Cockburn to Occupy Glasgow Square
by Aaron Cameron

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1 February 2012 - It’s been an interesting couple of years for Bruce Cockburn. Christmas gifts like BlackBerrys and an iMac have shoved him into the info-age ("My girlfriend decided she had enough of not being able to email me.")

Last year he released his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort, for which he earned two Canadian Folk Music Awards in December. The singer was originally set to tour in this area in 2010 but that set of shows was canceled due to a bout of pneumonia. When touring did resume in 2011 it was scheduled around the pregnancy of Cockburn’s long-time girlfriend and in November Cockburn became a father for the second time in 30-some years.

"I’m a lot more aware of it (this time) and more appreciative of it," he says, "It is fairly overwhelming this time, too. (The first time) I was more wrapped up in the perceived need at least to pay attention to music. I didn’t have the confidence to let it sit there and come back to it. Now I know it’s there and I can pay attention to the baby… My first daughter’s birth and childhood went by so fast."

While his first daughter’s childhood may have gone by fast, it didn’t go by unnoticed. Cockburn’s 1983 classic 'Lovers In a Dangerous Time' was in part inspired by his parental concern for her in light of then growing AIDS epidemic.

"’Lovers In A Dangerous Time’ was written early in the public school stage," he says. "I was thinking about her and her friends in the playground and looking at the headlines. When I was a kid we were growing up with the Korean War but our response was different. Our response was to have air raid drills and hide under our desk. But the idea of dying from being intimate with someone…it has a different significance."

Cockburn is, at heart, a folk-singer and ‘Lovers’, like many of his songs, tapped into the spirit of the time but did so in such a way that it remains relevant today. Songs like 'The Trouble With Normal’ or ‘Call it Democracy’, meanwhile, sound as though they may have been written in response to the Occupy Wall Street protests. When you take into account that those songs were written in 1981 and 1985 respectively it is an idea which becomes eerie, although Cockburn would be the first to tell you he isn’t a prophet.

"I wasn’t the only voice that was hollering that message out… That information was out there for a long time. The cause and effect was obvious. Over the years the powers that be have perfected that. Now people in New York can see how they’re being exploited, how they’re being screwed over and they’re in the streets. And they should be in the streets. They keep the issue in front of us and that’s a good thing. But they’re treated as a kind of side show to the real running joke which is these puffed up morons trying to be president. God help us if any of them get into that position."

Although recent tours have seen him supported by other musicians, his stop at Glasgow Square on February 13 will be a solo performance. The songs will be stripped down to just his voice and unique fingerpicking style but that’s fine by Cockburn, they work that way.

"There are a few songs from the middle of the 80s that are hard to pull off solo because they’re very band oriented and the guitar part is quite small," he says. "There’s a few, but not too many. In general I’ve written them to be played solo. I was in bands in the ‘60s but that was a long time ago and they were not always successful. The music never really worked either which is what led to me going solo. When I have bands now they tend to be small. I toured last time out with a trio and that was a great band. I do miss the band, I miss the energy and the companionship of those people."

Small Source of Comfort is Cockburn’s 31st album since his 1970 eponymous debut and by his own estimation in the years since he’s written between 350 to 400 songs although how he manages to find new things to say is a mystery to him.

"I have no idea. It’s never something I take for granted. It’s always sort of touch and go. And there’ve been points where I thought it was over. It’s always started up again. I have no reason to doubt it will continue to flow. It’s been important to me to try not to repeat myself. I try to avoid using the same devices over and over and not writing the same song over and over."

Bruce Cockburn will be performing at Glasgow Square in New Glasgow on February 13, 2012 at 8 p.m. in support of his 31st album Small Source of Comfort. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door.

~ from by by Aaron Cameron.

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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.