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-- 17 August 2014 --

2014 Index

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17 August 2014


Bone Lake Amphitheatre


Haliburton, ON, Canada

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Solo show

Bone Lake - Haliburton


(taken from the video with other added songs - may be incomplete)

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Cockburn communicates compassion through his music
By Nate Smelle

August 19, 2014 - There is a naturally enchanting quality to the music and lyrics of Bruce Cockburn that connects with Canadians in a special way. Through his songs he paints vivid pictures that reveal both his love for the natural world and his outrage against its abuse. His hauntingly happy melodies fit perfectly with the remote wilderness setting of the Bone Lake Amphitheatre in the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve on Aug. 17. Echoing gently across the water his smooth and soothing sound held the audience of more than 700 people spellbound for more than two hours during the finale of this year’s Forest Festival. Cockburn performed classics such as Stolen Land, Call it Democracy, Wondering Where the Lions Are, and Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long.

When the music was over Cockburn made his way from the floating stage and up the hill to meet with his fans. After the crowd shuffled back through the forest to their vehicles, the Canadian music icon reflected upon his experiences as an artist and an activist.

“For me the music comes first,” Cockburn said.

“It has been my good fortune to have been raised with a degree of awareness of what is going on in the world, and with a degree of concern.”

Drawing inspiration from his first-hand experiences of war, poverty and ecological destruction around the planet his words share an honest perspective of a world that is both beautiful and troubled. Somehow whether he is singing about Where the Death Squad Lives in Guatemala, or If a Tree Falls, Cockburn is able to communicate his impression of the world within and outside of him in a way that is distinctly Canadian. An attentive observer of culture and nature he sees it as his responsibility to share these observations in his art.

“My job as I see it, is to say what I see,” said Cockburn.

“Not everyone wants to look at the things I like to look at, so that makes me different from some people. I chose to go to Central America in the early 1980s because I was curious, because I wanted to see what was going on up close. I went to Baghdad and Afghanistan for the same reason.”

Cockburn said that although many of his lyrics evoke a feeling of empathy and concern for the suffering of others his motivation to make meaningful music is partially for his own benefit.

“I want to understand the human experience as much as I can, and I want to write about it,” he said.

“Unfortunately the human experience includes some really awful [stuff], and sometimes that ends up in songs. It makes for dramatic song material, but songs like that also provide an opportunity to air the issue in a broader way than it might be being aired.”

Cockburn is planning to put his words and music into action on behalf of environmentalist David Suzuki’s cross-country Blue Dot Tour. He is scheduled to perform on the tour in Edmonton on Oct. 28. Joining the likes of Neil Young, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, the Barenaked Ladies, as well as author Margaret Atwood, painter Robert Bateman and many other prominent Canadian artists, Cockburn is excited to be part of the campaign.

“I have been involved with David Suzuki for decades,” Cockburn said.

“He is one of those remarkable people who really lays things out in a lucid and reasoned, yet passionate way, and I value that highly. I guess you can say I’m a fan of his.”

Recognizing that when artists take a stand against injustice of any type they are often criticized for sharing their perspective, Cockburn chooses to remain an outspoken defender of human rights, the environment and Indigenous culture. The heavy backlash that Neil Young received after he spoke up against the tar sands on his Honour the Treaties tour is an example of this, he said. Cockburn believes one of the reason positive political and social change is slow to come is because a few individuals are still allowed to profit off of dysfunctional industries at the expense of the many.

“There are people with an axe to grind,” he said, “people with a vested interest, people who disagree for legitimate reasons maybe. There are a lot of people who have a vested interest in the status quo who don’t like to see the tree shaken very much.”

