
“I love them,” he says about his audiences. “I don’t have any problem. There’s no artifice. I’m grateful they’re there. I love the interchange of energy.”
Cockburn turned 74 in May, and he says playing guitar has gotten more difficult.
“I’m getting away with it so far,” he says. “But sooner or later, that’s another wall. It’s not here yet, but I have to play a lot. I used to be able to not pick up a guitar for four or five days and be just the same as the last time I held one. It takes hours of playing to get back to where I was if I take time off.”
And yet “Crowing Ignites” shows no diminution of his beguiling skills or his musical curiosity across its 12 songs.
Although primarily an acoustic guitar album, “Crowing Ignites” includes such other instruments as chimes, dulcimer, singing bowls and kalimba.
The music ranges from the jaunty, upbeat “Sweetness and Light” to the traditional Scottish-inflected style of “Pibroch: the Wind in the Valley,” from the electric jazz combo of “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” with its yearning cornet solo by Ron Miles to the blues of “Blind Willie,” named for and in the style of Blind Willie Johnson, one of Cockburn’s main influences on guitar.
When he decided to make the new album, he thought it would be “Speechless 2” — an album of instrumental versions of previous songs with lyrics and a few new compositions.
Instead, it’s entirely new.
“There was lots left over from ‘Speechless,’ and lots of instrumental stuff had been recorded since ‘Speechless,’” he says. “Then I would write some new stuff, but I wound up with so much new stuff, that it just became its own album.”
For the “Crowing Ignites” tour, Cockburn has his nephew, John Aaron Cockburn, with him on accordion and guitar — he also had played in Cockburn’s band for the 2017-18 “Bone on Bone” tour. Together, they’ll play songs from the new album, as well lyric songs from throughout Cockburn’s career.
“I love the band, but I’m quite happy to be doing this scaled-down thing, because it’s different,” he says. “The relationship with the audience is different.”
The duo arrangement also is different for him.
“I’m not sure how this will feel,” Cockburn says. “But, generally, the less flashy the show is, the more the people get into the music and there’s more focus on the songs. I don’t know if this will be true with the duo, but there’s a feeling of more of one-on-one with the audience in a solo show.”
The album takes its title from the Latin motto on the Cockburn family’s Scottish crest: “Accendit Cantu.”
“I think the person who came up with it probably intended it to mean something like ‘Music excites,’” he says. “This is conjecture, but I think what they meant was the rush of martial blood that bagpipes have on people of Scottish descent. The pipes have a visceral effect on me. People who aren’t horrified by them find them to be quite beautiful.”
Of course, Cockburn says, there may be another, simpler interpretation: “Maybe the guy just liked to dance, swill that whiskey and cavort.”
~from South Bend Tribune
18 September 2019 - TORONTO — If anyone is looking for activist folk singer Bruce Cockburn to deliver a passionate lyrical rebuke for our tumultuous times, they’re not going to find it on his newest album.
The 74-year-old musician has a respected history in the craft of protest songs, but he’s not taking the bait anymore. He doesn’t find inspiration in the anger that’s spewed by the U.S. president, he says, nor does he feel the necessity to acknowledge the latest outrage.
Half a century into his career, the songwriter behind “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “If a Tree Falls” might seem a little jaded — but he sees it differently.
“I’m more frustrated than fired up,” he explains while sitting in the lobby of a Toronto hotel.
"I’ve gotten angry so many times over so many things. Really the stuff that would make me angry now is all the same.”
Cockburn acknowledges that might be him showing his age. The energy that once fuelled his inner fire is being redirected, mostly to raising his young daughter. The Ottawa-born musician, who resides in San Francisco with his wife, also walks with a cane due to hip and foot problems.
Cockburn says he doesn’t want to recycle the agita that established him in the Canadian cultural canon. It seems he would rather seek solace from today’s political discord in the strings of his acoustic guitar.
On his 34th album “Crowing Ignites,” due for release on Sept. 20, Cockburn lets the music do the talking. The all-instrumental project is his first since “Speechless,” a wordless collection of mostly covers of his own songs released 15 years ago that firmly established Cockburn as a formidable picker. His latest further entrenches his skills beyond the written word.
But “Crowing Ignites” isn’t an island of work. The collection of 11 original tracks plays like a meditation on our careless existence, though it leaves most of its interpretation up to the listener.
Cockburn offers some direction in the song’s titles: “April in Memphis,” evokes the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and “Blind Willie” is an homage to pre-Depression era American gospel singer Blind Willie Johnson, whose troubled life led to an early death at 48.
“Seven Daggers,” named in reference to Roman Catholic imagery of the Virgin Mary, is a dreamy journey where Cockburn’s guitar lingers among the sounds of kalimbas. And the hypnotic “Bells of Gethsemane,” takes his instrument drifting along a sea of Tibetan cymbals, chimes and singing bowls.
“To me, the nature of instrumental music is that it exists on its own terms,” Cockburn explains.
“It may suggest things to you, or conjure up feelings, but you can’t really control how it does that.”
Yet it’s difficult to separate “Crowing Ignites” from the social fabric it’s built from, which makes Cockburn’s insistence on ambiguity all the more bewildering.
When asked about politics, he offers a clearer sense of what might’ve led him to return to instrumentals. He expresses dismay over how “polarization” and “fragmentation” have split people along political party lines and isolated both sides from each other.
“The whole idea that liberal and conservative have become pejorative — they’re not descriptive terms anymore, they’re labels to refer to people you hate. How can you have dialogue when the language can’t accommodate a different point of view?” Cockburn says.
“Maybe that was in the background somewhere in the choice of doing an instrumental album. It wasn’t conscious. But we have to do our best to promote community and dialogue.”
It’s one of the reasons he hasn’t released a song about Donald Trump, who he believes promotes “chaos.” He refuses to give the U.S. president any more oxygen.
“The world is talking about Donald Trump by his invitation — he doesn’t need any more attention,” he says.
Cockburn hopes for the sake of his eight-year-old daughter the world digs itself out of its troubled state.
“In a way, I feel guilty for having had a kid, not from the point of view of population, but for inflicting the future on that child,” he says.
“I worry about that. But I probably won’t even be here when she’s hitting the worst of that, so it’s kind of hard to think of it in concrete terms.”
David Friend, The Canadian Press - Follow @dfriend on Twitter.
Interview: Bruce Cockburn on “Crowing Ignites,” Meeting Jerry Garcia, and ‘Little Ass’ Bells
AmericanaHighways.org - Melissa Clarke
17 September 2019 - Americana Highways recently spoke with Bruce Cockburn about his new instrumental album, Crowing Ignites, due to be released September 20th. Here is what transpired.
AH: The title of the album is Crowing Ignites. Tell us the story behind this title!
BC: My brother discovered that the Cockburn family motto as part of the coat of arms is “Accendit Cantu” which is a Latin phrase. We were all excited because it was translated for us as “Music Excites” which seemed like a really fortuituous circumstance, especially for somebody like me. But awhile later I was looking up information on the family and it was translated differenty; it was translated as “He Arouses Us By Crowing” and there were some other variations, so finally I looked it up myself, and translated it myself and it came out “Crowing Ignites”! And it was such a punchy phrase it was exciting. My wife suggested I use it for my album title and I thought “yes I should”!
AH: This album is instrumental, as was your earlier album Speechless. In the absence of spoken human language, what does music, on its own, convey?
BC: It’s unusual for music without a lyrical content attached to it to convey a specific idea. But it certainly carries feelings. And it contains the capacity, depending on how the listener approaches it, to transport the listener to a place of their choosing. If I listen to mournful sounding Baroque pieces, for instance, I get a tremendously wistful peacefulness from that music. And there’s music that gets you all fired up and other music that makes you uncomfortable and so on. So it has that capacity as well.
In making music, basically what you hope for is that a listener will get out of it what you put into it, but there are of course no guarantees there. Fundamentally everyone experiences any kind of art through their own filter, and they are going to bring their own understanding of how it fits into their lives to the picture.
You can steer them by your title. But even there, does “Sweetness and Light” mean the same thing to me as it does to everybody out there? Probably not. So you’re always at the mercy of that subjectivity. But that’s both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand you can be specific about what you want to say but on the other hand there is still a universality to the absence of words because nobody has to get stuck on language, which can be another source of various interpretation. And then half the time people don’t understand the words anyway either.
AH: The song “Seven Daggers” has these wonderful layers, and different world instruments. I wasn’t even sure what one of the was when I saw the instrument list. How did you come to choose them?
BC: It was constructed in the studio. As is the pattern for me, I generally don’t go into the studio to make an album until I know what’s going to be on the album. For this album this was the case, but there were two songs, and this was one of them, that existed in my mind as a concept and had to be developed in the studio, because it was all about the layers.
I had this charango. A charango is a stringed instrument that is a little bit like a mandolin but is native to the Andes region of South America. You’ll hear Bolivian street bands in Europe playing it. I came across this in Chile in the early ‘80s, and I had one and I got another one, and now I have a solid body electric charango which I got in the late 80s that was made by Linda Manzer whose guitars I also play a lot. It’s traditionally tuned to an open A minor 7 chord. And so I thought I also have this sansula, which is kind of like an African thumb piano, and this is a particularly nice version of that with a skin head and it plays so nicely. And its tuned to A minor.
So I had these two instruments that are built to play in A minor, and I thought I can make a pattern here, there’s a piece here. So that’s how it started. And there’s another African instrument in there too, the kalimba.
AH: What about the “little ass bells” you credit in the liner notes? How little are they?
BC: They are quite small! (laughs) Those are a variation of the Indian cowbells you see around in yuppie gift stores sometimes. There was a store in Vermont where I spent a lot of time. This particular store had an incredible array of these bells. The buyer for the store had gone out of her way to get really nice sounding ones, they weren’t clunky at all. These are not tuned in a Western way but they have a really pretty sound to them. So I bought all of them! One of each of the different pitches. Some of them were actually quite large, they were practically a foot long and a few inches around and others that were tiny. I bought a whole selection. And I strung the tiny ones on a metal rod, and you can shake them that way, and that’s what you hear on the record. There are ten of them strung on this thing and they work in a way like sleigh bells, except they don’t sound anything like sleigh bells. They are much prettier.
AH: About the song “Pibroch: the Wind in the Valley,” you say in the liner notes that the bagpipes there remind you of sipping whiskey from a scallop shell, which is really just poetic and an intriguing statement.
BC: Pibroch is the name for the classical bagpipe music of Scotland. It’s a very hypnotic ancient sounding music, you know Scottish bagpipes aren’t capable of playing very much of a melody. They can, but everything is in that 5 note scale and it’s limited. But the Pibroch music uses that limitation to create a hypnotic landscape where the pieces might last 20 minutes or more and there are these tiny variations and by end of the piece it’ll be quite complicated and ornamented but at the beginning it starts out this simple motif. So I was describing that sensation of being on some ancient Scottish coastline which is what I was experiencing for this song.
AH: You have a mix of religious themes in the album also, you have Tibetan Buddhism in some place, with “Bardo Rush” which is the lead track.
BC: The Bardo is from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I read back in the 60s. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is designed to be read to the newly deceased so that their spirit will go where it needs to go and not be caught up in various demonic distractions. And the Bardo is the plane in which that spirit is wandering. This song is a reference to that. I think there’s a lot about Buddhist teachings that are very valuable but I don’t think of myself as a Buddhist. But that wanted to be the title of that piece.
AH: It’s very lively, it’s like a dance, which turns the Bardo into an uplifting idea.
BC: Yes, I think the low rumbling keyboard gives it a sinister quality but yes, it is a pretty peppy little piece. You could think of is as the Bardo meets the Day of the Dead. (laughs)
AH: You also have Judeo-Christian themes. We already mentioned “Seven Daggers,” which was named for a near a chapel.
BC: It’s named for a little chapel that’s in a convent next door to my daughter’s school.
AH: And then you have “Easter,” and “Bells of Gethsemane.” What inspired “Easter”?
BC: It’s called “Easter” because I wrote it on Easter. The slow part was written on Easter. That tempo seems to me to be in keeping with the idea of resurrection. When I’m writing these pieces I have a feeling in mind, and I think very mechanically about the music, about what note is going to be nice after that note that was just played. The concepts kind of come in after the fact. But because this song was written on that day, it just wanted to be called that.
It goes from a kind of a mournful little waltz into a more uptempo happier thing, and that seemed appropriate.
AH: You’ve been playing since the early 1970s. You weren’t really involved with the Haight-Asbury San Francisco scene, but then Jerry Garcia covered your song “Waiting for a Miracle.” And not just a little – that song is very widely associated with him, he played it a lot. Did you meet him?
