Media

2017


Press Release
True North Records / Finkelstein Management
July 12, 2017

Bruce Cockburn Announces His First Studio Album In Seven Years – Bone On Bone

For Release on Vinyl, CD and Digital Download 

September 15, 2017

BONE ON BONE

States I’m In – Slide Show YouTube Video (photos: Daniel Keebler)
States I’m In – Soundcloud Stream (Album Version)

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Bio
Bruce Cockburn – At a Glance
2017 Promo Photo

 

TORONTO, July 12, 2017 – Bruce Cockburn has announced the September 15, 2017 release of his first full-length album in seven years, Bone On Bone (True North Records). The release coincides with his induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, and the launch of his longest touring schedule in decades. 

Few recording artists are as creative and prolific as Bruce Cockburn. Since his self-titled debut in 1970, the Canadian singer-songwriter has issued a steady stream of acclaimed albums every couple of years. But that output suddenly ran dry in 2011 following the release of Small Source of Comfort. There were good reasons for the drought. For one thing, Cockburn became a father again with the birth of his daughter Iona. Then there was the publication of his 2014 memoir Rumours of Glory. 

“I didn’t write any songs until after the book was published because all my creative energy had gone into three years of writing it,” Cockburn explains, from his home in San Francisco. “There was simply nothing left to write songs with. As soon as the book was put to bed, I started asking myself whether I was ever going to be a songwriter again.”

Such doubt was new to the man who’s rarely been at a loss for words as he’s distilled political views, spiritual revelations and personal experiences into some of popular music’s most compelling songs. What spurred Cockburn back into songwriting was an invitation to contribute a song to a documentary film about the late, seminal Canadian poet Al Purdy and he was off to the races. 

Bone On Bone, Cockburn’s 33rd album, arrives with 11 new songs and there’s a prevalent urgency and anxious tone to much of the album, which Cockburn attributes to living in America during the Trump era. But, more than anything, Bone on Bone amounts to the deepest expression of Cockburn’s spiritual concerns to date. The 12-time Juno winner and Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s “Forty Years in the Wilderness” ranks alongside “Pacing the Cage” or “All The Diamonds” as one of Cockburn’s most starkly beautiful folk songs. “There have been so many times in my life when an invitation has come from somewhere…the cosmos…the divine…to step out of the familiar into something new. I’ve found it’s best to listen for, and follow these promptings. 

“Forty Years in the Wilderness” is one of several songs that feature a number of singers from the church Cockburn frequents, for the sake of convenience referred to in the album credits as the San Francisco Lighthouse “Chorus.” “Among other songs, they contribute call-and-response vocals to the stirring “Stab at Matter.” Other guests on the album include singer-songwriters Ruby Amanfu, Mary Gauthier, and Brandon Robert Young, along with bassist Roberto Occhipinti, and Julie Wolf, who plays accordion on “3 Al Purdys” and sings with the folks from Lighthouse, together with LA songwriter Tamara Silvera. 

Produced by Colin Linden, Cockburn’s longtime collaborator, the album is built around the musicianship of Cockburn on guitar and the core accompaniment of bassist John Dymond and drummer Gary Craig. Also, very much part of the sound is the accordion playing of Cockburn’s nephew John Aaron Cockburn and the solos of noted fluegelhorn player Ron Miles (check out his stunning work on the cascading “Mon Chemin,” for example). 

Cockburn, who won the inaugural People’s Voice Award at the Folk Alliance International conference in February and will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in September, continues to find inspiration in the world around him and channel those ideas into songs. “My job is to try and trap the spirits of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal,” he once noted. More than forty years after embarking on his singer-songwriting career, Cockburn keeps kicking at the darkness so that it might bleed daylight.
 

Bone On Bone track listing: 

1. States I’m In
2. Stab At Matter
3. Forty Years In The Wilderness
4. Café Society
5. 3 Al Purdys
6. Looking And Waiting
7. Bone On Bone
8. Mon Chemin
9. False River
10. Jesus Train
11. Twelve Gates To The City

For more information, please contact:

Eric Alper, Publicity
True North Records P: 647-971-3742
E: Eric@TrueNorthRecords.com



IMG 1775October 20, 2017
The Bluegrass Situation

Counsel of Elders: Bruce Cockburn on Serving as Messenger
by Amanda Wicks

Life in Trump’s America doesn’t end at the country’s borders. The present-day era’s global scope means that, sonar-like, the current U.S. president’s impact tears across the world, including upward to the country’s endearing northern neighbor. Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn wrote his new album, Bone on Bone, under the unnerving atmosphere that has settled like grey ash over contemporary life ever since the 2016 presidential election. Several songs, including “Café Society” and “States I’m In,” touch on the agitation rippling through communities and individuals, while “False River” decries a more specific issue: pipelines. “Life blood of the land, consort of our earth, pulse to the pull of moonrise, can you tally what it’s worth?” he sings against a locomotive rhythm that practically pulses with exigency. Trump, specifically, doesn’t pop up on the album, but his influence can be felt in the at-times brooding reflections which spur Cockburn’s latest songs.

The LP marks Cockburn’s 33rd and arrives seven years after his last effort, Small Source of Comfort. The time in between took his attention to other places, including fatherhood and his 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory. It took contributing a song to the documentary Al Purdy Was Here (about the Canadian poet) to spark his songwriting once again. Cockburn has long pointed his weapons of choice — namely, his pen and his guitar — at issues impacting the world, and Bone on Bone makes clear that his song-based activism hasn’t eased any. If anything, he doubles down, impressing upon listeners the detrimental forces propelled by division, isolation, and more. Cockburn tapped Ruby Amanfu, Mary Gauthier, Brandon Robert Young, and even singers from the church he regularly attends — known on the album as the San Francisco Lighthouse chorus — to offset his dusky vocals and paint an inclusive picture of community, even while his song’s subject matter toed a more solitudinous line. His lyricism, as pointed and precise as ever, proves that the septuagenarian still has important messages to share, and will do exactly that — so long as his mind and breath and energy allow him. A new inductee to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the timing couldn’t be more aligned.