Continuing to “shake the tree” at age 69, Cockburn shows no sign of slowing down. On Nov. 4 he will be releasing his first book Rumours of Glory: A Memoir. In 2013 he was featured in a documentary film directed by Joel Goldberg titled Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage. He also released the album Small Source of Comfort in 2011. As his music continues to evolve he said he has come to understand the power and the limitations of music as a tool for compassion. It is of utmost importance to Cockburn that the message in his music is transmitted to his audience in a way that authentically represents the experience and the spirit behind the song. This past May he received the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award for his work helping others.

“A song by itself isn’t going to change anything,” he said.

“There has to be a fertile ground for it to fall on. It’s easy to write propaganda. There is a connection to something real that somebody is feeling somewhere. To me, that’s a crucial difference because I don’t want to be a propagandist I want to be an artist. It’s that little touch of the guts of reality that makes it away from being propaganda. I try to write the truth as I understand it, but somebody else looking at the same set of circumstances might see a different truth.”

For more information regarding Cockburn’s music and activism visit, and

~from Cockburn communicates compassion through his music by Nate Smelle.

Kicking at the Darkness
Commentary By Nate Smelle

August 19, 2014 - Some music makes you want to Get up on the good foot and dance. Some music inspires you to think. Some music entices you to sit back relax and “enjoy the beauty of it all.” The best music accomplishes all of these states of consciousness and more.

What is it about that certain composition of music that hits you in such a way it causes those heavenly shivers to roam up and down your spine when you hear it? Sometimes these shivers pinpoint their presence even more precisely arriving in sync with a certain line or instrumental solo in a song.

Speaking with the humanitarian and music maker extraordinaire himself following his performance at the Bone Lake Amphitheatre in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, I asked him about the first time he experienced such a shiver.

Pausing for a moment to look back in time, he then proceeded to tell me about how he remembered feeling this chilling bliss flow through him the first time he read T.S. Elliot in school as a child.

For me the music and words of Bruce Cockburn bring about such transformational feelings.

As a child my parents and my grandmother would often show up at school to take me out of school for the day to go for a hike and carry on my education outdoors. To make these family outings even more enticing my elders told me we were going to look for the Dagobah system. This made the choice of whether to return to class after lunch or to go exploring with my folks a no-brainer. With no real opportunities to run into Yoda at school the forest always called to me louder than the classroom.

When I was around eight years old I remember my grandmother turning up the Cockburn classic Wondering Where the Lions Are on the car radio as we headed for the forest. For some reason which I still don’t fully understand I could feel a tingling sensation rush through me. Now when I hear this tune it transports me back to this sacred time in my life when my imagination ruled my daily routine.

Cockburn’s music has had an influence on me ever since. Noticing that Cockburn had signed up to perform on David Suzuki’s Blue Dot tour thought back to the time when I was working as volunteer at the David Suzuki Foundation while living in Vancouver. Every day I would load his album Dancing in the Dragons Jaws into my portable stereo and head out on my walk to the office. It astounded me how well the music fit the context of where I was hanging hat at the time. “That’s cool,” said Cockburn. “There is a lot of BC that went into making that album.” During my time in Vancouver a local city councillor had been caught conspiring to bring a Sprawlmart store to a neighbourhood in Vancouver that was vocally opposed to a multinational corporation setting up shop near their homes and businesses. Also at this time a friend at the foundation had given me the album World of Wonders. Hearing the lyrics to his song Call it Democracy every hair on my body stood on end. I could not believe how well the one line which had been written many years earlier summed up what was taking place at city hall. The line went like this, “See the paid-off local bottom feeders passing themselves off as leaders. Kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows, then it’s open for business like a cheap bordello and they call it democracy.” A timeless message really. Universal wisdom applicable anywhere politics and corruption hold hands.

This album provided the soundtrack for the short time I spent exploring the west coast. I have still yet to find Yoda on my wooded wanderings, but I did manage to track down where the lions are… pacing the cage in the mind of a poet at the end of a forested path on Bone Lake in Haliburton.

~ from Kicking at the Darkness, Commentary by David Smelle.

Submitted by Nate Smelle

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