BC: I did meet him, after he recorded the song. I was in New York doing PR for something and the Dead were about to start several shows at Madison Square Garden. And I got taken to meet Jerry. And he was doing what was described as meditating onstage. He had a tent set up onstage behind the backline of the amps and stuff. I had to wait until he came out of his tent. (laughs)
He did, in due course. And he was very friendly, we didn’t talk very long because he was getting ready to play. And apparently he was very nervous, he would get very nervous before those big gigs. He was trying to calm himself down so it was a short encounter. But he said “oh man, beautiful song, I hope I didn’t screw the lyrics up too much.” I said “actually I was going to wait until the second time I met you before I brought that up.”
When I first heard his version of the song I was kind of dismayed at that but then I realized he did that with everybody and that I was in good company. (laughs) I’m glad he did it.
In New York a couple weeks ago we did a thing for Relix magazine, it was in their office, and there were several young people in the office working on computers, nobody was paying much attention. But I sang that song because it seemed appropriate to the occasion. And all of a sudden they all stopped and they were all listening! And the guy who was recording said to my tour manager: “Why’s he doing a cover?” (laughs). None of them knew!
It’s an honor that the song found a favorite place with him. But that was so ironic!
AH: Your music does get very improvisational in style and a lot of fans of jambands like your music too. On this album, “The Mt Lefroy Waltz” is an example. Are you improvising? Or are those paths you’ve already worn.
BC: My influence and background is a 50/50 mix between the kind of folk music which is now Americana, and jazz. I’ve never considered myself a jazz player, I don’t think I have the chops or the knowledge to be an effective jazz player per se. But improvisation has always been a part of what I like to do.
“The Mt Lefroy Waltz” has a composed part, of course that’s the part where you hear the guitar and the trumpet playing together the same melody. That was written. But once the melody was stated, there is some improvising and then it returns to the melody again. A lot of the songs are like that, “Bardo Rush” is like that. It’s something that I can do better in an instrumental context than with a song. When there’s a song with lyrics, the lyrics want to be obeyed. They demand their rightful place in the song.
To return to a comparison with the Grateful Dead again, my approach is a little more rigid than I think they were. When there’s a song there’s a structure that must be obeyed, and sometimes that stucture allows for some improvising but in the instrumental pieces there is a lot more freedom.
AH: The songs sometimes have a tone of darkness or foreboding. What is your sense of the direction society is moving in? Because when you did “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” there was a specific message. Are there political messages to your songs on this album?
BC: Well that song in particular had a very specific trigger. Had I not been in the Guatamalan refugee camps in Mexico that inspired that song, I would have never written it. It wasn’t written as social commentary. It was written as a shocked emotional response to a situation. And most of my stuff is like that. “If a Tree Falls” was more commentary and a lament for the state of things.
I look around and I see a lot of beauty in the world but there’s also a precariousness to it that’s very worrisome. And I think of my young daughter, and my grandkids – my older daughter’s kids, and I think what a f—ed up world we are handing them.
And the world has never been a safe place, we know that. History is full of terrible events and terrible effects on people of those events. But that doesn’t change the desire to have it work better than it does, or to not have it get worse than it is. And so, a lot of the songs are coming from that place of concern.
AH: Are you a cyclist?
BC: I did a lot, yes, but I am not doing it so much anymore. Getting older is better than being dead I think (laughs) but it has its price.
AH: Are you reading a good book at the moment?
BC: I am reading a book my friend Greg King sent me called Hitler’s Priestess. I have not delved into this subject matter before but it’s basically the biography of a woman who was born of Greek-French-Indian parents, and she became kind of a spiritual figure for the Neo Nazi movement in the United States. She was a big Hitler fan in the 30s and moved to India and was all tied up with the Aryan mythology that she felt that Hinduism had preserved whereas she thought that it had been lost in Europe. There is a thread that runs into the modern Neo Nazi movement.
AH: What’s on the horizon for you?
BC: With the imminent release of Crowing Ignites there are a lot of tour dates. My nephew John Aaron Cockburn is coming with me, it’s a duo. He plays accordion and guitar. We’ll be rehearsing and then going on tour. I’m starting to feel an itch to write more songs too.
The album, Cockburn’s 34th, comes out on September 20th. Find more about it, here: http://brucecockburn.com
9 September 2019 - Release date: September 20, 2019 - True North Records
There are quite a few ‘instrumental albums’ in my collection; predominantly of the Jazz persuasion, but one or two Delta Blues ones for good measure (one has 17 harmonica tracks on it!) plus a couple of ‘Experimental’ type things from Mahavishnu Orchestra among others; but nothing in the Folk idiom.
I say ‘Folk’; but that moniker doesn’t do justice to what Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has created here alongside a handful of friends.
The quality throughout Bruce Cockburn’s 35th album CROWING IGNITES (and second one of instrumentals!!) is of such a high standard I don’t want to just call them ‘tracks’ …… how about opuses?
The first of these ‘opuses’ is Bardo Rush and I was left spellbound the first time I played it; and again tonight Cockburn’s dazzling fretwork is almost peerless in the musical world I inhabit.
Okay; this was all recorded in a studio; with plenty of time for Take 2’s; but the playing on each and every track is absolutely flawless and, it has to be said exemplary too.
There are flourishes in Easter and The Groan* that will send a shiver down your spine as your lips break into a stupendous grin; such is the way Cockburn delivers a Masterclass in Acoustic Guitar playing.
Perhaps what has impressed me most here is that Bruce Cockburn manages to create music that could and should be in very different genres; but somehow manages to make the intriguing Jazz opuses Angels in the Half Light and The Mt. Lefroy Waltz sit comfortably alongside the delightful Ragtime ditty Sweetness & Light; a raw Blues tune like Blind Willie and the transcendental (?) Seven Daggers and make them all sound cohesive. What a rare talent this man really is.
Selecting a single Favourite Track (or should that be opus?) is almost futile; but then again two tunes really do manage to stand out here. April in Memphis is quite staggering in its very own rite; with Cockburn playing his guitar in an almost Classical fashion; and then I read that it was written on MLK Day 2019 and is dedicated to Dr. King; my heart skipped a beat.
The other is also a tad on the Classical side; but with a dramatic Celtic spine too, which combines to make Pibroch, The Wind In The Valley quite remarkable in many ways; which is why it’s probably taking the accolade.
For an album as beautiful as this, there were very few people involved in the making; all of whom; including Iona Cockburn; 7 year old daughter of Bruce who helped supply handclaps on The Groan; deserve a huge round of applause for creating such a magical and majestic body of work; that will certainly stand the test of time.
Released September 20th 2019
~from Rocking Magpie
Reviews: CROWING IGNITES
FEATURED:Bruce Cockburn's 34th album
12 June 2019 - Release date: September 20, 2019
Listen to / share “Blind Willie” from Crowing Ignites and pre-order here.
In 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, a collection of instrumental tracks that shone the spotlight on the singer-songwriter’s exceptional acoustic guitar playing. The album earned Cockburn a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and underscored his stature as one of the world’s premier pickers.
Already, The New York Times had credited Cockburn with having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business,” adding that he “materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music’s pulse and its foundation—at once a deep Celtic drone and the throb of a vigilant conscience.” Acoustic Guitar magazine was similarly laudatory in citing Cockburn’s guitar prowess, placing him in the prestigious company of legends like Andrés Segovia. Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt.
Now, with the intriguingly titled Crowing Ignites, Cockburn has released another dazzling instrumental album that will further cement his reputation as both an exceptional composer and a picker with few peers. Unlike Speechless, which included mostly previously recorded tracks, the latest album—Cockburn’s 34th—features 11 brand new compositions. Although there’s not a single word spoken or sung, it’s as eloquent and expressive as any of the Canadian Hall of Famer’s lyric-laden albums. As his long-time producer, Colin Linden, puts it: “It’s amazing how much Bruce can say without saying anything.”
The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto “Accendit Cantu” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.” The album’s other nod to Cockburn’s Scottish heritage is heard on “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley,” in which his guitar’s droning bass strings and melodic grace notes sound eerily like a Highland bagpipe. “I’ve always loved pibroch, or classic bagpipe music,” says Cockburn. “It seems to be in my blood. Makes me want to sip whisky out of a sea shell on some rocky headland!”
While Cockburn reconnecting with his Gaelic roots is one of Crowing Ignites’ more surprising elements, there’s plenty else that will delight followers of his adventurous pursuits. Says Linden, who’s been a fan of Cockburn’s for 49 years, has produced 10 of his albums and played on the two before that: “Bruce is always trying new things, and I continue to be fascinated by where he goes musically.”
The album is rich in styles from folk and blues to jazz, all genres Cockburn has previously explored. But there are also deepening excursions into what might be called free-form world music. The hypnotic, kalimba-laden “Seven Daggers” and the trance-inducing “Bells of Gethsemane,” full of Tibetan cymbals, chimes and singing bowls, are highly atmospheric dreamscapes that showcase Cockburn’s world of wonders—and his improvisational gifts on both 12-string and baritone guitars. Each track was wholly created in the makeshift studio he and Linden put together in a converted fire station in Cockburn’s San Francisco neighbourhood.
Singing bowls, Cockburn explains, are an endless source of fascination to him, dating back to a trip he took to Kathmandu, as seen in the documentary Return to Nepal. There, Cockburn stumbled on a man selling the small inverted bells sometimes used in Buddhist religious practices and became instantly captivated by their vibrational power. “I had no particular attraction to them as meditation tools or anything,” says Cockburn. “I just thought they had a beautiful sound.” After buying half a dozen in Kathmandu and more since, he now has a sizeable collection.
Two tracks on Crowing Ignites had their origins elsewhere. “The Groan,” a bluesy piece with guitar, mandolin and some collective handclapping from a group that includes Cockburn’s seven-year-old daughter, Iona, was something Cockburn composed for a Les Stroud documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting and the healing power of nature. And Cockburn wrote the jazz-tinged “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” for the Group of Seven Guitar Project on an instrument inspired by artist Lawren Harris and custom-made by luthier Linda Manzer. It was originally recorded, with cornet player Ron Miles, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Gary Craig, for Cockburn’s 2017 album Bone on Bone, but not released until now.
Cockburn doesn’t set out with any particular agenda when composing an instrumental. “It’s more about coming up with an interesting piece,” he says. “Who knows what triggers it—the mood of the day or a dream from the night before. Often the pieces are the result of sitting practicing or fooling around on the guitar. When I find something I like, I work it into a full piece.”
“Bardo Rush,” with its urgent, driving rhythm, came after one such dream, while the contemplative “Easter” and the mournful “April in Memphis” were composed on Easter Sunday and Martin Luther Day respectively. “Blind Willie,” named for one of Cockburn’s blues heroes, Blind Willie Johnson, features a fiery guitar and dobro exchange with Linden (Cockburn has previously recorded Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” on Nothing But a Burning Light). And the idea for the sprightly “Sweetness and Light,” featuring some of Cockburn’s best fingerpicking, developed quickly and its title, he says, became immediately obvious.
Meanwhile, “Angels in the Half Light” is steeped in dark and light colors and conveys ominous shades as well as feelings of hopefulness, seemingly touching on both spiritual and political concerns—hallmarks of Cockburn from day one. “It’s hard for me to imagine what people’s response is going to be to these pieces,” he says. “It’s different from songs with lyrics, where you hope listeners will understand, intellectually and emotionally, what you’re trying to convey. With instrumental stuff, that specificity isn’t there and the meaning is up for grabs. But I’m glad if people find a message in the music.”
More than 40 years since he embarked on his singer-songwriter career, Cockburn continues pushing himself to create—and winning accolades in the process. Most recently, the Order of Canada recipient earned a 2018 Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for Bone on Bone, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Peoples’ Voice Award from Folk Alliance International and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Cockburn, who released his memoir, Rumours of Glory, and its similarly titled companion box set the same year, shows no sign of stopping. As his producer-friend Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.”
~ True North Records. Photo Daniel Keebler. Cover art Michael Wrycraft.
April In Memphis
The Mt. Lefroy Waltz
Sweetness And Light
Angels In The Half Light
Pibroch: The Wind In The Valley
Bells Of Gethsemane
16 September 2019 - Bruce Cockburn on his Legacy and Writing Instrumental Music WATCH
18 September 2019 - Bruce Cockburn on his Guitar Playing and Techniques WATCH
16 September 2019 - Bruce Cockburn will perform at Stuart’s Opera House on Monday, September 23, and the acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter took a bit of his time prior to the performance to speak to WOUB about his forthcoming album, Crowing Ignites, the wide range of sounds included on the new album, and returning to Southeast Ohio.
6 September 2019 - Iconic singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn chats with Dinah about his upcoming album and tour Crowing Ignites on @truenorthrecord in addition to his memories of that time when he lived in Kingston!
We archive all of our content up to four months! Just enter the date (Sept 6th) and select the times 8 am and 9 am (the system archives by the hour, not by episode).
Bruce Cockburn Nods to Scottish Heritage With 'Pibroch: The Wind In the Valley': Premiere
Billboard.com - by Gary Graff
26 August 2019 - A funny thing happened to Bruce Cockburn as he started making his new album Crowing Ignites -- whose track "Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley" is premiering exclusively here.
