1 August 2013 - There are few Canadian songmen who have embodied the very essence of troubadour to the degree that Bruce Cockburn has.
More than a household name, his concerts find their way on the bucket lists of any given Canadian folkie.
The heavily decorated, 13-time Juno Award winning, Canadian Music Hall of Famer and international humanitarian will be opening up the 14th season for the Cochrane Valley Folk Club (CVFC) on Aug. 9 at the Alliance Church at 7:30 p.m. The show is sold out and is just one of the many North American tour dates for the folk icon this summer.
Accompanied by violinist and jazz composer, Jenny Scheinman (best known for her work with the likes of Norah Jones, Bill Frisell and Lucinda Williams) and drummer, Gary Craig, the trio will be celebrating more than four decades of Cockburn’s music at the foothills church, including famous hits such as Wondering Where the Lions Are (which earned him status south of the border in 1979) and Lovers in a Dangerous Time (which became a number one hit for The Barenaked Ladies later on).
“I imagined I would become a composer for a large ensemble – that’s what I was studying to do…but then I found Bob Dylan. And then we all got excited about the music…the Stones, Jimi Hendrix…” reminisces Cockburn on his mid-sixties stint at Berklee School of Music in Boston and the early years of trying on different hats with various bands in a time when festivals were more than an overpriced weekend spent listening to the latest YouTube nominee.
Touting his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort (2011), Cockburn is still filling rooms with his artistic, rhythmic guitar, soulful blending of folk, jazz, a hint of blues and an assortment of world music garnered from years of globetrotting and playing for humanitarian aid the world over – be it brought on by his trip to a Guatemalan refugee camp in 1984 – inspiring the anthem If I Had a Rocket Launcher”; his 1998 travels to Mali, West Africa alongside filmmaker Robert Lang; or his 2009 voyage to Afghanistan to visit his brother, Capt. John Cockburn, and play music for the troops.
This sense of humanity developed in the late seventies. Cockburn blames it on a decision to simply love thy neighbour more, following his own low point after his first marriage ended.
“I took advantage of the opportunities that were offered – spiritually and physically – doors kept opening. I ended up becoming more tuned in to people…and that ties in with the basic premise to love my neighbour,” said the Ontario native and devout Christian, adding that the era he grew up in contributed to his social conscience.
“There was a consciousness of what was happening in the world and a real sense of right and wrong (instilled during childhood).”
But it was long before the world traveller began boarding planes and playing for the less fortunate that his love for world music began injecting its way into his songs.
“(In the early days) I made a point of not listening to pop music, but to allow other cultures in…I didn’t want to sound like other singer/songwriters…I’m very critical of what comes out at this point. Even though we change as people when we get older, we’re still the same…I’ll write something down and realize I said that 20 years ago.”
Viewing himself as “sort of a guitar-playing songwriter” Cockburn, who is currently entrenched in writing his memoirs, has left the bulk of the production side of his career to be handled by long-running partner, Bernie Finkelstein; the two have worked through all stages and phases of Cockburn’s musical history since 1970.
The politically-minded songwriter recognizes the challenges modern musicians face. His advice is for aspiring musicians to aside pre-conceived notions of grandeur and to play from the heart.
“It’s so fashionable to be famous now and I think that’s a mistaken premise…if you’re not prepared to stick it out and not be successful than don’t even bother,” said Cockburn, stressing the importance of integrity in music.
While the Cockburn show is sold out, visit cochranefolkclub.com to purchase tickets to future season shows.
~ from the www.cochraneeagle.com.
Photo by Brian FitzGerald.