AW: It feels more important than ever to have messengers like you.

Thank you for saying that. It does feel like a time when we have to emphasize communication, because everything is so polarized. We’re all looking at slogans and talking in slogans all the time, but it seems really important to share an experience with each other.

AW: Yeah, in keeping with that idea of slogans — even thinking about the way social media packages thought — how do you feel your songwriting has had to change to reach across the aisle, so to speak?

I don’t really have a good answer for that. It’s a legitimate question, but I feel I haven’t really changed my approach to songwriting. I think it’s a question of maintaining some sort of footing in reality. We all have our own idea of what reality is, but social media creates a false reality. I’m not very involved in social media, so I’m not the best person to be passing judgment on it. At the same time, I’m not involved with it because I don’t trust it, because I don’t like it. There’s a great usefulness to it, granted — it’s really great when you can communicate with people at a distance quickly, and if you have something sensible to communicate — but it doesn’t stop at that. For me, it’s a world of BS and I don’t really want to spend time in that world.

AW: Sure. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “If there was a sensible message.”

It’s not very hard to find opinions being passed off as news that really are offensive, whatever your perspective. Most of the time you don’t learn anything, because you just get annoyed. That’s a problem, because it could be a forum for greater understanding.

AW: You touch on a bit of that with “States I’m In,” and I love the title’s play on words: Noddings toward the division people may now feel as individuals and as a country. What’s the most significant message you think listeners need to hear today?

Well, I don’t think the song offers an answer, really, except a spiritual one. I didn’t design the album to have a particular theme, but there is that underlying theme that the spiritual world is one where we can actually meet — or where we need to go, whether we meet or not. It puts things in a perspective that is less prone to being blown this way and that by the winds coming out of various high-profile people. [Laughs]

“States I’m In” is a kind of capsulized dark night of the soul experience. The song unfolds with a sunset and it ends with dawn and, in the meantime, there’s all this stuff — it’s not all autobiographical, although the feelings are. I think the feelings that the song expresses are feelings a lot of us experience, so it has that application for somebody other than me. You can get swept away by all the stuff, but in the end, what’s essential is that relationship with the divine. That’s the whisper welling up from the depths and, if you can shut up long enough to listen for that whisper, it’s there.

AW: Speaking about the album’s spirituality, the number 33 has a powerful religious and spiritual connotation. Does the fact that this is album number 33 hold any meaning for you?

That’s an interesting question, too. I hadn’t thought of that, so I guess the answer’s “no,” but maybe subliminally it did. The number that I did think of is the [song] “40 Years in the Wilderness,” and that’s more specific, both as a reference and in my own life.

AW: And there’s also the fact that it’s been seven years between albums, and seven is a potent number, as well.

Yeah, I know, we’re getting all numerological here.

AW: And I don’t necessarily mean to!

It’s not a belief system that I adhere to, particularly, but I do find it interesting when those things show up. There are certain years in my life … I mean, a year that adds up to four is almost never a good year for me, and almost all the other ones are. So what does that mean? Maybe it’s totally subjective or maybe it’s not.

AW: Or, if you head into those particular years with that mindset, you create your own issues.

Right, it’s impossible. I can never stand back far enough to be sure I’m not doing that. I think all of those kinds of esoteric ways of trying to understand things — whether it’s numerology or the tarot or astrology — they all have some functionality. They all work in some way. But what I’ve thought over the years is that they seem to operate as enhancements to your own sense of contact to the bigger reality, so it doesn’t really matter which one you use, if it helps you. If you have a sensitivity to that kind of listening state, those things help you listen, and they might help you listen — in the case of the tarot — to somebody else’s condition.

Once anything becomes a belief system that can be passed on and you can train people in it and so on, it’s kind of like training musician. I haven’t been to Berklee in some time, and really appreciated it as a great school, and it still is, but the problem with that and the problem with any system of education is, you teach people to be the same as each other. The geniuses will transcend that; they’ll learn all the stuff and then they’ll go on and be themselves. But the people that are not geniuses will end up being very good at what they do but sounding like each other. And I think the same thing applies to spiritual training: You can learn all that stuff and it doesn’t make you gifted.

AW: It doesn’t, and I wonder how much “genius” here applies to a sense of bravery.

Yeah, maybe so, whether it’s bravery or necessity. Some people are brave and step out in spite of their surroundings or themselves, and others of us just luck into it. This is what I know how to do, and I kind of care what people think about it, but I’m not going to let their opinions stop me.

AW: Right, and then speaking of another individual in that sense, your song “3 Al Purdys” … what is it about his use of language that holds such magic for you?

He had great insight for one thing — into people and the historical place of things. And, as a young poet, he’s kind of raw and brash and very Canadian, very colloquial, very rough around the edges, but interesting as all get-out. And then, as he gets older, as the poems become more recent, he becomes more speculative and thoughtful and more international, also. His thought processes are beautifully articulated and communicable, therefore.

AW: He’s got some really visceral introspections.

His hit is the poem where he’s in a bar in Ontario, and he tries to get somebody to buy him a beer in exchange for a poem and it doesn’t work, and he reflects on what poetry is really worth, when it won’t even buy you a beer. And of course that’s the side of Al Purdy that my song is thinking of. Everybody who knows Al Purdy knows that poem, and it’s so archetypically Canadian. You kind of had to be there to appreciate it. I don’t know how it would seem to somebody from the U.S. Nonetheless, it captures some aspect of Ontario culture thoroughly. He’s basically my dad’s generation, and he spent the ‘30s riding the rails back and forth across Canada, looking for work like everybody else. Both of the spoken word sections in the song are excerpts from his poetry.