The all-instrumental acoustic album was designed to be a Speechless II, a sequel to his 2005 instrumental set Speechless, again compiling instrumental tracks from his albums with a few new compositions. "I set about looking for ideas for new material and ended up with so much of it that (Crowing Ignites) became its own album," Cockburn tells Billboard. "I wasn't expecting to come up with so much (new) stuff. The ideas just kept coming. So it’s not Speechless II. It's its own thing entirely."
The new 11-track set, recorded in San Francisco, where the Canadian-born Cockburn now resides, and produced by Colin Linden, is titled after the translation of the Latin motto 'Accendit Cantu' that appears on the Cockburn family crest. It is, of course, markedly different than Cockburn's more traditional song-oriented releases, but he says the process is "equally enjoyable." "The big difference is the obvious one -- there are no lyrics," Cockburn explains. "The way I write songs, the lyrics generally come first, and then it becomes a question of finding the right music to carry those lyrics. With instrumental pieces it's more like, 'Here's an interesting riff on the guitar' and that suggests something else and it grows from there. It's a bit like scoring a film; You've got images, ideas, characters that need to be supported by the music but not overpowered by it. It's considerably freer."
Cockburn's playing on Crowing Ignites draws from in international array of influences, ranging from Mississippi Delta blues ("Blind Willie," a nod to Blind Willie Johnson) to Django Reinhardt's gypsy jazz to kalimba on the track "Seven Daggers" and Tibetan singing bowls, cymbals and chimes on "Bels of Gethsemane." The jazz-flavored "Mt. Lefroy Waltz" was originally recorded (in a different format, but not used) for Cockburn's Juno Award-winning 2017 album Bone on Bone.
"Pibroch," meanwhile, nods to Cockburn's Scottish heritage; the title refers to classic Highland bagpipe music, as do his droning guitar patterns. "It's music I find really hypnotic in a stirring kind of way," Cockburn says. "It gets in the blood. It's a very simple melodic motif, a four- or five-note swirl that repeats over the droning part of the bagpipe, and then add a grace note, one or two, over it. It’s quite busy sounding but it develops slowly. It's very meditative, nothing at all like the martial pipe and drum music we're more familiar with from Scotland."
Crowning Ignites is the 10th album Linden has produced for Cockburn, who found a converted firehouse which they turned into a studio for the sessions. "It was a challenge for me to make the record without leaving home," says Cockburn, whose seven-year-old daughter Iona is part of the hand-clapping chorus on "The Groan," which he composed for a Les Stroud documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting. "Colin was enthusiastic about it from the beginning, and we had a fantastic time."
With Crowing Ignites out Sept. 20, Cockburn kicks off a North American tour that night at the City Winery in Nashville, with dates booked into November. As for what's next, Cockburn has not idea -- but says that he's "starting to get the feeling that maybe there will be more writing of some kind coming up. There a point where there's kind of an energy buildup and I start getting antsy because I haven’t written a song for a while. When I feel that, it usually means there's something coming, sooner or later. I haven't thought about it, really, but we'll see."
Click through for upcoming Tour dates
20 August 2019 - Americana Highways brings you this exclusive premiere watch of Bruce Cockburn’s slideshow video with his new song “Sweetness and Light.” This song is from his forthcoming instrumental album Crowing Ignites, which was produced by Colin Linden and is due out September 20 on True North Records.
So often people focus on “lyrics first,” but this album focuses on music and musicianship, and accompanied by Cockburn’s exquisite acoustic fingerwork, it demonstrates the depth at which music, alone, can touch the human heart. Crowing Ignites exhibits Cockburn’s adept acoustic fingerpicking acumen, on a collection of songs that are introspective complements to his Celtic and world music inspirations. “Sweetness and Light” is loyal to its title, and will bring you exactly what you need in your day.
"There I am at home, practicing, exploring, with the guitar in DADGAD, a tuning I’ve been playing around with for a while now, and I think, ‘What if I move my left-hand fingers this way? And then that way?’ Suddenly there’s the beginning of a new piece. It more or less wrote itself over the next hour. It wanted to be called ‘Sweetness and Light,’ and so it was." –Bruce Cockburn
Order the album here: https://smarturl.it/crowing-ignites
Video by True North Records, Photography by Daniel Keebler
12 August 2019 - Back in 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, an album of all-instrumentals that focused on his acoustic guitar playing. That record not only gained him further renown for his picking but earned him a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist. On September 20 True North Records will issue Crowing Ignites, which presents Cockburn in a similar setting once again. Unlike Speechless, which drew on previously-recorded compositions, Crowing Ignites presents 11 new songs.
Watch April in Memphis.
This is Cockburn’s 34th record and once again, he deftly blends folk, blues, jazz and world sounds. Today we premiere a new animated video for “April in Memphis,” which Cockburn explains he wrote in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated outside The Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Cockburn tells Relix, “The piece came into being on MLK Day 2019. It pretty much formed itself in the course of a practice session. It took the shape of a lament, more than a celebration, which set me to thinking of King’s murder, and the loss of a voice of wisdom, compassion and respect that we could really use about now. Hence, the title. I think the video conveys the right sense of the poignant beauty, of the dignity, of the man and the spirituality that fueled him.”
Cockburn will support Crowing Ignites, which is now available for pre-order, on a U.S. tour, with these dates. You can also click here for our conversation with him, following the release of his autobiography, Rumours of Glory.
Video by Kurt Swinghammer, who comments - "Creating an animation for Bruce’s moving instrumental was an inspired opportunity to reflect on the loss of the most important spiritual leader of the last century. 50 years after MLK’s assassination, we clearly still need to hear his message."
~from Relix.com - April in Memphis - video by Kurt Swinghammer
8 August 2019 - Bruce Cockburn at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival on Saturday.
“It was just after I released my memoir,” the singer-songwriter recalls over the phone from Trail, B.C., where he and his band are preparing for a theatre show. “I had invested all of the energy normally used in songwriting into my book (2014’s Rumours of Glory), and when I was done I looked around and wondered if I was still able to do it.”
That question, if anyone ever took it seriously, was laid to rest with Bone on Bone, which went on to win Contemporary Roots Album of the Year at the 2018 Juno Awards. Now the iconic folk-rocker (and guitar wizard), known for an eclectic range of hits like the incendiary If I Had a Rocket Launcher, the lilting Wondering Where the Lions Are, and the heart opening Lovers in a Dangerous Time, is preparing to follow up with an all-instrumental album called Crowing Ignites. We spoke with Cockburn about his new album, fellow guitar deity Richard Thompson, and Ronald Reagan.
Q: What was the genesis of Crowing Ignites?
A: My manager Bernie (Finkelstein) and I had come up with an idea to do what was going to be called Speechless 2. Speechless (which came out in 2005) was a compilation of previously recorded songs, with a few new tracks added on. We thought, okay, let’s do the same again, but I ended up writing so much that it became its own album. I had a lot of fun with it, and brought in these loosely structured songs with some improvisation, while others are less improvised. In the case of Seven Daggers I just played a charango (an Andean stringed instrument) pattern and then started putting stuff on top of that.
Q: It comes out in September; will you be devoting your fall tour to just instrumentals?
A: Not the whole show. I think people would be unhappy with me if I did that, and I know I’d be unhappy. There are a few that have made their way into the setlist, though. There’s a piece that was constructed in the studio with me playing all the parts; the band I’m touring with can play those parts, while I get to do all of the showoff moves.
Q: Because of your propensity for occasionally releasing instrumental albums, as well as your similar interests in mysticism, I tend to put you in the same category as Richard Thompson.
A: We’ve been on the same bill a number of times, and Richard is a great guitar player. We have different skill sets, and I’m definitely an admirer. I guess that’s my way of saying that I don’t mind being lumped in with him.
Q: You’ve been living in the States for a decade now, which must be very eye-opening for you.
A: I actually lived in the States the first time in the ’60s, during the Vietnam War, and that was similar in some regards. When I first started hanging out there again with my then-girIfriend and now wife it was a very different scene. It was Obama’s America, and it had a very different feel. In spite of what I felt were many flaws in that administration there was a generally positive atmosphere, and a kind of sense of hope in the air. That’s not so evident right now.
Q: It’s strange how the current government hasn’t quite galvanized the music scene in the same way that Johnson and then Nixon did.
A: Well, when someone like Kanye West is a big Trump supporter…it’s definitely weird. People are very polarized, though it’s hard to find Trump supporters in San Francisco. It can feel like an echo chamber at times, because of the degree of polarization. You can’t really have a conversation with anyone about this stuff unless it’s partisan.
Q: You’ve been around long enough to have seen the way the political pendulum swings through the decades. Is it that worrying to you?
A: I think of someone like Ronald Reagan, who had a very public smoothness. I once spoke with (then-Sandinista leader, now Nicaraguan President) Daniel Ortega’s wife Rosario about a trip they took to Washington to meet the Reagans. They were invited to this party where everyone was very hospitable and nice, but at this point Reagan was saying things like he supported the (U.S.-backed right wing rebel) Contras and saying “I am a Contra.” In a diplomatic context he was nice, but from a global perspective he was awful.
Q: You can’t really call the current U.S. President a very smooth politician.
A: I think his cosmic function is to create chaos and disorder. It’s one of his two talents; the other is getting attention. I mean, we have to give him that. Here we are talking about him, just as in every conversation I have, even of the most superficial kind, we always end up discussing him. That’s a skill!
~ from www.newslocker.com
31 July 2019 - "I’ve never thought in terms of a ‘career.’ I’m uncomfortable with the word. I don’t use it because I’ve never approached what I do that way."
Podcast - candaianmusicianpodcast.com - episode 326. You can also watch this interview here.
One of the greatest Canadian songwriters of the last five decades, Bruce Cockburn, joins us on this week's podcast. An inductee into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and member of the Order of Canada, Bruce is about to release his 34th (!) album, which is an all-instrumental collection entitled Crowing Ignites. In this wide-ranging conversation, Mike and Bruce chat about his earliest years as a songwriter and performer in Massachusetts and Ottawa, the first song he wrote that he knew was good, the generational crossover in his audience, his friendships and partnerships with his long-time producer Colin Linden and manager Bernie Finkelstein, songwriting (of course), and a bunch more.
19 July 2019 - Over a career spanning five decades, Bruce Cockburn has traversed an extraordinarily wide landscape on the guitar, from fingerstyle folk, country blues, and gospel to edgy rock and exploratory jazz—all in the service of his songwriting muse. What’s even more remarkable is that he’s done all this not just as a bandleader but also as a solo acoustic performer. In Cockburn’s hands, the guitar becomes a true band in a box, delivering powerful grooves, riffs, melodies, harmonized lines, and improvised solos in real time.
WATCH GUITAR LESSON
And at 74, Cockburn is certainly not done exploring the instrument, as is obvious from a spin of Crowing Ignites, his 34th album and first-ever collection of all new instrumentals (2005’s Speechless compiled previously released instrumentals along with a few new tracks). The title Crowing Ignites is a rough translation of “Accendit Cantu,” which adorns the old Cockburn family crest. As does so much of his music, the album ranges across folk, blues, jazz, and shades in between, with virtuosic playing primarily on six-string, 12-string, and baritone acoustics.
Getting a handle on Cockburn’s multilayered guitar style isn’t easy, even for Cockburn himself. “I don’t think about how I do it—I just do it,” he says on the phone from his home in San Francisco. “But it’s actually quite interesting to try and make it into something communicable.” That is exactly what Cockburn accomplishes in this lesson: He breaks down the key components of his style and demonstrates them through a series of examples drawn from his songs.
Below, you can learn the core guitar parts from some of Cockburn’s best-known songs, such as “Wondering Where the Lions Are” and “Pacing the Cage,” as well as other gems from across his career. At acousticguitar.com, you can not only check out the video of Cockburn sharing excerpts from these songs, but you can see him perform a complete version of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” (transcribed on page 60 of the print/digital issue) as well as two instrumentals from Crowing Ignites. The result is perhaps the closest and clearest view ever of this guitar master at work.
The Alternating Bass
In Cockburn’s view, the logical way to break down his approach to guitar is not by style or genre—he’s always been dedicated to crossing stylistic boundaries anyway—but by picking-hand technique. Though the details and feel vary, most of his songs can be boiled down to a few right-hand fingerstyle techniques—one of which is the classic alternating bass style, as he learned especially from his early woodshedding with the music of Mississippi John Hurt. He began his video session, in fact, with a verse of Hurt’s “My Creole Belle,” in which the fingers double the vocal melody over the alternating bass—an idea that Cockburn has employed in many songs over the years.
In a similar vein, Example 1 comes from literally the beginning of Cockburn’s recording career: “Going to the Country,” track one on his self-titled 1970 debut. He plays in standard tuning out of G shapes, with his thumb holding down the sixth string at the third fret (more below on his extensive use of the thumb for fretting). The example shows the intro, where he picks a melodic line on the top two strings that harmonizes with the vocal. During the verses, his guitar doubles the vocal melody.
