20 July 2018 - Folk rocker Bruce Cockburn refers to his songs as his children, and it’s hard for him to pick a favorite.
On his latest record, he likes “False River,” which has a spoken-word vibe and warns about pipelines. He also enjoys the bluesy “Café Society,” about people who gather at a coffee shop to discuss global affairs.
“But, you know, when I start naming them, I start thinking, ‘Yeah, but then there’s this and there’s that,’” he said. “So, really, there aren’t favorites.”
A native of Canada and current resident of San Francisco, Cockburn has been in the music business for more than 50 years. “Bone on Bone,” his 33rd album, was released in September and won him his 13th Juno Award.
His career has taken him all over the world, and his current tour will include a July 28 performance at the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts in Leavenworth as part of the center’s “Music in the Meadow” series.
Cockburn took a break from writing music while working on his November 2014 memoir, “Rumours of Glory,” which took three years to complete. A box set of the songs included in the book was released at the same time as a companion piece.
The song “3 Al Purdys,” included on the most recent album and in a documentary about the late Canadian poet, got him back into his groove. In the song, Cockburn takes the voice of a homeless man reciting Purdy’s work.
Politics, spirituality and personal experiences all play into Cockburn’s music.
“It’s hard to pull out a single set of themes (on the latest record) that were deliberate,” he said. “I guess if you had to reduce it to some sort of capsule version, it would be just the journey of life. … There’s a fair amount of spiritual focus on this album compared to some of the ones I’ve done for a couple of decades. It’s never gone away, but it’s a bit more overt than it’s been for a while.”
He said he writes down ideas in a notebook as they come to him, sometimes as nearly complete songs and sometimes as just a line or an image.
“Very, very seldom have I sat down and said, ‘OK, I want to write a song about X, Y or Z,’” he said. “It just doesn’t work like that. I wait around, and I get an idea or something hits me in the face. Some horrible thing or some beautiful thing hits me in the face, and the juice starts flowing to get a song going.”
“Bone on Bone” is also the name of a song on the 2017 album. It’s a reference to arthritis, something 73-year-old Cockburn knows all about and an ironic title for a guitar piece.
Cockburn laughed as he remembered telling Michael Wrycraft, who did the album design, what he wanted to call the record.
“He said, ‘Oooh, sexy,’” Cockburn recalled. “He had no idea. I said, ‘Michael, it’s about having no cartilage left in your joints. If you think that’s sexy, more power to you.’”
Some fans like the music, he said, and others like the lyrics.
After a show in Italy that included songs like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and “Call It Democracy,” a fan approached him.
“He went, ‘Oh, I love your music. It makes me feel so calm, it’s like chamomile tea,’” Cockburn recalled. “I’m thinking, ‘I really got through to you, didn’t I?’ But that’s sort of rare. In most of Europe — or the parts of Europe I’ve played, like Germany and Scandinavia — most people speak pretty good English, so they know what the songs are about.”
Cockburn still hasn’t finalized his setlist for Leavenworth and said he’ll probably make decisions the day of the show. He knows he’ll have to include the classics people are familiar with but also wants to introduce them to newer material.
Although larger venues can be fun, he said he prefers smaller settings.
“It’s kind of nicer to play in a room where you can make eye contact with people and where it encourages people to listen with minimal distraction,” he said. “That’s more satisfying than playing a big, noisy event, although that can work, too.”
~from WenatacheeWorld.com - by Bridget Mire