AW: Congratulations, by the way, on being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. I know the country has honored you in a few different ways, but what did it mean to be recognized for your songwriting?

It means people are listening. It’s gratifying and humbling, and I’m very grateful for it. An award is a thing, an event, and the event has its own meaning, and it had meaning. It was nice to be part of it, and then, you know, I have a thing to take home and put somewhere that I’ll have to dust. [Laughs]

AW: What a way to look at it!

But what it represents, like I said, is that people are paying attention, and an artist can’t ask for anything more.

AW: Very true. Well, my last question is admittedly silly. You’ve been called the “Canadian Bob Dylan,” so who would you say is the American Bruce Cockburn?

Um, I’d like it to be Tom Waits, but …

AW: Alright, let’s just make that claim!

I don’t think anybody’s anybody except themselves, but I remember way back in the day being described in more than one review of a show as the Canadian John Denver, and the only similarity is that we both have round glasses. It’s such a cheap way to try to describe something. It’d be better to describe me as not the next Canadian this or that: He’s not the Canadian Bob Dylan. He’s not the next Leonard Cohen. He’s not the next Joni Mitchell. If you do enough of those, you can kind of get to what the person might be. If I had to be some American singer/songwriter, Tom Waits would be high on my list. Lucinda Williams would be high on my list, too. And Ani DiFranco is a terrific songwriter and closer, in a certain sense, to what I do. I forget where it was, but I was described as Ani DiFranco’s uncle.

AW: No way.

It’s better than being described as “the next Canadian something or other.” It was actually kind of an honor, but these comparisons … if they’re not amusing, then they’re sort of not very nice.


October 1, 2017
The Hamilton Spectator

Cockburn has lost none of his fire, musically or politically
by Graham Rockingham

I must admit to being a bit shocked when I heard Bruce Cockburn was being inducted this year into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I'm sure my thoughts were shared by many Cockburn fans — "You mean he wasn't already in it?"

bruce-by-scott-gardner-09-30-2017

That shock was somewhat ameliorated when I learned that one of his co-inductees was Neil Young.

"Well, all right then," I said to myself. "Bruce is finally getting the recognition he deserves."

So it was. A little over a week ago Cockburn was feted by his peers in a gala Hall of Fame concert at Toronto's Massey Hall. (Neil was there too, of course, but this column isn't about him.)

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, featuring Hamilton's own Tom Wilson, took the stage to perform Cockburn's classic "If I had a Rocket Launcher," and Buffy Sainte-Marie hailed him as "an agitator, an activist, a protester."

On Saturday night at Hamilton's FirstOntario Concert Hall, Cockburn proved he is all that and much more. He's not just a songwriter, a protester or a poet. He's also one heck of a guitarist.

At 72, Cockburn is white of hair and a little stooped in posture, but he's lost none of his renegade spirit or his consummate musical skills.

He demonstrated that time and time again during his 18-song set, playing a seemingly endless stream of guitars — acoustic, electric, 12-string, six-string and a strange little number that looked like a ukulele but sounded like a jet stream.

His fingers effortlessly danced over the strings on oldies like "Wondering Where the Lions Are," as well as new songs like "States I'm In" from his "Bone on Bone" album.

He played jazz-infused, gospel-tinged blues on another new song called "40 Years in the Wilderness" and let the feedback fly on a fiery versions of signature songs "Rocket Launcher" and "If a Tree Falls."

He was backed by the rhythm section of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings — drummer Gary Craig and bassist John Dymond — and his nephew, multi-instrumentalist John Aaron Cockburn, who together managed to lay down the perfect accompaniment to Cockburn's genre-bending lead.

Still, it was the songs that made the night. Lyrics Cockburn first sang decades ago were given new relevancy. He reached back in his catalogue for "Free to Be," a track he recorded in 1977 in opposition to the rise of white supremacist groups like the Western Guard.

"I forgot about that song for a very long time … and then the news happened recently," Cockburn explained to the audience.

Cockburn has been always been ahead of the pack. What may have seemed radical 30 years ago, now seems main stream, perhaps even fashionable

Almost to prove the point, Cockburn closed the show with a blistering rendition of "Stolen Land," a song he wrote in 1986 about the injustices suffered by the world's Indigenous people. Judging by the standing ovation Cockburn was given, it seems the message may finally be getting through.

• Opening for Cockburn, was Hamilton singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot, who performed a solo set that featured several songs from her upcoming album "New Mistakes." Lightfoot is a roots rocker who usually is backed by a full band, but the quality of new songs like "Paradise," "Drifter" and "Norma Gale" easily won over the audience. "New Mistakes" will be available Oct. 13 on Sonic Unyon Records. Lightfoot is setting off on a tour of North America, Japan and Australia before returning home for a concert with her band on Jan. 13 at McMaster University's LIVElab theatre.

Photo: Scott Gardner


September 25, 2017
FYI Music News

Elite Canadian Songwriters Honoured At CSHF Gala
by Kerry Dole

After a five-year absence, the CSHF (Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame) made a welcome return on Saturday night at the fittingly storied Toronto venue, Massey Hall. The eighth gala, it featured the induction of four Canadian songwriters: Beau Dommage, Stéphane Venne, Bruce Cockburn and Neil Young.

Previous songwriters who received the honour include Leonard Cohen, Robbie Robertson, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Hank Snow, Robbie Robertson and Gilles Vigneault.

CSHOF-2017-09-23

2017's equal split of francophone and anglophone inductees was mirrored on the evening, a truly bilingual affair featuring performances and speeches in both languages. That helped account for the marathon length of the proceedings, clocking in at over four hours.

Along with the excessive duration, some rumblings of discontent could be heard over the sound quality in parts of the hall. Those misgivings aside, there were certainly enough highlight moments to make this a memorable affair.