Before taping this session, Cockburn hadn’t played this song in many years and pointed out that he can’t fully reproduce the original recording, on which he used fingerpicks—an approach he soon abandoned. “When I first started using picks I liked the tone,” he recalls. “But I soon discovered that with fingerpicks on, you can’t really do downstrokes with your fingers, because the fingerpicks go flying into the audience’s drink.”
Playing with bare fingers, as Cockburn has done ever since those earliest days, gives the flexibility to combine upstrokes and downstrokes, picking, and strumming. Bare fingers also help create the kind of warm, round tone that was characteristic of Hurt’s music.
Perhaps even more in the Mississippi John Hurt style is “Pacing the Cage,” a luminous ballad from Cockburn’s 1996 album The Charity of Night. In Example 2, capo at the fourth fret and use C shapes—as Hurt himself often did. In the song’s main pattern, alternate the bass between the fifth and fourth strings as the chords move from C to G/B to Fsus2/A. On the treble side, pick double-stops on the first and second strings for the C and G/B, and then add in the third string on the Fsus2/A. In measure 2, Cockburn uses a fourth-finger barre on top of the G/B chord, but you may find it easier (as I do) to use the third and fourth fingers together on those top strings instead.
The alternating bass is also at the root of “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” from his 1979 breakthrough album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws. With its infectious reggae-like groove (delivered in the studio with the help of a Jamaican rhythm section), “Lions” became a Top 40 hit in the US. Drop your sixth string to D, capo at the second fret, and try the main rhythm pattern in Example 3. For much of the song, your fretting hand stays five frets above the capo.
Again, you need your thumb for fretting the G shape. “When I was first taking lessons eons ago, I was taught that it was a terrible thing to fret with your thumb,” Cockburn says. “But then I saw some great old blues guys doing it, and I thought, that doesn’t sound so terrible to me. So it just became part of my toolkit, and it eventually became an indispensable part.”
The Drone Bass
The other main picking-hand technique in Cockburn’s music is the monotone or drone bass, as heard particularly in blues—in which the thumb plays a rhythmic pulse on a single string, often with palm muting for a more percussive effect.
At times Cockburn does use the drone bass in a straight-up blues context. Crowing Ignites has two great examples. In “The Groan,” he plays a steady bass on the fifth string, with a 12/8 blues shuffle feel, using what he refers to as Gsus tuning (D G D G C D). And in “Blind Willie,” a blues in A (for which he tunes the second string down to A), he plays a quarter-note pulse on the open fifth string for the entire song. Example 4, from “Blind Willie,” shows a sample of the kind of riffing that you can do up and down the neck over the open-string bass.
The basic idea of playing over a drone bass, though, can apply far beyond blues, Cockburn notes. “Way back in the day when I was ‘studying’ jazz at Berklee—I’m putting the studying in quotes because I wasn’t a very good student—I discovered that I really didn’t like chords that much,” he says. “I don’t feel exactly like this now, but I was much more drawn to Asian music of various kinds that doesn’t use Western harmonies, where the intervals that you might think of in a harmonic way are measured against a droning bass rather than against each other as they move around. So a lot of what I do is informed by a desire to make use of that phenomenon.”
The new song “Bardo Rush” runs with this idea. Tuned to D modal or double dropped D (first and sixth strings to D), Cockburn plays a monotone bass on the sixth string for the entire song, adding all sorts of chord melody and jazzy riffs on top. Try an excerpt in Example 5. Play the harmonized melody with your fingers over the driving bass drone.
In learning any of Cockburn’s songs, whether with an alternating bass or a drone bass, the bass line is the best place to start. Practice the thumb until its movement is automatic, then work on adding the treble side.
Drone Bass With Chords
Cockburn also uses the drone bass technique in songs that do change chords. A famous example is “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” written in response to Cockburn’s visit to a Guatemalan refugee camp in Mexico in the early ’80s. As you can see in the full transcription of his AG studio performance on page 60, Cockburn keeps a steady bass going throughout. In the instrumental section, he employs his thumb to fret the bass note under the C so he can continue to solo with his other fingers.
In the videos you’ll notice that Cockburn often anchors his right-hand pinky on the pickguard—either keeping it planted or dropping onto the top when he digs in a little harder. This support, he finds, is essential for creating the kind of rhythmic momentum he’s looking for. “When you want to bear down on a bass rhythm, you kind of need [the anchor], whether it’s an alternating bass or a single-note bass,” he says. “I need that anchor to really crunch into it.”
Another song that uses a drone bass under changing chords is “Last Night of the World,” originally released in 1999 on Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu. That track featured full band backing, but as you can hear in the solo version on Slice O Life, or in Cockburn’s AG demo, the guitar part sounds complete on its own. In Example 6, drop your third string a half step to F#, and leave all the others at their standard pitches, for the signature tuning Cockburn calls drop F# (see “A Cockburn Tuning Sampler” below). Capo at the third fret. Thump out a rock rhythm with your thumb, staying on the open sixth string until the last phrase of each verse. The example shows the riff that serves as the intro and continues under much of the verse. As in so many of Cockburn’s songs, your fingers create a little melodic motif on top of the bass.
Mixing It Up
The last two songs in this lesson use a mixture of picking approaches. “After the Rain,” also played in drop-F# tuning, comes from Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, and is a great example of Cockburn’s fusion of acoustic folk and jazz. Much of Example 7 uses a drone bass, with single-note melodies and jazz-flavored chords on top. There’s also a popping fingerstyle rhythm that Cockburn often uses, where you play quick, staccato bass notes and chords with a percussive slap on the backbeats, as in measures 7–8. At the end the chorus, there’s a bit of strumming—a rarity in Cockburn’s music. He is much more apt to pick multiple strings simultaneously than strum across them.
As an interesting aside, the inspiration for “After the Rain” came from an unexpected source: the Bee Gees. The song, says Cockburn, is “a very loose acoustic translation of the groove of ‘Stayin’ Alive.’”
The final examples come from “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” which kicked off the 1984 album Stealing Fire—a period in which Cockburn’s songwriting became more politically charged and, not coincidentally, more electric and band-oriented, too. Cockburn played electric guitar on the original track with a full band, strumming power chord shapes. That sound works with a band but would be boring in a solo context, Cockburn feels. So instead, he uses the rolling picking pattern in Example 8,which bears some similarities to his part in “After the Rain.” In the instrumental section, as shown in Example 9, pick pairs of strings with your thumb as you play fretted notes up the neck alongside open treble strings.
These examples are, of course, a tiny sampling of the music that Cockburn has created over the last 50 years. But the fingerstyle techniques at work here can be heard across his vast catalog, applied to various types of grooves, chord progressions, and melodies. As Cockburn puts it at the close of the video, “Other songs have different details, but the basic styles tend to rotate around that axis.”
Beyond covering Cockburn’s work, you can also apply aspects of his style to your own songs and arrangements. Rather than using thick chords, try reducing your guitar parts—start by establishing a bass line, and then add single notes and partial chords on top. Focus on the groove, which really starts with the bass. Use tunings and capo positions that give you open-string bass notes, and therefore freedom to travel around the neck. And try doubling or harmonizing with the vocal melody on the guitar. The key is to think of the guitar as a multi-voiced instrument—rhythm section, backup singer, and soloist all at once.
Please follow this link for the article with all the chords.
Please follow this link for the article with all the chords.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
~ from Video Lesson: Bruce Cockburn Teaches His Sophisticated Guitar Style - BY JEFFREY PEPPER RODGERS - the September/October 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar
19 July 2019 - Acoustic Classic: Bruce Cockburn’s ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’
In 1984, Bruce Cockburn scored an unlikely pop hit with “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” which describes the Canadian singer-songwriter’s fantasies of violent retribution following a visit to a Guatemalan refugee camp that was regularly shelled by government helicopters. Cockburn originally recorded the song in a rock-band setting, flush with electric guitars and synths, but when he stopped by AG’s studios to film a private lesson last spring (see “Band in a Box” on page 20 of the print/digital edition), he stripped the song down to just guitar and voice.
The transcription on the following pages captures that performance note for note. At a glance, the notation might appear dense and complex, but you can make things easier on yourself if you break the song down and approach it systematically. You could play the first ten bars of the intro exactly as written, but it would be equally effective to improvise the natural harmonics. What’s most important here is the continuous eighth-note stream of open E notes—play them as firmly and evenly as possible, using palm muting if you’d like.
The heart of the song appears in bars 11–14. Riff A is the harmonic sequence for the subsequent verses and guitar solo, so be sure to spend plenty of time learning to play it with precision. In bars 11 and 13, maintain a barre across strings 3–5 at the seventh fret; grab the ninth-fret B and E with your third and fourth finger, respectively, or barre them both with either of those fingers. For the C6/9 chord in measures 12 and 14, keep your second finger stationed on the eighth-fret C and your first finger barred at the seventh fret, while stopping the tenth-fret G with your fourth finger.
In his off-the-cuff-feeling solo, starting at bar 45, Cockburn continues the eighth-note bass action established in the intro, above which he adds lines based mostly on 16th notes. Key to playing an effective solo here isn’t necessarily playing exactly what’s on the printed page but understanding how it works. The solo might sound intricate, but Cockburn is simply playing notes from the E natural minor scale (E F# G A B C D) entirely in seventh position—notes within easy reach of the chord shapes in the main riff. (For the lowdown on soloing with chord shapes, see Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ Weekly Workouts in the June 2017 and March 2018 issues of AG.) Be sure to put in the time studying this approach, as it will pay dividends for you in solo-guitar settings in general.
~from Acoustic Guitar.
Find this article and lots more in the September-October Editon of Acoustic Guitar Magazine
Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the September/October 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 60.
17 July 2019 - Bruce was in New York City today performing livestreams from Paste Magazine & Relix.
Here are the videos.
Paste Magazine - direct link
Relix - direct link (start at 5:17)
11 July 2019 - Legendary Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn shows no signs of slowing down after close to 50 years of exceptional music. He and his band hit the Capitol Centre in North Bay on Friday July 12.
An icon of Canadian music brings his incredible songwriting and unparalleled guitar-playing to North Bay this Friday. Bruce Cockburn, the man with ‘the hardest working right thumb in show business’ according to the New York Times, brings his band to the Capitol Centre, touring in support of his latest album, the Juno Award-winning Bone on Bone.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” laughs Cockburn over the phone while getting ready for a day of rehearsals with his band in preparation for the upcoming gig. “We’re going to be playing a selection of some older and some newer songs. It’s always a mix of songs that I think people want to hear, and songs that I want them to hear.”
There is certainly a long list of excellent songs to choose from. Bone On Bone represents Cockburn’s 33rd album. His career stretches back to his self-titled debut album in 1970 and he’s steadily released acclaimed albums ever since. As Exclaim! Magazine wrote in their review of Bone on Bone: “There must have been a "no bad albums" clause in Bruce Cockburn's contract with True North Records. Nearly 50 years and 33 albums later, Cockburn has yet to release even a less-than-great album.”
Over his career, Cockburn has been honoured with 12 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada, not to mention numerous honorary degrees and humanitarian awards.
He’s also recognized as one of the finest, and most unique guitar players on the planet.
Throughout his illustrious career, Cockburn has also been an outspoken activist on issues such as the environment, treatment of refugees, and Indigenous rights. He’s always been one to “kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight”, to borrow from one of his hit songs.
Politics have frequently played a role in Cockburn’s songwriting. When asked about the current political climate, Cockburn is clear.
“I worry about divisive politics. No one can really talk to each other anymore, everything is knee-jerk,” he said. “Pulling people together is more important right now than it has been in my entire lifetime. It’s important to find ways to bridge that gap.”
Cockburn isn’t about to change his messages for greater appeal, however.
“I’m not self-censoring,” he states.
As a 74-year-old icon, Cockburn shows no signs of slowing down. While keenly aware of his mortality and the realities of aging (the title of Bone on Bone is a sly reference to arthritis), Cockburn is not in the least bit consumed by it.
“I don’t give a shit about my legacy,” he laughs. “It’s kind of neat to think that in 100 years someone might listen to my music and say ‘wow’ or ‘genius’ or something, but I have no control over that and neither does anyone else, no matter what they might think.”
“I’ve always felt like every album I make could be my last. That was true of the first album and it’s still true.”
The only legacy Cockburn really concerns himself with is his young daughter. A committed father, he changed his touring structure to be able to spend more time with his family.
“Children don’t understand things like an adult. If I’m away for months at a time my child will have an unbalanced view. Plus, I love my family and genuinely want to be with them.”
With a new instrumental album, Crowing Ignites, set for release in the fall, Cockburn will hit the road for intermittent touring again this fall.
For now, he’s looking forward to returning to North Bay, and recalls that the Gateway city played a role in inspiring one of his songs, Isn’t That What Friends Are For, off his 1999 album Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu.
