26 April 2018 - Looking out a hotel room window at a set of train tracks is apropos for Bruce Cockburn.
“There is a certain romance to that,” he allows.
Not just because he’s built a lifelong career on folk music, a genre that carries itself across steel tracks and rainy city streets at night, but because to Cockburn, the world is at a crossroads right now.
To Cockburn, the world is falling apart, and its future is slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.
“I don’t think that one should infer therefore that it actually is falling apart. That’s just how it feels. I can’t separate the thought processes that go with that notion from what might be the emotional impact of getting old. The world is falling apart for all of us one day,” said Cockburn, 72.
That feeling is threaded through the 11 tracks on “Bone on Bone,” the album the Canadian artist released last year after a six-year hiatus, during which he wrote a memoir, “Rumours of Glory.”
“When you reach a certain age, that falling apart, or at least your departure from that world, it looms larger on the horizon,” Cockburn said.
Even the album’s title is an acknowledgement that the center cannot hold — it refers to osteoarthritis, the condition that’s made it more painful for Cockburn to play his guitar as he’s gotten older.
As he sees more and more artistic greats racked up in the obituaries, he’s thought more about the kind of world from which he’ll one day fall away, he said.
“I can’t separate that from the idea that the world is coming apart. Having said that, I think that there is a very good chance that things are not going to make sense or be good in the world for a long time to come, and I’m not saying it’s the end of the world,” but “certainly the world that we grew up with is undergoing massive change, environmentally, politically, socially. There’s a lot of change going on,” Cockburn said.
“It’s moving very fast. I don’t think people are, I don’t think we as a species are keeping up with the pace of what we’ve thrown ourselves into,” he said.
Cockburn has historically been unafraid to take on topics such as pipelines, governmental hypocrisy and the way people live in his music.
His song Café Society, the fourth track on “Bone on Bone,” depicts lamentations of people in posh coffee shops bemoaning the headlines they read.
Something Cockburn doesn’t want to talk about? The President of the United States.
“Everybody has opinions about Donald Trump, to the point where it really doesn’t mean anything to express those views” unless they’re contributing to a meaningful discussion, Cockburn said. “People go on about his hands and how long his tie is. Who gives a shit? I haven’t talked about him because I think he gets enough attention. I don’t feel the need to write anything about him.”
“There’s no law that says anybody has to write songs about any particular topic. It’s just in your heart to write. If you don’t write what’s in your heart,” artists aren’t being genuine, Cockburn said, and music written that way won’t resonate.
A handful of the songs on “Bone on Bone” deal with Cockburn’s spirituality. He has an unwavering belief in God, and says he relies on it.
But he doesn’t think anybody’s faith should have a place in lawmaking.
“Your relationship with God is an individual thing. It’s how you personally are plugged into the cosmos. … The church doesn’t have the right to tell the government what laws to make.”
A belief that “there will be something that continues, and my relationship with God will be a meaningful part of where that is when I die” helps Cockburn navigate a world that’s shifted around him, and any outward expression of that should be loving.
“Our job is to love each other. That’s it. That’s all,” Cockburn said.
He’s been along the Route 100 corridor before, and is looking forward to playing for Stowe audiences at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center Sunday.
“I’m really looking forward to being back in Vermont,” Cockburn said.