All four inductees were honoured with performances of some of their best-known compositions by an all-star cast of guests, along with a short film of their accomplishments and a speech by someone close to their career.

Helping induct Beau Dommage was Julie Payette, Canada's soon to be new Governor General. She reminisced fondly about her love for the music of the Montreal band, as shown by her taking one of their CDs to listen to at the international space station.

Greeted with a standing ovation, Buffy Sainte-Marie spoke eloquently about Bruce Cockburn, praising him as "an astute observer, a wise man who asks tough questions. And someone who wants us to be better people."

Francophone star Daniel Lavoie did the honours for Stéphane Venne, while Randy Bachman recalled his days on the Winnipeg scene in the '60s with a young Neil Young, long a good friend.

Those chosen to enter the CSHF all made quintessentially Canadian acceptance speeches, featuring humility, humour and sage advice for their songwriting peers. Venne drew chuckles by citing himself as an example that “If you have no voice, no charisma, no nothing, except this (songwriting talent), you can have fun. You can make a living. You can leave a mark.”

Neil Young referenced those comments in his speech, stating that "I know I can't sing." He reflected that "I love to write songs, and I'm still writing all the time. Songs keep coming; they don't care about awards and accolades. I was scared to come to this event in case that all ended."

Young also reaffirmed his love of Canada, stressing that "I have never been a citizen of anywhere else."

In his well-conceived speech, Bruce Cockburn reflected upon his early transition from the pursuit of jazz composition and into songwriting. He declared that "art is about sharing the human experience," adding that "In a world increasingly defined by fakery, we together have pulled off the greatest trick ever: We spread the truth."

A house band put together by artistic director Matt Zimbel featured members of Manteca and laid down solid accompaniment for most of the featured vocalists.

Visual projections were used as effective backdrops, with images ranging from historical footage of Montreal to a wall upon which the names of victims of police violence in Canada and the US were inserted while Whitehorse delivered a passionate version of Neil Young's protest classic "Ohio."

Other performance highlights including Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' version of "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" and kd lang's take of Neil Young classic "Helpless," one that earned a standing ovation.

It was left to Arkells to close out the night in rousing fashion. They brought out Alex Lifeson to guest on "Cinnamon Girl," while the predictable yet effective final tune was a massed version of Young anthem "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World," with the Massey stage crammed with more than 30 of the guest singers and musicians.

Here is a list of all the performers and presenters: 

Arkells, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Damien Robitaille, Daniel Lavoie, Don Ross, Eh440, Élage Diouf, Elisapie, France D'Amour, Florence K, Hawksley Workman, Jessica Mitchell, Julie Payette, k.d. lang, Lisa LeBlanc, Randy Bachman, Ruth B., Tom Powers, William Prince, Whitehorse and Yann Perreau.

A post-Gala reception at The Ritz-Carlton was sponsored by Distribution Select. Those spied in convivial form included Bruce Cockburn, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Marc Jordan, Sylvia Tyson, Daniel Lavoie, Whitehorse, Arkells and a Who's Who of Canadian publishers, agents, and other music industry VIPs.

At the Gala, The CSHF announced that 2017 will mark the first year of The Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Award. Sponsored by Slaight Music, the award has the overall objective of encouraging and supporting the development of two songwriters who are on an upward trajectory of their careers and will be highlighted at the Induction Ceremony. The first two winners are fast-rising stars Jessie Reyez and Charlotte Cardin.

CSHF inductees Stephane Venne, Neil Young and Bruce Cockburn, pictured with Buffy Sainte-Marie and Randy Bachman. Tom Sandler Photography


September 24, 2017
APT 613

Concert Review: Bruce Cockburn at the NAC with Terra Lightfoot
by Colin Noden

I’m going to tell you why this may have been the concert of a lifetime, but first I have a question. Is banter a thing at Bruce Cockburn concerts? Or was this a welcome home response for a local kid who made good?

Bruce came out blasting in his first two numbers, with “Tokyo” and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” given a driving instrument dominate sound. Then, assured he had our attention, he began to tune his guitar.

“Welcome home!” was shouted from the back of the audience. Bruce responded, and so it began. Every tuning pause had someone toss a comment on stage. And Bruce tossed one back. It began to feel like we were all sitting around a campfire with good ol’ Bruce from Nepean High, who was in town to party for the night and just happened to bring along his six guitars. Of course, that’s just how Bruce wanted it.

The two hours that followed were expertly crafted in song selection and dynamics. They also showcased a musician at the top of his game. Bruce immediately served notice that he is a musical force for the here and now.

His guitar playing is mind blowing. Yes, there is still the trademark clean plucking of old, but last night left no doubt that Bruce Cockburn is best-in-class in Jazz, Blues and Rock as well. The “Bone on Bone” instrumental jazz piece was literally hypnotic. “Stolen Lands” had shredding that brought us into the ecstatic centre of a pow-wow. It was amazing. He captured the emotions, the shuffle and stomp of the dance, and the literal voices of the singers were coming out through his fingers.

It was a performance that would have given other top musicians a stroke. Yet there he was, slightly stooped over the strings, as if just listening to what was coming out. If there was any emotion shown, it was from drummer Gary Craig who kept up using everything at his disposal, even improvising by using a rattle to beat the floor tom. All done with a wild smile on his face.

The bottom line, is that if you want to hear some of the best guitar playing across multiple genres, then Bruce Cockburn is your guy. But what about the singing? Well, you could say Bruce has been blessed with a voice that ages well and suits his message. I’ll leave it at that. There’s nothing wrong with his lungs though. In his first set, he sustained a note so long that I was looking for the synthesizer. But it was all him.

The old songs, and some new songs, were as poetic and mystical as I remembered. But the lyrics that hit me hardest were his picture poem songs. They were a newsreel of images through words. The only commentary was through the music. There was no need for any reflective editorial. We got the message. The activist is still alive and kicking in him.