“I recall sitting on the shore of Lake Nipissing watching the waves roll in. The imagery of North Bay helped shape that song,” he recalls.
For any young musicians and artists looking for advice, Cockburn is modest, much more modest than his illustrious career requires.
“I don’t have very good advice because I don’t know what they are going through now,” he says. Then offers two pearls: “Give the art your all and if you are a songwriter, don’t sell your publishing, it isn’t worth it in the end.”
Bruce Cockburn plays the Capitol Centre in North Bay on Friday, June 12, 2019, with his band featuring drummer Gary Craig, bassist John Dymond and accordionist John Aaron Cockburn. For more information, and for tickets, click here.
29 June 2019 - If you were asked to name a Canadian artist who has, in the course of his or her career, released 34 albums to great international critical acclaim, the name Bruce Cockburn might not jump immediately to mind. That may be due in part to the fact he’s not an ever-present face in the media, has not been associated with salacious headlines nor has he ever been a guest judge on any number of cheesy talent shows. No, Bruce Cockburn is more like Canadian weather – sometimes heavenly, sometimes harsh and demanding, always changing and something all Canadians appreciate for its inherent unpredictable nature.
Since releasing his self-titled debut in 1970, Cockburn the singer-songwriter has delivered an incredible cache of songs, including “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “Tokyo,” “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “Lovers In a Dangerous Time,” “If A Tree Falls,” “Call It Democracy” and many more. Cockburn the musician, however, has also earned acclaim for his exceptional acoustic guitar playing, wonderfully showcased in his award-winning 2005 instrumental collection, Speechless. This September, Cockburn will be releasing a follow-up, Crowing Ignites, featuring 11 original acoustic compositions that deftly illustrate why he was acknowledged by the Canadian Folk Music Awards as Best Instrumentalist.
To promote his upcoming July 13th appearance at the Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre, Cockburn took the time to chat with GoBeWeekly about going instrumental, winning awards and surviving earthquakes in his current home of San Francisco.
GoBe: An instrumental album at this time seems like a lost opportunity, because the world needs more words of wisdom from Bruce Cockburn. But on the flip side, it’s perhaps a perfect fit for the times given the way people are finding words so divisive and polarizing these days. What was your primary motivation for recording CROWING IGNITES and did the great response to Speechless play any factor?
Bruce: Our intention started out to be to make a sequel to Speechless. It was going to be a collection of previously released tracks that weren’t on Speechless and a couple of other old things that weren’t on that collection and some new material. But I wound up with so much new material that it became its own album, Crowing Ignites. Once we started doing it it took on a momentum of its own. With respect to the absence of lyrics, there’s lots to comment on in the world right now, but there’s also a lot of people commenting. I’m not sure that adding more clamour to the clamour is really that helpful. That’s not to say we shouldn’t all say what’s in our hearts to say, but I don’t think the world needs to hear more from anyone about Donald Trump for instance. Everybody knows what they think of him whether for or against.
GoBe: There’s 11 new original tracks on this release. Where does one start composing for an instrumental album. You have a blank slate – is that daunting not having lyrics to build around?
Bruce: It’s a different process. Your question kind of implies that you know this, that I generally kind of start writing songs with the lyrics and music kind of becomes the vehicle for the transmission of those. In the case of instrumental pieces, the ideas come from the guitar itself or from out of the air in a kind of way. There’s two pieces on the new album that were constructed in the studio. One of them started with Tibetan singing bowls and the other one started with a little riff on the triangle and started from there. With those exceptions the pieces were composed beforehand. They just came from practising and just tooling around basically.
GoBe: So is there anything you had to learn or that you would up learning as a musician in order to produce this album?
Bruce: Well, I always write a little harder than I can actually play. I’ve tended to do that over the years, not always but often I do. It’s part and partial to the process. I discover something on the guitar that I didn’t know how to do before, or is a way of using something I know how to do but it’s a different application of it. So then there’s a learning curve involved that’s built right into the composition of the piece. In that sense, there’s definitely things I had to learn. I wouldn’t say a radical departure, I didn’t turn into Pat Martino or a classical player.
Bruce: When you pour your heart into a lyric there’s obviously an emotional connection to the song. Is there as much of that put into a song without the lyrical attachment, or is it strictly physical – or maybe metaphysical?
Bruce: I think there is as much. It’s not as specific obviously, because there’s nothing to attach to your ideas. Having that emotional content is one of the things that makes an instrumental performance effective. The capacity to contain that emotion is one of the things that makes a piece workable or a successful composition.
GoBe: The press materials around the new release mentions a makeshift studio that you and producer Colin Linden pieced together in a fire station in San Francisco to record in. What was involved in that process and what impact did the limitations or nuances of the studio have on the final results?
Bruce: You know it came out of a kind of self-interested intuitive flash on my part. Where I live in San Francisco is about four blocks from where my young daughter goes to school. I would walk her to school every day. In the process I became acquainted with and got friendly with a woman who owned this former firehouse that was half way between my house and the school. It was converted into a nice three-bedroom condo with mostly open space. I had been to a house concert there, they run concerts there and other kinds of special events. At one point I ran into my friend Anne who owns the place at a café. She didn’t use the place day to day on a regular basis. I asked her what she thought about using it as a studio and she took about half a second to say ‘that’s a great idea.” I checked with Colin to see if he could assemble the necessary recording gear and that’s how we proceeded. We spent a week in the place just setting up all the instruments and just started playing.
GoBe: Tell me you got to fulfill every young boy’s fantasy by sliding down the fire pole.
Bruce: (laughing) No, there’s no fire pole. I don’t know that there ever was. It a great space to work in.
GoBe: It’s been nearly five decades since your debut in 1970. You’ve seen the industry change dramatically through those decades, with your music welcome on almost all formats at one time or another. Did you ever consciously feel you needed to change to suit the industry, or have you always simply created what you needed to create such as your upcoming release?
Bruce: I can remember a couple occasions, for instance in the 80s, where we thought ‘everybody is putting out a single, maybe we should put out a single.’ As it turns out, we recorded “Coldest Night of the Year” with that in mind. By the time the record got finished and came out it was springtime and no one wanted to play it. It’s become kind of a seasonal thing on radio in Canada, but it was not a success as a single at the time. I don’t think about it much. Of course I’m as affected as everybody else by the trends that sweep through. If a thing is exciting for everybody it’s probably exciting for me too and I might want to do something like it. Really, I don’t feel like I’m in the business. I’m in the business of making music basically and I suppose I have a certain role as a commenter on things. That’s just how it’s developed over the years, but that wasn’t really intentional. The intentional part of what I do is to try and make music that I’m interested in, and write songs that say something I’m interested in saying.
GoBe: You say you’re in the business of making music. In doing my research and reacquainting myself with your catalogue, you had 10 albums released in the 70s, another 10 in the 80s. Does that enormous output seem ludicrous to you now – especially knowing that it takes artists today a year to produce a song?
Bruce: Well, it’s the other way around. I think taking a year to produce a song is ludicrous. There’s no point in pining for the old days, but in the 70s and 80s we recorded an album and we could put it out a month later. You could spend a couple weeks recording the record and it takes a couple of weeks to put stuff together and it’s out. So you could predict what the climate will be when you put it out. Now, because of the corporateness of everything, it takes forever. It takes a year to get an album out. In our case we’re doing it kind of fast, because we recorded the album in February and it’s coming out in September. We’re being speed demons with this one.
GoBe: And that included building a studio too!
Bruce: (laughs) Yes, including building a studio.
GoBe: You scored the 2018 Juno Award in the Roots category for your Bone on Bone album. What do such awards mean to you 34 albums deep into your career?
Bruce: You know, it’s an honour to be thought of highly by my peers and everyone else. It’s not something I take for granted. I like to get that kind of attention, but it’s not a measure of anything really meaningful. I don’t want to denigrate the process. If people want to celebrate what we all do, that’s great. More power to them. It’s an honour to be included, but it’s certainly not what I live for.
Gobe: There’s a couple awards that may hold more significant meaning – your Order of Canada and your induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Which of those two accolades holds more significant meaning to you?
Bruce: The Order of Canada is in some ways is the only significant accolade of that sort. Being made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a cynic might say what’s the difference, it’s just more PR. But I’d rather be associated with PR for the nation. I just feel that it’s something, because of the nature of how the Order was set up, it transcends politics, individual governments and it’s a reflection some way of the degree to which some aspect of Canada includes me. To be included and sort of embraced by that Canadian persona is very rewarding and meaningful to me. I have felt for decades that my life and the life of the country are connected some way. I was born there and spent most of my life living there. There’s some kind of way that I’m a part of Canada and Canada’s a part of me. To have that encapsulated in the medal that’s a symbol of the Order of Canada is very meaningful.
GoBe: From where do you derive the greatest pleasure these days; in the writing and creating, or the performing of the music you make?
Bruce: It has always been two different things. It’s kind of schizoid. The writing on one hand, the process, whether it’s lyrical or instrumental, is like a treasure hunt and it’s fun. Once it gets rolling it can be exasperating at times too. But it’s like being on the trail of something and chasing it down and that’s fun. Performing, when it works well and all the conditions are right, is a whole different kind of fun. It’s more immediate, right then and there. If it works well it’s very enjoyable.
GoBe: It worked well the last time I saw you perform at Jackson-Triggs. For this show, will it be an entirely acoustic show in support of the album or will we be treated to a mix of songs and instrumental music?
Bruce: The album’s not even out yet, so we’re not really thinking about Crowing Ignites with respect to these shows coming up. There will be something from the album, but it’s not the emphasis. It’s a band show, the same band I was touring with for Bone on Bone, but this time a strictly acoustic format.
GoBe: Final question then. As a current resident of San Francisco, have you experienced an earthquake yet?
Bruce: I’ve only noticed one. There have others since I’ve been here but for some reason I don’t seem to notice them. I don’t know if it’s my own shakiness or the fact I happen to be in a car at the time. There have been no big ones. I do recall my wife and I were lying in bed one morning and there was a kind of cracking noise, not particularly loud. The whole building made a cracking noise and there was a ripple that ran across the ceiling. My wife said ‘that was an earthquake.’ It was a four on the scale, epicentre was down near San Jose. That was my only conscious knowledge of one so far.
For more information, visit: https://www.greatestatesniagara.com/Store/Amphitheatre-Tickets
27 June 2019 - This famous songwriter says the northern Ontario landscape taught him to love nature and a have a greater appreciation for First Nations culture. And he'll be back in northern Ontario in July. We chat with legendary musician and activist Bruce Cockburn.
Aired: June 25, 2019
Jul 4 2019 - In his 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory, music icon Bruce Cockburn writes of trips he took on freighters across the ocean to Europe as a young man, his desire to leave his hometown of Ottawa after high school for the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and drives across Canada with his partners, just for the adventure of it all.
In a sense, he has always been moving and very soon his current tour will bring him to Hillside for an evening, main stage performance on Sunday July 14.
"I had this spiritual wanderlust or something," he says now, over the phone from another tour stop in Massachusetts. "I understood I needed to be somewhere else. The situation I was in in Boston felt like it wasn't going anywhere, or at least not going where I needed to go. I didn't know where that was; I had no sense of a goal or anything. I just knew I had to move on from where I was and so I went back to Ottawa and joined a band. And then I ended up being me."
It all worked out well for Cockburn, who is one of Canada's most acclaimed and decorated guitarists, songwriters, and singers and well-known for his outspoken social and political views and advocacy for those who are impoverished or living in third-world countries that are ostensibly corrupt war zones. He has written songs about such people and circumstances and he has travelled to these places himself, meaning many of his artistic renderings are firsthand accounts. Again, it speaks to the world explorer within.
"Travel is now less for an adventure and more just for getting to gigs," he admits. "I'm balancing that against having a family that's stationary. My wife has a job in San Francisco and my daughter is in school there. I spend less time on the road at a stretch in order to have a family life that's functional. As anybody who does this much travelling will tell, it's very hard to balance those things out. If you let the travel dominate you, you don't have a family life for long."
In a fascinating turn, Cockburn's family ties led him to naming his next album, his first collection of all-new, original instrumentals, Crowing Ignites.
"Long ago when the Cockburn clan had a clan chief, in the 1600s or so, they came up with a family motto, which in Latin is, 'Accendit Cantu,'" Cockburn explains. "The most common version of that family crest or coat of arms has three red roosters on a white shield but there's a badge that goes with that that the lesser beings, who weren't entitled to flaunt the coat of arms, could wear. And that one has pictures of crowing roosters with this motto.
"It gets translated in different ways but I've seen it as 'Music excites,' which I thought, 'How cool and ironic is that?' But having studied a bit of Latin in high school, it didn't add up so I looked it up myself and what it actually means is 'Crowing ignites.' And my wife said, 'You have to use that as an album title,' and so I did."
His 34th album, Crowing Ignites was produced by Cockburn's longtime collaborator, Colin Linden, and it's out September 20 via True North Records.
