Concert preview: Songwriter, singer Bruce Cockburn enjoys time on the road
Self-described 'nomad' comes to the Nugget on Saturday
by Mark Earnest

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22 June 2011 -

Bruce Cockburn is now in his fourth decade of playing music for fans, and yet he's still not weary of being on the road.

In fact, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Portland, Ore., Cockburn called himself a nomad at heart. "I think that's what feels like home, you know," he said with a chuckle.

"I love being on the road. I do like it more when I'm with people, not so much solo. There's a lot of camaraderie and musical exchanges that happen, and the shows are really enjoyable."

For his show on June 25 at John Ascuaga's Nugget, Cockburn (pronounced KO-burn) will be joined by violinist/singer Jenny Schienman, who is featured throughout the new album. He has been touring with a drummer, Gary Craig, but he isn't able to be at the Sparks show.

"It's been fantastic touring with the two of them," Cockburn said. "I've done some shows with Jenny before, just some little things in little places, so it will be fun but kind of odd for us, since we've played 40-odd shows as a trio. But, Jenny and I have a chemistry between us that everybody notices, and it makes for really nice stuff to happen."

Fans should expect a wide range of songs as well -- Cockburn and Scheinman know about 40 songs, and Cockburn said he still plays another 10-20 for solo shows.

"That about as many as I can retain in my head at once," he said. "There has been some turnover of songs as times goes one, especially with the older songs. I'm always more interested in playing the newer songs, of course, just because they are new. But there are certain songs that people always want to hear, so it's a combination of old and new."

A native of Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, Cockburn released his self-titled debut in 1970. It wasn't until 1979, though, that he has some chart success across the border, as Wondering Where the Lions Are became a top 20 hit. Two of Cockburn's '80s songs -- If I Had A Rocket Launcher and Lovers In a Dangerous Time -- eventually became staples on adult alternative radio.

His latest album is called Small Source of Comfort. Cockburn laughed heartily when asked if it blew his mind that "Comfort" was his 31st album.

"It was mind-blowing in a way, yeah," he said. "I got over it, but you think about it and thatís a lot of time, a lot of words going by. But, I donít spend a lot of time going over that fact."

Cockburn is also a skilled guitar player, a fact borne out by the inclusion of five instrumentals on "Comfort." That's a record-number of vocal-less songs for a Cockburn album -- with his 2005 all-instrumental Speechless CD as a notable exception -- although he has placed some on records since the beginning of his career.

He said the large number this time was just happenstance. "It's mostly the fact that when we were doing vinyl records, they had not been put on there because they couldn't all fit," Cockburn said. "If I picked something to take off the album, it likely would have been an instrumental. Now that we are filling up an hour of music, basically, there is the option to put things on."

The album also features several songs that address war. Although having a song about a topical subject is nothing new for Cockburn, before these songs were written he visited soldiers in Afghanistan, a trip he said gave him more perspective from the soldiers' point of view.

"To be there, they have to believe in it, otherwise they would go crazy, so I was taking into account their position from their own minds," Cockburn said. "I thought it was a kind of mortality-based position, and I think they had the feeling that they could actually win it if they had enough time. That might be true, but I can't believe that based on history. But I have to respect that, because they see it up close every day. So, you have to take that opinion seriously."

Cockburn added that he came away "with a tremendous respect for the soldiers and an affection for them. I was feeling that already before I went there, but I feel like these are my kids. They are the age of my daughter, and younger, so I really cared about their well-being."

One of Cockburnís more distinctive musical signatures over the decades is his blend of the personal and the topical, sometimes within the same song. He said that heís not concerned with getting a message out in his music, though.

"I want to create something that has some power to it, and has the ability to touch people, at least to the best of my ability,Ē he said. ďBut in terms of messages, I just write whatís in my heart. Thereís not a concept. Itís more about the feeling you get hearing it. Itís really all the same to me, whether Iím writing a love song or something thatís more connected to a social issue. Itís coming from the same place."

Who: Bruce Cockburn
When: 8 p.m. June 25
Where: Celebrity Showroom at John Ascuagaís Nugget
Cost: $20
Details: 775-356-3300 or

~from, article by Mark Earnest.

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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.