I said this was the live concert of a lifetime. This was one you’ll be talking about for years. A musician at the top of his game.

The only reason that statement may not be true is if Bruce Cockburn continues to improve. And from what I experienced, that may be the case. He is a genius at setting a program. He’s blowing out the walls with his guitar skills. He is relevant and as outspoken as ever.

Opening act: singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot brought introspection to the evening. “All Alone” hit us like surf on a sandy beach. Waves of music, voice, and volume settled everyone down.

Terra Lightfoot’s solo program allowed us to experience her song writing without any distractions. I found myself thinking of Chris Stapleton. The life experiences told in her songs, and the variety of genre influences showed a versatile mastery.

Her label calls her a Roots Rocker. I think she would like to be known as a storyteller. Sometimes with words, and sometimes through her guitar. She seemed to be the most animated while introducing “Norma Gale.”

Speaking of guitars, Terra introduced us to her newest, as in “still drying out,” guitar by Ontario luthier, 26 year old Ashley Leanne. It was a generous acknowledgement, and the guitar sounded bright and beautiful in Terra’s hands.

Terra’s opening song title was also quite fitting as Terra was all alone on stage. There were times when it seemed we were all, Terra included, expecting her band to join in. It was a gutsy decision to go it alone. You can take the girl out of the band, but the band influence was still apparent in her performance.

You only grow when you are forced out of your comfort zone. Terra was out there, alone, and filling the stage with her music and songs. Being the band as best as possible. Meeting the challenge with her full voice and guitar skills.

Keyboard player Jeff Heisholt did come out for a while and added a crescendo to the performance. My one regret is that we were all sitting down. The heels were pumping all along the rows by the end of the hour.

Terra brought a counterweight to the programming perspective. Her songs are expressed from the inside out, while Bruce took us from the outside in.



September 23, 2017
Bruce and Buffy Sainte-Marie
Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
Massey Hall - Toronto

bruce-cockburn-buffy-sainte-marie-canadian-songwriters-hall-of-fame



September 23, 2017
Artsfile

Review: Bruce Cockburn’s flame burns undimmed in masterful performance at NAC
by Peter Robb

The back is slightly bent and the hair has been bleached by time but Bruce Cockburn, that musical lion, doesn’t seem ready for eternity quite yet, even if he might be thinking about it.

The legendary singer songwriter returned Friday night to a packed Southam Hall in the National Arts Centre with a tight band that featured his nephew John Aaron Cockburn on guitar and accordion and longtime musical associates Gary Craig on drums and John Dymond on bass, and a new lineup of music from his first album in seven years called Bone on Bone. It is the 33rd of a storied career that began in Ottawa in the 1960s.

Delivering this new album was not easy. Cockburn has said in many interviews that he struggled to find the muse after finishing a memoir called Rumours of Glory. The man writes songs based on inspiration, a spark that ignites a song and he couldn’t find it until he helped in a fundraiser to preserve the home of the Canadian poet Al Purdy. Thinking about the poet produced a song called 3 Al Purdys and all of a sudden the fire was lit.

Cockburn’s part of the evening opened up, early on, with a crowd-pleasing rendition of Lovers in a Dangerous Time from 1984. Getting one of the hits out of the way cleared the way for a run of songs from the new album which showed the man has lost nothing off his voice or his picking or his ability to write a lyric that is multi-layered in meaning.

States I’m In is such a tune. It’s the song that is put forward on his website as an entry point to the new album … “All the places I’ve been each one reflected in the states I’m in…”

One aspect of this new record is its embrace of spiritual matters. Cockburn has found spirituality in his latter years accompanying his wife to a church in San Francisco, where they live with their six-year-old daughter.

Cockburn has always leaned to the spiritual but now he is more clearly focussed on what he indicated in an interview with ARTSFILE, as God’s plan.

The songs from Bone on Bone, such as 40 Years in the Wilderness, which he played Friday night, reflect that sentiment. But he’s not abandoned concerns for such things as the environment which was at the heart of the intense and pointed song False River off the new disc. He also spoke to the need for reconciliation in Canada with indigenous nations in the song Stolen Land which was released in 1990.

He flashed back to the tune Free To Be (1977) which took a shot at an extreme right wing organization called the Western Guard. North American society today faces another resurgence of this kind of white nationalism, making Cockburn’s song a prescient warning. And he fired up his Rocket Launcher to underline the point. Nor did he ignore my particular favourite Wondering Where the Lions Are. It’s hard to believe it was released in 1979.

Cockburn’s guitar skills haven’t suffered a whit from the ravages of time. He can pick it any way you want it from a classical sound with hints of Spain in it to flat out rock guitar god. This was amply demonstrated in every song including the instrumental Bone on Bone that is on the CD of the same name.

Cockburn’s evening wrapped up with a standing ovation and three encore tunes including an oldie The Coldest Night of the Year and ending with a nod to God in the song Jesus Train.

Now it’s on to Toronto where Cockburn is to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame along with another legend Neil Young, along wth Quebecers Beau Dommage and Stéphane Venne.

The evening opened with Hamilton, Ontario’s Terra Lightfoot, who offered her own strong voice and talent on the guitar in a stripped down performance of new music from her next album, New Mistakes, which is coming out in October.



bruce cockburn CSHOF2017 speech

September 23, 2017

Bruce’s acceptance speech at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame at Massey Hall in Toronto.

I’ve been at my craft for a long time — long enough that the beginning seems like yesterday.

Under the influence of those who were a bit quicker on the draw than me, Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie among others, I was seduced away from the pursuit of an education in jazz composition by songs…creations that combined music with something like poetry.

Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I came to realize that art, including the art of songwriting, is about sharing the human experience. Music is a spiritual bonding agent, a means of sharing deep feelings of all times. When you add words, the sharing becomes pointed — specific. A song can offer inspiration, distraction, solace, solidarity – a sense that we are not alone in our feelings. The human ability to create songs is precious and vital. We have always done it and I think we always will — the artifice of machines (and ISIS) not withstanding.

I’m immensely grateful to have been allowed to live a life centered around songwriting. And immensely grateful for the attention my efforts have received. To be able to do this and make a living at it is truly a great gift.

Re “Making a living at it,” I want to offer a word of thanks to Bernie Finkelstein, my friend and long-time manager, from whose asute ears and talent for strategizing I have benefited greatly. So too, all the excellent producers and musicians I have worked with, some of whom are here tonight, who have helped give my raw material the power to appeal to the world at large.

In a world increasingly defined by its fakery, we’ve together pulled off the greatest trick ever — we spread truth.

Cheers All!


September 22, 2017
(Inteview date: September 11, 2017)
The Globe and Mail

Bruce Cockburn: A life in seven songs
by Brad Wheeler

Prior to his induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Ottawa-born musician and activist speaks with Brad Wheeler about the significant songs of his career.

I don't think of what I do as a career," Bruce Cockburn says. "But the word has come up at points over the years."

This weekend is one of those points – when the singer-songwriter and virtuoso guitarist is inducted (along with Stéphane Venne, Neil Young and Beau Dommage) into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The gala event takes place at Massey Hall, a venue he first headlined in 1972.

Now, at the age of 72, the Ottawa-born musician and activist has just released Bone on Bone, his 33rd album and first in six years. Sitting in a hotel room across the street from Massey Hall, the eloquent protester, clear-voiced seeker and six-string dazzler spoke to The Globe and Mail about the significant songs of his career. Not necessarily the hits, but the signposts along the way that mark a career – a hall of fame one at that.

Going to the Country, 1970

"I dropped out of the Berklee School of Music in Boston at the end of 1965. It wasn't where I was meant to be. By the end of the sixties, I had written maybe 20 songs. They sounded better to me when I did them alone, rather than with any of the bands I was in. Going to the Country was one of the songs that people noticed on my first album. I wrote it as a passenger in a car going to Montreal. I took notes as I looked out the window. The song became a template for one of the strains of songwriting that I've done. The folky guitar and observational lyrics, that perhaps were very early manifestation of the reportage approach to lyric writing that has shown up a lot in my work."

Sunwheel Dance, 1972

"It was the first instrumental piece that I recorded. I'd learned a lot about finger-picking from various sources and people I'd encountered. There was an American named Fox Watson, who was transcribing fiddle tunes for guitar. You'd have these beautiful melodies, with a really nice harmonic approach to them. I absorbed a fair amount from that. Sunwheel Dance led to Foxglove, on my next album, which got more attention. It's named after Fox Watson."

All the Diamonds in the World, 1974

"My first overtly Christian song. It was when I started calling myself a Christian. I'd become that, in everything but the commitment. And having made the commitment, it was necessary to use the term. This song commemorates that commitment. Because of the lyrical content, the musical style was self-consciously hymn-like. The chord changes were quite churchy, which was quite different for me then, and remains so."

Wondering Where the Lions Are, 1979

"The success of Wondering Where the Lions Are was a big surprise. It was both very welcome and very fraught. All of a sudden, I'm in the PR machine of an American record company. All of a sudden, we're touring in way more places. We played it on Saturday Night Live. It was so terrifying. It was American national TV, and I didn't feel ready for it all."

If I Had a Rocket Launcher, 1984

"After Wondering Where the Lions Are, there wasn't anything on the radar in the States. Years went by and then If I Had a Rocket Launcher came out. It took things up another notch. It shocked me that anybody played it on the radio at all. I almost didn't record it. I was afraid it would be misconstrued. There were other songs about Central America on the album, Stealing Fire. I didn't want people to think that I just wrote the song because I thought they should go down and kill Guatemalan soldiers. But there were enough people who understood it that I felt okay to having done it."

Get Up Jonah, 1996

"I was in St. Louis, looking out of a hotel room window at the sun coming up on the other side of the Mississippi. I'd been up all night, worrying about the things going on in my life. The song relates to the Jonah story in the Bible. It's addressed to me. I'm Jonah, telling myself to get off my ass and do whatever I was supposed to be doing. Something about the track I was on was wrong. I was satisfied with the status quo. Get Up Jonah is about accepting an invitation, from the cosmos, to take the next step. I really like that song, though I haven't done it for a long time."

40 Years in the Wilderness, 2017

"This song is Get Up Jonah, part two, in a way. You're still being invited to follow the road where it leads, but you're older. Maybe not wiser, but less angsty. After I wrote my memoir [2014's Rumours of Glory], I hadn't written a song in four years. I started going to church again, after not having gone for decades. There was a sermon about Jesus being baptized, which is when he really figures out who he is. He's shocked, and he runs out into the desert to figure it out. That struck me with considerable force. I felt like I'd been struggling with that issue for 40 years. I'd started to identify myself as a Christian in the 1970s, and here I was, 40 years later, back in church. And I'm living in San Francisco now, with my wife and child. I never would have imagined myself living on the West Coast. But it was an answer. I went with it. I went west in another one of those cosmic moments. This song is about accepting those invitations."


September 22, 2017
The Record

Bruce Cockburn still making music that matters
by Joel Runinoff


Bruce Cockburn sounds vaguely bewildered.

He's 72-years-old, decades past his commercial heyday, an album artist in a sea of streaming singles — let's be blunt, a dinosaur — and yet somehow, inexplicably, young people keep showing up to hear him play.

For a guy with no false modesty who keeps expectations to a minimum, it's like finding out the tooth fairy is real.

"There's a scene in an old movie called 'The Ruling Class,' with Peter O'Toole, where he takes his place in the British House of Lords," allows the Ottawa-born singer-songwriter with self-deprecating humour.