"It's an instrumental album that's all guitar and I think it came off really well. Guitar is what got me into music. I didn't start out as a teenager wanting to be a songwriter; I wanted to play guitar. I got interested in composition through guitar but imagined myself as a jazz guitarist, which is what I went to school to study. It turned out I realized that wasn't where I wanted to go."
Indeed, Cockburn became a gifted lyricist, which proved to be a great outlet for a poetic, opinionated fellow. During our conversation, he talks about the U.S. political climate and shares his feelings on everything from our impending ecological collapse to the state of modern, mainstream radio. With so many things to talk about, it's interesting to hear him leave his voice behind for a new record.
"We put out an instrumental album a few years ago called Speechless that was a compilation of previously released pieces with a few new ones on it," he says. "And the original intention of this new one was to do that again. But we ended up with so much new stuff, it became a new album. And it's a fact that I didn't come up with any new [lyric-based] songs in that same period.
"It is also a fact that at this point in my life, I've said a lot of stuff already and a lot of what I have to say is the same," Cockburn admits. "It can be hard to have new things to say or new ways to say the old things because of how much I've already done."
Listen to this interview with Bruce Cockburn on the Kreative Kontrol podcast.
27 June 2019 - Folk icon Bruce Cockburn talks about his life and times in music, his wanderlust, thoughts on the current political climate and ecological collapse, his new album Crowing Ignites, and much more!
Ep. #484: Bruce Cockburn
Interview date 10 May 2019
17 June 2019 - Bruce Cockburn has been writing songs about conflicts in the lives of Canada's Indigenous people for decades and he has no quarrel with the use of the word genocide.
"I don't have any problem allowing that word to be applied to the interaction between people of European extraction and people of native extraction in North America," Cockburn said on Day 6.
The National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) sharply divided the country when it declared the oppression of Indigenous people to be "persistent and deliberate" and concluded it was genocide. Cockburn agrees with the conclusion.
"Whether it was intentional or not, and at times it certainly has been, the effect has been to destroy a culture," he said.
Canada's legacy media rejected the claim of genocide and so did some prominent Canadians. For them, Cockburn doesn't hide his contempt.
"To think that we as Canadians can absolve ourselves of having exercised or attempted cultural genocide is completely foolish," he said.
Bruce Cockburn has never been one to suffer fools.
'A sense of outrage'
There's a lot going on in Bruce Cockburn's music and lyrics. His songs are too complex to be merely polemical. But when his anger flashes, you notice.
In his song Gavin's Woodpile, he zeroes in on a deadly bureaucracy:
Some government gambler with his mouth full of steak
Saying, "If you can't eat the fish, fish in some other lake.
To watch a people die — it is no new thing.
Cockburn is writing about mercury poisoning, a deadly blight linked to industrial contamination that's afflicted some First Nations and their land for half a century. He wrote Gavin's Woodpile in 1975.
"At the time, the mercury poisoning was not widely known," Cockburn said. "I mean, it still isn't."
"But it was about their bones falling apart and their teeth falling out and I mean … mercury poisoning is a terrible affliction. And the government was willing to do absolutely nothing about it. That made me feel a sense of outrage and that ended up in the song."
A global voice
That theme of oppression magnified by official indifference is present throughout his songbook in Call It Democracy, If a Tree Falls and, famously, in If I Had a Rocket Launcher, a hit for Cockburn in 1985.
How many kids they've murdered, only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher, I'd make somebody pay.
This song, one of Cockburn's best known, was written after he met Guatemalan refugees who'd taken fire from their own government. It marked the first of his many visits to war zones.
"It seems possible to view the genocide against Mayan people as an extension of the historic U.S. policies of extermination at home against Native Americans," Cockburn wrote in his memoir, Rumours of Glory.
Cockburn will release his latest record, Crowing Ignites, in September. (True North Records)
One of the criticisms against the MMIWG's use of the word genocide is the idea that it might impede Canada's moral responsibility to condemn foreign atrocities; that voices like Cockburn's could be dismissed for denouncing foreign injustices while Canada's record on Indigenous issues goes unaddressed.
Has he ever been called a hypocrite?
"In fact, no," Cockburn said. "No one ever did, because I think people recognize that this happens all over the place."
"To me, when I hear somebody say things like that, it sounds like BS anyway. It sounds like they're just making excuses for wanting to keep the status quo going without causing too much of a disturbance."
"And that stinks of hypocrisy to me."
A reckoning for Christians
In his 2014 memoir, Cockburn writes, "When Jesus came into my life in 1974, he also made it into the music." But there's ambivalence in his song Red Brother, Red Sister as Cockburn balances his faith against the legacy of Christian missions on Canada's Indigenous people.
Went to a pow wow, red brother
Felt the people's love, joy flow around
It left me crying just thinking about it
How they used my saviour's name to keep you down.
Cockburn is thoughtful, weighing the particular responsibility Christians face reconciling with the damage inflicted primarily, but not exclusively, through residential schools.
"If a person identifies themselves as a Christian, it seems to me [that] job number one is to love everybody. That's a challenging thing. It's not simple," he said.
Cockburn says the obvious solution — ending the disappearances and slaughter of Indigenous women; stopping a genocide — is a shared responsibility.
"That would be job one," he said. "I think right before anything else, before we get all hung up quibbling over what word is the best word to apply to all these things, I mean let's fix the frigging problem."
'A low grade fever'
Cockburn ends his 1990 song Indian Wars with a question: "Will there never be an end to the Indian wars?"
And how does he answer that question today?
"Well there's always reason to hope," he said. "But I think it's an ongoing thing."
"And you know, it's like having a low-grade fever, like our whole culture has this low-grade fever that affects everybody, even though we may not be very aware of it from day to day. Some people that affects much more directly and much worse," he said.
"We have to be aware of that. We have to be sympathetic and then try and address these things."
Bruce Cockburn's 34th album, Crowing Ignites, will be released in September on True North Records.
To hear the full interview with Bruce Cockburn, download our podcast or click 'Listen' above.
The date of the interview was June 12, 2019. (thanks Daniel Keebler)
~from Day 6 - CBC radio - To hear the full interview with Bruce Cockburn, download our podcast or click 'Listen'.
13 June 2019 - Four years ago, Bruce Cockburn was wondering if he was still a songwriter.
After more than 300 songs, including many international hits, and more than 30 albums, the globally renowned Canadian singer-songwriter and pioneering guitar player has come to exemplify song-writing. But Cockburn found himself in a new place after the publication of his autobiography in 2014.
“The chief change was that I hadn’t written any songs for a long time — that’s where the question came from,” Cockburn told the Townsman, on the phone from San Francisco where he now lives. “It had been three or four years since I wrote anything that you could call a song.
“Does that mean that I move on into some other creative endeavour, which in the context it would obviously be prose writing.”
Cockburn’s memoir, “Rumours of Glory” (after a song from his 1980 album “Humans”), takes us on an intimate journey through his remarkable life of faith, activism and ground-breaking music over the past five decades. Cockburn offers readers a commentary on his life and work, and the stories behind his song-writing and best-known songs.
Nonetheless, Cockburn’s immersion in other than his usual medium of songwriting unleashed a completely different creative process.
“Writing a song is a short term phenomenon,” he said. “Even if it takes a relatively long time, sometimes, to put all the pieces together, the actual time spent working on it, for me, is minimal compared to writing prose. You either get an idea or you don’t.
“If something isn’t connecting or developing as an idea, then my tendency is just to wait for another idea, or to hunt through my notebook to see if there’s something that will take it somewhere.
“But with a book … you’ve got to sit down and work at it and get it done. That to me was at times a lot of fun, in the same way that when you’re writing a song, you sort of feel like a bloodhound on the trail of an idea, chasing it down. But a lot of time it was just a lot of lack of sleep, sitting up late working on this thing.”
Cockburn says he doesn’t hunger for a repeat of that experience, although he isn’t ruling it out either.
“If at some point in the future it seems like volume II of a memoir, or if something else occurs to me — but it’s nothing I’m actively thinking about.”
* * *
All writing is communication — but Cockburn revealed much of himself in such a different way in his memoir than through the poetry of his songwriting.
“People hear a song, and by definition, as with any art form … people bring their own experience to their encounter with that piece of art, and their response to it will be shaped by how they perceive it through their own filter,” he said. “It’s true of a song, and it’s true of a book too, but there’s so much more of a specific nature in a book.“And part of the challenge of writing a book is to make it that way so that there’s less room for alternate interpretations. “Whereas with a song, of course I want people to understand what I mean, but I also know from experience that their response is going to be whatever it is. With a book … there’s a greater need — and I made a greater effort — to make sure that what’s in the book is as clear as it can be.”
* * *
It wasn’t until after the release of the memoir, and an encounter with the late Canadian poet Al Purdy (1918-2000), that Cockburn’s songwriting reared its head again. He was invited to contribute some music to a documentary about the poet’s life and times (“Al Purdy Was Here,” 2015).
“So I said ‘well, this is the test.’ If I say yes to this, and I come up with something, it will be evidence that I’m likely to be a songwriter again, and if I don’t it will be evidence to the contrary. So I said yes, and what came out was “‘Three Al Purdys.’”
“Three Al Purdys” is a song that includes a spoken word component that’s drawn from two poems— one of Purdy’s early ones from the depression era about riding the rails across Canada, and the other is a much later piece, a philosophical speculation about the origins of language and its connections with spirituality.
Cockburn set out to read through Purdy’s collected works, but got an idea right away — a homeless guy who’s obsessed with Purdy’s poetry and who rants at people on the street with that poetry.
“It seemed like a good image for the coyote cheekiness and Purdy’s empathy with the working man,” Cockburn said. “It seemed to fit, so the song started from there. I immediately thought of that image, of a guy saying ‘I’ll give you three Al Purdy’s for a twenty dollar bill’ — so what else would he say?’”
The song “Three Al Purdys” proved to be the seed for Cockburn’s most recent album, “Bone on Bone.”
“Having discovered the songs that came out of Bone on Bone, I decided that I’m still a songwriter,” Cockburn said.
The album went on to win Cockburn his 13th Juno Award (he won his first Juno — Canada’s highest music award — in 1971).
* * *
The band coming on tour with Cockburn will include musicians who recorded on “Bone on Bone:” Gary Craig and John Dymond as the rhythm section, and Cockburn’s nephew John Aaron Cockburn on accordion and guitar.
The material for the shows isn’t fully determined, but will feature a representative range of Cockburn’s songbook, including massive, familiar hits from the past, songs like “When A Tree Falls In The Forest,” “Lovers In A Dangerous Time,” “Wondering Where The Lions Are” … Any audience, of course, expects, if not demands the familiar, the hits. A performer is likely of two minds about this expectation, Cockburn included.
“There are the songs that people have taken to heart, and of course that’s very complimentary to me, that anybody has done that at all about anything that I’ve done,” Cockburn said. “It’s not like I’m kind of grudgingly putting out these songs, I’m grateful for the fact that people want to hear them. But you can only sing a song so many times before they get stale — and sometimes you to have to let them lie fallow for a while. There was a period right after 911 that I didn’t play ‘If I Had A Rocket Launcher’ at all, because it just seemed like it was playing to the wrong sentiment.”
Even so, a Bruce Cockburn show generally “gets kind of hung on a framework of those familiar songs and whatever else I can think of that could work.
“The songs that I feel I’m obliged to sing in every show, I go through periods where I’m kind of sick of them, but I try to do them justice anyway, because people … have paid money and they want to hear what they want to hear. Which is fair enough.
“But I like to keep a bit of ferment going there. So there may be those ‘standards,’ for want of a better word, that will show up in almost every show. But around that is a rotating or fluctuating mix of whatever else is out there of the older stuff. That keeps it interesting for me.”
* * *
Then there’s the question everyone wants to know about every songwriter — do your lyrics come first, or the melody?
“It’s a lyric, almost always,” Cockburn said of his songwriting. “I can’t think of a single example, except for the instrumental pieces, of course. If I stumble upon a melodic riff like that it’s likely to end up becoming a guitar piece rather than a song. But because I can play with music more easily than with words, I don’t get word ideas as often or as clearly — generally there’s more labour involved with the lyrics.
“So I’ve never been comfortable bending lyrics to fit a melody. Some people can do that very well, but for me it starts with the lyrics, and it’s sort of easier to create music that provides a bed for those lyrics. That’s the general approach.”
That being said, Cockburn is working on a new album — an instrumental album, due out in September.
Bruce Cockburn plays the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, Thursday, August 8, 2019. Tickets are available at the Key City Theatre.
~from Cranbrook Townsman
10 June 2019 - Bruce taped a wonderful show on 24 October 2018 while in Cleveland for an American Public Television show called Songs at the Center.
It was taped at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewwod, Ohio. He played three songs: Forty Years in the Wilderness, If I had a Rocket Launcher and The Gift. The program is 27 minutes long and includes interview segments by Eric Gnezda.
You can view the episode here.
With thanks to Bernie Finkelstein and Daniel Keebler.
31 May 2019 - Image turned thirty years old this April. As we reflect on what’s ahead, we asked fifteen visual artists and two singer-songwriters to tell us what they learned and how they changed after turning thirty. Click here for the full collection.
I don’t miss my thirties. Maybe the energy. I had a little more energy then, and it was a little easier to come by. But I prefer my understanding of the world now.
Creative energy becomes more tenuous as time goes on—not because I’ve run out of ideas, but I’ve run out of time to have the ideas, and time to develop them when I do have them. In my thirties, I never felt any pressure to get anything done except my own pressure. I’d start feeling a kind biological urge to create. It builds up in your system and eventually reaches a point where you have to deal with it. It would come with a sense of excitement, like I’m a bloodhound on the trail. When I get the idea, I want to chase it down. It’s the thrill of the hunt.
As I’ve gotten older, the pace of that buildup has slowed some. But what I’ve lost in energy I’ve gained in perspective.
I could never have written a song like “To Fit in My Heart” in my thirties because I didn’t have the capacity to feel what that song is trying to point to—when the hugeness of everything and the lovingness of it just overwhelms you and falls on you like rain. There was a kind of availability I had to learn in order to create a song like that. A capacity for a kind of ecstatic contact.
The potential for the contact is always there, even in pain. You have to be open to it, and it’s easy to ignore. It is the still, small voice. But if you happen to stumble on it when you are feeling receptive, it doesn’t feel small at all. But when you’re not, it’s hard to hear that voice. But it’s there all the time. All you have to do is say yes.
~ from Image Journal Issue 100.
29 May 2019 - Don't miss the video interview by Paul Jay. Nine different segments, photos, and music videos interwoven. Transcription here.
26 May 2019 - Imagine having a 50-year career as a musician without ever feeling the need to acquiesce to industry demands. You could write what you want, play what you want, and remain completely unencumbered by outside expectations. The only requirement is that you follow your muse and believe that style only matters if you have the substance to back it up.
Such a scenario could be difficult to envision given how much life has changed in 2019, but that’s exactly the kind of impression that Bruce Cockburn has left on the world since releasing his self-titled debut in 1970. His expressive playing, acerbic songwriting, and willingness to dive deep into the heart of the human condition have made him one of the most treasured artists in the history of Canadian music.
It’s not his fault that American audiences are fickle and yet to fully appreciate the breadth of his talent, because great songs are like Ray Kinsella’s baseball field. If you write them, people will eventually come, and Cockburn has written a ton of them throughout the years.
He’ll put some of them on display when he stops at Babeville on May 8 for his first show in western New York since 2015. I had the honor of speaking with him recently about his career and other projects he’s been involved with as of late, so, if you haven’t gotten your ticket yet, now’s the time.
MNOD: Your upcoming album “Crowing Ignites” is an instrumental collection. What was the inspiration for that?
Cockburn: We actually did an instrumental record called “Speechless” back in 2005, so the new album felt like Volume 2 of that. We had so much new stuff that we were working on that the inspiration just came from the music itself. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
MNOD: You’ve had a great musical relationship with Colin Linden for many years. What does he bring to the table as a producer that works so well?
Cockburn: I’ve been working with Colin for 25 years now and our friendship has been great. We have a familiarity with each other that works well and he’s also a great guitar player. We had one track where I played slide guitar and he played mandolin, so it’s easy to construct duets. He’s fun to work with in the studio, because he’s knowledgeable about many of the technical aspects of recording that I’m not.
MNOD: Will you be playing any of the new tracks on the upcoming tour?
Cockburn: Possibly. I haven’t decided yet, but there’s certainly a chance that some of them will pop up. The album is scheduled to come out in September and the ensuing tour will definitely feature them. As for the upcoming shows, they’ll be structured to feature a cross section of my career. In addition to the Buffalo show, I also have some festivals across Canada lined up for the summer.
MNOD: Growing up in the Buffalo area meant that I was exposed to your music early on through a lot of Canadian radio stations and “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws” was one of the first albums I ever got into as a kid. How do you feel about that album today?
Cockburn: It’s a good album. I don’t sit around listening to my old stuff today, but I’m certainly proud of the way it turned out. They say that you get one great album per decade and “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws” was a great way to cap off the ’70s for me.
MNOD: You’ve always had an intricate picking style on the acoustic guitar and I was wondering if you’ve been forced to alter your playing at all as you’ve gotten older.
Cockburn: A little bit. I have arthritis and certain joints have begun to seize up, but my style hasn’t changed all that much. My doctor told me that I have however many years left to play and that was a few years ago already. I always thought that I would have to learn to play slide guitar at some point. I can still play most of my early material the same way I always did, though.
MNOD: People often refer to you as an activist, but that label tends to get tossed around a lot. Was writing about humanitarian causes something that you were naturally drawn to or did you become interested in politics later on?
Cockburn: I was somewhat aware of the world when I was younger. I grew up in a politically liberal household and my interest in social causes came along bit by bit as I got older. The more I traveled, the more I began to realize that other cultures didn’t necessarily benefit from the same things that I did. I became acquainted with people from different backgrounds who began to influence my way of thinking about the world and critics tend to label you as an activist without really understanding that it all starts with a song. I write about what naturally moves or interests me and not necessarily with activism in mind specifically.
MNOD: What did you learn about yourself from traveling to places that most people never get to experience in their lifetime?
Cockburn: The biggest thing I learned is that your baggage goes with you. The obvious element is that I learned about my relationship to the world and how certain people are forced to live in various circumstances. I spent the first half of the ’70s traveling across Canada, which was much different than what we had always learned as children. The truth about how the First Nations of Canada were treated was the beginning of it for me. Traveling also brings you face-to-face with the fragility of democracy and the fragility of nature. A lot of economic and environmental policies have come back to bite us big time, and the impact of development on the natural world is something we can’t ignore.
MNOD: How did you come to live in San Francisco?
Cockburn: My wife got a job here, so it wasn’t my choice. We’ve been out here 10 years now and it’s our home. I never really thought of myself as living on the west coast and maybe the economy will eventually push us out. The scene has changed. When we first moved here, I felt like we arrived just as the last vestiges of the old San Francisco were dying off. Now, the cost of living is very expensive and it’s become culturally one-dimensional in a lot of ways.
MNOD: “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” is a song that has stood the test of time and continued to assume a deeper significance along the way. What does the song mean to you today?
Cockburn: That’s one of the songs that people have latched onto, because it says something worth saying. Its popularity shows that other people feel the same way. My original motivation was thinking about what kind of world I was passing along to my daughter, who was 7 at the time. I grew up with The Bomb and air raid drills. The teacher would blow a whistle and we would have to hide under our desks. If you think about it, we would have been killed by the shredded glass alone, which makes the whole thing ridiculous. The threat of atomic war never went away and then the AIDS crisis happened to add another layer to the song’s premise. It was essentially asking the question of how we find love in a world where the person we love could be infected with a fatal disease, but there’s also a sense of hope that can’t be ignored. There’s always room for hope.
MNOD: What are your thoughts on how the music industry has changed since you first started out?
Cockburn: I don’t pay any attention to the industry today, so I can’t really answer that. I just do what I do and that’s it. My daughter will play songs on Spotify that I’ll inevitably be exposed to, but I don’t really know if I like any of it. I’ve heard Katy Perry and she seems to have some substance. I’ll also hear songs while driving or passing by somewhere, but I can’t say whether or not they’re really any good. If anything, the current industry has illustrated how large the social gap between the stinking rich and the rest of us has really become. You have the Kardashians or other tabloid people who have a hunger for notoriety and that has nothing at all to do with me. They couldn’t care less if I’m listening or not. If I had to give advice to someone getting started today, I’m not sure that I could, because it’s not 1964. The way we communicate in civilized life has changed completely due to the Internet and social media. Then again, I’ve always enjoyed the luxury of having a very capable manager who knows the ins and outs of the industry, so I don’t have to worry too much about the changes.
MNOD: Christianity has often been an important source of inspiration for you. What is your relationship to religion today?
Cockburn: I became a Christian in the early ’70s and it’s kind of been waxing away through the decades, but spirituality is still important to me.
MNOD: Is there anything that you’d still like to accomplish in your career?
Cockburn: I’ve never looked at my career in terms of accomplishments. I just want to keep on making music. What I’m doing now isn’t worlds away from what I’ve always done, but I can continue to incorporate different styles. That’s about the closest to ambition that I get.
His new album, “Crowing Ignites,” is tentatively scheduled for release in September 2019.
~ from musicnotherdrugs.com
2 May 2019 - After an incredible half-century-long career as a singer/songwriter/guitarist, Bruce Cockburn (Coe-burn) is still going strong with numerous awards and 33 albums under his belt, as well as a 526-page memoir and nine-disc boxed set (both titled “Rumours of Glory,” 2014), and he’s coming back to Maine to perform at the Waterville Opera House on Saturday, May 11. To that end, I requested a telephone interview to reconnect with this talented gentle man once again. He kindly agreed and called me from a recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee, on the 16th of April.
I began by asking him how things were going?
Cockburn: Oh, things are going actually really well right now. We’re just putting the finishing touches on a new instrumental album. We’re mixing it now, and we’ll probably get done by the end of today. And, I’m quite excited about that, actually. Otherwise, life goes on and I don’t know if I had my second daughter yet when last we spoke.
Q: I had even had my first and only daughter at that time!
Cockburn: (Laughter) So, some of us have been sort of saving it up, right? Anyway, my younger daughter’s 7 and in second grade and can write and speak fluently in English and French.
Q: Oh, Lord!
Cockburn: Yeah, it’s pretty impressive, actually, and my life is a lot of getting her to and from school. In between those missions (chuckle), then I get to do what I do, which — at the age I am now — half the time is going to doctors and the other half is sort of trying to get work done.
Q: Speaking of work, and the fact that you’re getting ready to complete a new instrumental album, let me ask this: have you done many such albums over your career?
Cockburn: Just one previous one and that one is called “Speechless.” It came out at the end of the ’90s or the beginning of the 2000s, I forget what year. And, it was a compilation of previously released instrumental tracks from throughout the passage of time, with several new pieces, as well. The intention with this album was to do kind of a Volume 2 of that — we wouldn’t have called it that, necessarily.
Q: Was it going to be set up the same as its predecessor, format-wise?
Cockburn: Well, we ended up with so much new stuff that it’s just an album of new pieces, so it’s not “Speechless 2” at all. It will be called “Crowing Ignites,” which is the translation from the Latin of the Cockburn family motto.
Q: Now, just out of curiosity, are instrumentals easier to write than lyrical songs?
Cockburn: It’s a whole different thing. In some ways, yes. There’s one less step involved really, because the songs that I write, most of them have a pretty important instrumental component to them. It’s not like just writing words and a melody for me; there’s always some sort of relationship between the sung part of the song and the guitar. So, in that sense, it’s simpler, because there’s only part of it that you have to worry about, but at the same time it involves the same kind of waiting around for a good idea. In the case of instrumental pieces, the good ideas will come out of practicing. I mean, they don’t come out of the air so much as they do from having your hands on a guitar. You stumble on something that sounds like it could go somewhere, and then you wrestle that into a piece. These pieces are, for the most part, kind of structured like a jazz piece with a head and an improvised section, and then you’ve got the head again. Most of them are like that, but not all. Some are more folk-y and some are — I don’t know what to call them — they’re certainly not jazz. It’s not a jazz record, but there’s a fair amount of improvisation on the record.
Q: What are you playing on this album?
Cockburn: It’s mostly acoustic guitar, and, in terms of the kinds of structural choices you make, it’s really whatever you think of. For me, I’m not constrained by any particular genre. I’m only constrained by my own technique. I guess (chuckle), it’s certainly a constraint, but basically I can do whatever I think of.
Q: Now, when you come to the Waterville Opera House, oh, I’d better ask this first: Have you ever performed there before?
Cockburn: I don’t think so.
Q: Well, then you’re in for a treat, that’s for sure. Now, when I saw you in the past, you had backing musicians. Will that be the case this time ‘round or will you be solo?
Cockburn: This will be solo, yeah. And, I mean I’m not going to be stacking the show with pieces from the new instrumental album. There will be time for that when the album’s actually out.
Q: Will you do any of that new material?
Cockburn: I don’t know what I’m going to do. But, there’s a chance I end up pulling out a couple of those pieces, but it’ll be a cross section of newer and older, typical of my shows.
Q: Now, when you go into a solo show like this one in Waterville, do you make up a set list or just wing it?
Cockburn: I have a set list — I don’t trust my memory.
Q: And with 33 albums out, how on Earth do you create a play list out of all that material?