"Some are still alive, some are just cadavers with cobwebs. I pictured this 'getting old with my audience' thing a bit like that."

He laughs, making it clear he would have no issues.

"But luckily there's always been new interest. In the last couple of years, there have been a greater number of younger people coming to shows and, strangely, a lot of them tell me they grew up with my stuff.

"Their parents played it."

His own parents, he points out, played the soundtrack to the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady" and the Victorian operas of Gilbert and Sullivan — old school bombast the young Cockburn loathed with a passion.

"I would have gone miles out of my way to avoid having to go to a show of any of that music," he confides from his home in San Francisco. "And yet, here are people who experience my music in the same context, but they're coming.

"It's great . . . (befuddled sigh) . . . I don't understand it."

There's a lot of things he doesn't understand, and none of it makes any difference.

Cockburn is Cockburn — always has been.

Sensitive and softspoken — almost to the point of apologetic — the 12-time Juno winner speaks in vague generalities, hesitates before committing himself to a single argument and weighs the pros and cons of everything, always tempering, balancing, on point.

He's the Clark Kent of Canadian Folk Rock.

But hit on a sensitive topic, elicit an emotional reaction — environmental devastation, the welfare of indigenous peoples — and his veneer of gentle deference turns to a sort of jaded resilience.

Super Bruce.

"I don't feel compelled to write about Donald Trump," he glowers when I imply the controversial U.S. president is ripe for the picking, protest song-wise.

"He gets enough attention."

"There's some scary stuff going on, but it's been going on for a long time."

Needless to say, he has little faith humanity will save itself.

"The environmental stuff has been around for decades and nobody does anything," he grouses with frustration. "People in positions of authority who could make meaningful decisions are not making them, and have not been making them.

"Every now and then it gets a little better and a little worse. Now we're in a phase where it's a little worse. People can't make up their minds. Are you gonna give up the money or are you gonna give up the planet?"

I can hear his bile rise over the phone: "You can't have both. You can't have oil and a healthy environment. It's that simple. And yet, it's not simple to execute. The will isn't there."

He sounds resigned, but after 47 years of activist songwriting with a string of hits that include "Wondering Where the Lions Are," "If A Tree Falls" and "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," he remains mysteriously unplacated, ready to go head-to-head at a moment's notice.

"I never thought of myself as an activist," he notes in his humble, unassuming way.

"I just write the stuff that comes to mind. I'm confronted by things the same as everybody else and I get an emotional response that, if I'm lucky, will trigger a song."

Take "If I Had A Rocket Launcher," his '84 hit about the plight of Guatemalan refugees, the most virulent, righteous, God of Thunder cry of rage and despair ever concocted by a Canadian songwriter: "If I had a rocket launcher, some son-of-a-b--ch would die."

"It wasn't a protest song," he offers, almost embarrassed.

"It was a song from my heart about something I saw. It's not theoretical."

Also not theoretical is that Cockburn, seven years past official retirement age, has a five-year-old daughter and finds himself, improbably, living the life of a man in his 30s.

"It does make you look at the world in a new way," he concedes openly. "I'm an old guy. If they blow up the world now, I've had a life.

"But a world without water, without air — those are big concerns. I don't know that having a child really changes that. The world has always been beautiful and precious and fragile. It's always seemed like that to me."

Which begs the question: What's more terrifying, the imminent destruction of the planet, or getting called to the office because his kid is acting up in kindergarten?

"No matter how you feel about the big one," he concedes happily, "you gotta deal with the little one . . . no matter what.

"Obviously, it puts the nature of the world into sharp relief. I want her to be aware of things in as positive a way as possible."

While his new album, "Bone to Bone," avoids direct commentary on headline issues, his bent toward social justice and spiritual faith, in typical Cockburn style, are never far from the surface.

"As you get older, your life becomes more complex," he reasons. "And therefore whatever art you're producing becomes more complex too."

Some things, however, stay the same: his principled cynicism, his humanitarian zeal.

And in a turnaround from his '80s stance against the regressive views of the religious right, the quietly spiritual songwriter — who once identified boldly as Christian — is no longer boycotting the word.

"During the Reagan era the association between a certain kind of Christianity and American politics became inescapable," he laments softly.

"In conversations with (then musical partner) T Bone Burnett, we said 'should we actually go around calling ourselves Christians at this point?'

"Because the people waving that flag with the greatest vigour were people we didn't agree with at all. We didn't want to be seen promoting the stuff they're promoting."

With the U.S. increasingly polarized under Trump, I point out, it's worse now than it was then.

"Yeah, but you know what? Screw them!" he says gruffly. "At a certain point, it's like 'OK, I'm not gonna hide from that!

"At one time I just got tired of having to explain to people 'Yeah, I'm a Christian, but I'm not THAT Christian.'"

At some point, he says, you have to stand up "because these other people got the megaphone and somebody needs to take it away from them and say more truthful things.

"I don't know if I'm that person, but all of us who have gone through these kinds of feelings owe it ourselves to take that position."

It's a classic Cockburn response. Follow your own path. Don't take the easy route.

"It's never seemed very hard not to take the easy route," he points out. "Because it's always seemed like just doing the next thing."

"In hindsight I suppose I could do this differently or that differently and maybe there'd be a bigger audience, but I'm not sure a bigger audience is really necessary."

A man of modest expectations, he mulls this over for a moment, then admits he's content with the "significantly sized audience" he has.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, I suspect, he's also thankful that after five decades, his body or work exists on a different plane than the soundtrack of "My Fair Lady."



September 22, 2017
The Hamilton Spectator

BRUCE COCKBURN: Coming to terms with life at the narrow end of the road
by Graham Rockingham

Bruce Cockburn, the angry Canadian composer of "If I had a Rocket Launcher," has been living in the land of Donald Trump for the past eight years, surprisingly content.