Cockburn: Well, it’s a balance. It’s like, here’s a bunch of songs that I want to do and then there’s a bunch that people in the audience are attached to, and if you don’t play them, they will feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. So, those go in a show. So, I try to do a mix of old and new, so that some of it is still fresh for people. The last album, which is now a couple of years old, was “Bone On Bone,” and there will be stuff from that, for sure.
Q: I have one last question before we bring this chat to an end. Is there anything, Bruce, that you would like me to pass on to the folks reading this?
Cockburn: Well, just “hello” and “come to the show,” I guess.
~from Lucky Clark on music - Bruce Cockburn
17 April 2019 - Celebration!!
Hi, Here I am in Nashville with Colin Linden and Bruce Cockburn. We're at Colin's studio putting the final touches on Bruce's new instrumental record. Might be out by mid to late September. ~from Bernie Finkelstein's Facebook page.
17 April 2019 - A Canadian music legend is among several artists who will headline a free concert to help commemorate the centennial one of the country’s largest and most influential labour movements.
For 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been writing and signing about the human experience. In June, the multi-time Juno Award winner and member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame will join Grammy winner and feminist icon Ani DiFranco along with several others for Rise Up 100: Songs for the Next Century Concert, one of four events being put on by Manitoba’s unions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
“We want to welcome people of all generations, all backgrounds, all abilities — everybody in our city — to join us and celebrate the Winnipeg General Strike together, with music, as a community,” said Winnipeg Folk Festival executive director Lynne Skromeda at a launch event on Tuesday. “Folk music has long been tied to the labour movement, advocating for social justice and providing a sense of connection to one another through divisive times, and we need this connection now more than ever.”
The free concert will take place in Old Market Square on June 8 between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Celebrations kick off with the already-sold-out 1919 Social on May 11 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple. The social will be followed by the Winnipeg General Strike Centennial Gala Dinner on May 15 at the RBC Convention Centre. Tickets for the dinner are priced between $100 and $200. The penultimate event comes on May 25 with the Solidarity Forever Parade & Community Concert. The parade will run from the Exchange District to Memorial Park from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by a concert from 12:30 to 6 p.m.
“We want to invite Winnipeggers, Manitobans and Canadians to come and party with us,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck. “Come listen to some excellent music and celebrate our shared legacy of the Winnipeg General Strike, which played such an important role in forging the city, the province and the country we all know today.”
The MayWorks Festival of Labour and the Arts began on Sunday and will run through to June 21st with a host of events including book launches, art exhibitions, concerts and other events.
Husband and wife duo Nolan and Sharon Reilly have also updated their 1919 Winnipeg General Strike driving and walking tour, allowing anyone to pick up one of their brochures and walk or drive to important locations and learn about their significance to the Strike.
More information, including tickets for the gala dinner, can be found at mfl.ca/1919.
This will be a free concert on June 8 at The Cube, Old Market Square.
from – The Winnipeg Sun
20 March 2019 -
7 February 2019 - Bruce Cockburn tries to find a balance between what he wants to perform and what he knows his audience wants to hear.
Doing that can sometimes be a challenge because the Canadian singer-songwriter, who will perform Feb. 7 to Feb. 9 at the Egyptian Theatre, has been playing and recording music for nearly 50 years.
"There's a bit of strategic thinking in getting a show together," said Cockburn (pronounced KOE-burn). "It's between knowing people will feel ripped off if they don't get to hear some songs and me wanting to play what my own particular interests are at any one moment."
Cockburn said he also looks at songs that will go well with his newer songs, some of which are from his most recent album "Bone On Bone," which was released in 2017.
While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard… Bruce Cockburn, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee
Bone On Bone marks Cockburn's 33rd studio album.
"The answer to writing a good song is always coming up with a good idea," he said. "I feel there is something about the visceral sense that deals with the flow of ideas. Ideas come from the culture around us, encounters with other people or from the things we live through. Those things are shareable, and the sharing is important. I feel what I do is at the service of that idea."
Still, the older he gets, Cockburn knows there is a danger of repeating himself.
"Sometimes I'll get an idea that I think is great, and then I'll start working on it only to realize that I wrote about it 30 years ago," he said with a laugh.
Another challenge is keeping his older songs interesting, he said. Playing solo sets is one way to do that.
"It's just me, a guitar and a voice," he said. "While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard. But just like when I'm playing with a band, I still have to execute the guitar parts, and remember the words."
The solo performances also give Cockburn more one-on-one time with his audiences.
"One of the obvious things about playing solo is that it gives me great flexibility that isn't always available with the band," he said. "I don't have to deal with numbers of people, the crew, lighting cues and all sorts of stuff that are of less consequence."
In 2014, Cockburn embarked on a project that required a lot of recollection – writing his memoir "Rumors of Glory."
"That was really hard work," he said. "Unlike songwriting, writing a book was not natural to me. There were long periods when I would get bogged down. My editors were flexible with me and I stood them up a bunch, with respect to deadlines."
When Cockburn was 100 pages into the first draft, he enlisted the help of his friend, journalist Greg King.
"I got stuck and I didn't know how to tell the stories that I remembered," he said. "Greg provided the organizational backbone of the thing."
The book documented Cockburn's family life, relationships, his religious convictions and his social and political views that find their way into his music.
"It was interesting looking back on my career, because I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it in the day-to-day," he said.
Some of Cockburn's milestone events in his career have occured even since the memoir was published.
In 2017, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2018, he won a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for "Bone on Bone." That year, he also won the Canadian Folk Music Award for Top Solo Artist.
"Awards are very gratifying, and they're meaningful in a practical way, which means there's publicity," he said. "That, on a good day, can translate to being hired for more shows, or being able to have a band."
The next project Cockburn is preparing for is a new instrumental album.
"We did one called 'Speechless' a few years ago that was a mixture of previous recorded stuff and new songs," he said. "This one will be similar, but the weight will be toward the new."
4 May 2018 - Watch his recent interview with CTV. Bruce gives a personal account about live music, new projects, health, family and how politics have shaped his songwriting.
Two Hour Special and Interview with Bruce Cockburn
on WMBR's Lost & Found Program
Hosted by Bob Dubrow
25 April 2018 - Bruce Cockburn has been one of Canada's greatest musical exports for the last 50 years, starting out with psych bands in Ottawa and Toronto in the mid-60's and moving on to an extraordinary international career as a folk/pop singer expressing both spiritual as well as worldly concerns. He is perhaps best known for his 1984 hit "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," a song of outrage over the horrific treatment of Guatamalan refugees at the hands of the military. He continues to release albums, his latest being "Bone on Bone" from 2017. Bruce arrives to play solo at the Narrows Centre of the Arts in Fall River, MA on April 27th and the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, NH on the 28th. Hosted by Bob Dubrow.
This show aired April 24, 2018 12:00p–2:00p but you can still listen through the WMBR archives.
To replay Bob's show with his Bruce Cockburn interview any time from now until two weeks from today, go to the WMBR Archives page http://wmbr.org/cgi-bin/arch and select "Lost and Found" from the files listed for today's date, then your choice of .mp3 or HTML audio files to stream. (Wait for the last few minutes of the previous show to end). You can also get the HMTL stream for two weeks from the show playlist page In addition, Bob may post the interview on his own site as well. Thank you for listening! ~WMBR
Bone On Bone wins JUNO Award
25 March 2018 - Hi, Really excited to tell you that Bruce Cockburn won his 13th Juno last night for "Bone On Bone".
It won for Top Contemporary Folk Album of the Year.
A little backstory for you. Bruce won his first Juno in 1971 and his latest in 2018. That's a span of 47 years. To put it in perspective, someone like Beaches (great band,) who just won their first Juno in 2018 will have to win again in 2065 to do what Bruce has just done. Now I know I'm biased and love Bruce, but I also like baseball and it's love of stats, and let me tell you that's a pretty amazing stat. Congratulations Bruce and everyone who worked on the album. So well deserved. ~Bernie Finkelstein
5 February 2018 - On this week’s podcast, we talk to legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Bruce was featured back in the Fretboard Journal #23 and he offers plenty of updates since then on his career, music and projects during our conversation. We chat about his Linda Manzer-built instruments (including the electric charango that she built for him), his memoir Rumours of Glory and the full-length documentary on his life, Pacing the Cage.
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is brought to you by our friends at Dying Breed Music, where you can find a bevy of great acoustic guitars from the Golden Era.
Fretboard Journal - Bruce Cockburn podcast #185 by Jason Velinde.
24 January 2018 - While visiting Studio Bell, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Bruce Cockburn reflected on words and rhythm, and how they play into his songwriting process.
The National Music Centre and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame held the formal plaque ceremony as part of Bruce Cockburn’s induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on January 21, 2018.
22 January 2018 - Bruce Cockburn is not in the habit of listening to his old songs. But he did find a unique way to review his canon of music a few years back.
It was when he drove his daughter to preschool in San Francisco. He became his own captive audience.
"She would always insist on hearing my stuff in the car," said Cockburn, talking to media on Sunday evening at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. “‘Can we put on your music in the car?’ Every day this would repeat itself. ‘Do we have to? Can I not play somebody else?’ Nope. So I’d play me. It’s like looking at an album of snapshots in a way. It brings back all the feelings. Not all of the details, some of those are lost to the murk of time. But, certainly, that brings back the feelings that went into those songs."
Cockburn was in a bit of a reflective mood Sunday evening at the National Music Centre, where he participated in the plaque ceremony held in honour of his 2017 induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. It found him placing his plaque on the wall, which already holds the names of artists such as Leonard Cohen, Hank Snow, Joni Mitchell and Wilf Carter.
Now housed at the National Music Centre alongside the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the organization is overseen by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). The honour seems long overdue. Somehow SOCAN managed to find more than 50 songsmiths to induct before honouring Cockburn — a songwriter’s songwriter who wrote If I Had a Rocket Launcher and Lovers in a Dangerous Time — this year, alongside Neil Young, Beau Dommage and Stéphane Venne.
But he was gracious and had high praise for his fellow songwriters from the Great White North.
"I think Canada punches well above its weight in terms of the quality of songwriting that comes out of this country relative to the size of the population," said Cockburn, who will play the Jack Singer Concert Hall on Tuesday night. "When you think how much we were influenced by English pop music in the ’60s and American pop music forever, there’s a lot of American pop music that is actually Canadian. And a lot of it that is not pop but has more serious intent than what often gets called pop music comes from here and I’m proud of that."
Cockburn, 72, recounted his beginnings as a songwriter. Initially, the Ottawa native saw himself becoming a composer for jazz ensembles. But he also became interested in poetry.
"Then, along came Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bob Dylan and others who woke me up to the notion that interesting music and poetics were not mutually exclusive, that you could put serious music together with melody, a chant or a groove," he said. "I was hooked."
Wearing a tie and his trademark Doc Martens, Cockburn also showed a flash of the political irreverence that informs many of his most beloved songs when talking about Canada versus the U.S., where he has lived for the past nine years.
"As people who belong to this country, we should know that we belong to the one island of sanity in the Western Hemisphere,” he said to cheers from the audience. “Everything south of here is (expletive) up."
~from Calgary Herald by Eric Volmers.
Photo: Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Additional photos can be viewed on brucecockburn.com
23 January 2018 - Legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn was honoured at a celebration hosted by the National Music Centre (NMC) to commemorate his 2017 induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The event took place Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, at Studio Bell in Calgary, where Cockburn formally placed his inductee plaque onto the wall. A reception followed, featuring a tribute performance by Calgary-based artist Aaron Young.
In her remarks, CSHF Executive Director Vanessa Thomas identified Cockburn as one of Canada’s greatest and most influential songwriters. “For the past five decades, Bruce Cockburn has made music delineated by his spiritual quest, humanitarian activity, and political viewpoint,” said Thomas. “In a body of work encompassing folk, rock, pop, reggae, jazz, blues, gospel and world music, his songs prove, every day, that music can effect change.”
"It’s a remarkable gift to have been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Cockburn. “If it’s not presuming too much, I’d like to offer a word of thanks on behalf of the whole community of Canadian songwriters. The effort to create a home for the pursuit and honouring of our art is much appreciated.”
Since opening in 2016, Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre (NMC), has been the physical home of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In December of 2017, the CSHF announced a temporary exhibition at Studio Bell, in partnership with the NMC, to honour the four 2017 inductees: Bruce Cockburn, Beau Dommage, Stéphane Venne and Neil Young.
The exhibition, called Showcase, displays personal items and instruments from this year’s honourees, including one of Young’s practice guitars – a vintage 1970s Epiphone acoustic – on which he wrote “Natural Beauty,” from his 1992 Harvest Moon album. Other treasures include the written lyrics for Cockburn’s 1984 political anthem “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” and 1988’s “If A Tree Falls,” along with a Linda Manzer-built acoustic guitar owned and played by him.Two 2017 Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, Paul Brandt and Harvey Gold, are also being feted in the exhibition, which opened on Dec. 13, 2017, and will run until the fall of 2018.
~from SOCAN.ca. With files from Nick Fedor. Photo: Neil Zeller Photography