Cockburn is on the phone from his home in San Francisco to talk about his new studio album "Bone on Bone" and his upcoming Canadian concert tour that will take him and his band to Hamilton's FirstOntario Centre on Sept. 30.

OK, San Francisco isn't exactly the land of Trump. It's actually an oasis of liberalism in a nation that happens to be run by that very unliberal guy who recently told the United Nations he was prepared to destroy North Korea and it's little dog, too.

I've been interviewing Cockburn for many years now. He doesn't shy away from political fencing. He always seemed ready to do battle with the world's injustices. If there was a tree to hug, both arms were wide open. If there was a whale to save, Bruce was aboard. And if a Junta needed taking out … well … there was that rocket launcher.

So after the usual pleasantries, our conversation naturally turned to some carefree banter about the new America.

"It's a crazy country," Cockburn admits with an understated laugh, noting that his time in the U.S. has made him appreciate his native country. "Canada, for all of its issues and there are many, is the single island of sanity in the Western hemisphere."

But he is not grabbing for the nearest rocket launcher. His wife M.J. Hannett has a law career in San Francisco and their five-year-old daughter Iona has just started Grade 1 there. Unless things get really crazy in America, he's there for the long haul.

He admits to concern about the polarized nature of American political discussion, on both the right and the left.

"The unwillingness to see the other guy's point of view is very common," says Cockburn, a native of Ottawa. "That's part of the energy of the country. On the positive side, we know that the U.S. has great energy and great things get done here."

At 72, the iconic songwriter is sounding more like a moderate than an iconoclast. Trump is a setback, but things will work themselves out. Right now, Cockburn has more important things on his mind. He's looking at life from the narrow end of life's road.

"What seems urgent now is not the same that seemed urgent in 1980," he says. "I know some stuff I didn't know then, and I have a sense of how much I don't know. I see this threshold approaching that requires a different sort of attention than the stuff you notice when you are younger.

"Bone on Bone," released Sept. 15 on the Waterdown-based True North Records label, is Cockburn's 33rd album, the first from a studio in six years.

Produced by Colin Linden of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, the album is filled with the brilliant guitar playing and beautiful lyricism that have become Cockburn trademarks. It's an extraordinary accomplishment for an artist whose career spans more than five decades.

The album's 11 songs reflect an awareness of where the writer stands in the arc of life. When Cockburn decided to call it "Bone on Bone," he was thinking of joint pain.

"It's about having lived this long," Cockburn says without hesitation. "I think of it as a kind of darkly joyous exercise in noticing where you are. At this point, what's ahead of you is shorter than what is behind you."

There are some lighthearted tracks like "Café Society," filled with snippets of conversation from the local coffee shop, and "3 Al Purdys," written for a documentary about the life of the great Canadian poet.

There are also songs with a strong gospel tinge — not preachy, but traditional, as if borrowed from a southern Baptist church. Cockburn attributes the gospel sound to his return to the church.

"I had just hit a point in my life where that had become a dominant theme again, so it's a dominant theme in the songs," he explains.

Cockburn was a church goer in the '70s and that spirituality is embroidered into much of his work during that era. In 1980, however, Cockburn stopped attending church and took a more humanist, often political, approach to his art.

Three Christmases ago, things changed with the death of a close family friend in a house fire. Cockburn's wife took solace in San Francisco's Lighthouse community church. She asked him to accompany her.

"One day I finally gave in and I was completely captivated," he says. "I stepped through the door and there was this wall of love and great music, a small congregation with no pretences. Everyone that goes there goes because they want to be there. The vibe was great, very democratic and welcoming."

"Reconnecting with that particular approach to spirituality led to what's on the album."

The release of "Bone on Bone" comes at a time when interest in Cockburn's extensive catalogue is burgeoning. On Saturday, Sept. 23, he will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame along with Neil Young, Beau Dommage and Stephane Venne at Toronto's Massey Hall.

Hamilton's Tom Wilson, who will be among several artists performing tributes to Cockburn at the ceremony, says it is time Cockburn receives such recognition.

"He's an iconic messenger who is known all around the world," Wilson says. "He's done so many things with his art."


September 18, 2017
Ottawa Citizen

Bruce Cockburn releases first new album in 7 years
by Lynn Saxberg

After writing his 2014 memoir, Bruce Cockburn wasn’t sure he was still a songwriter, a startling disclosure considering the scope of his illustrious music career, which has spanned more than 50 years, dozens of albums, multiple Juno Awards, an Order of Canada, a Governor General’s performing arts award and membership in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The Ottawa-born folk legend is also being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, along with Neil Young, Beau Dommage and Stephen Venne, during a ceremony in Toronto on Sept. 23.

“There was an extended period when I didn’t write any songs,” revealed the silver-haired troubadour in a recent interview. “The memoir took three years of pretty intense focus. All of the creative energy that would have gone into songwriting went into the book, and there was nothing left over for anything else.”

What finally cracked open the creative floodgates and led to the superb new album, Bone on Bone, was, in effect, an assignment. Cockburn was invited to contribute to the 2015 documentary on the noted Canadian poet Al Purdy, and decided to take up the challenge.

“It’s not typical in my experience to write a song on demand, whether someone else’s demand or mine. I kind of sit around and wait for a good idea,” Cockburn says. “But in this case, I’d been going for all those years without writing songs and I wasn’t sure there’d be any good ideas and then along comes this opportunity, and it seemed like the perfect invitation to get back into songwriting again. I said yes right away.”

The song is 3 Al Purdys, an acoustically rhythmic, six-minute tale of a homeless man obsessed with Purdy’s poems, and a chorus that goes, “I’ll give you three Al Purdys for a $20 bill.” It’s a brilliant tune, combining spoken-word poetry (by Purdy) with a mesmerizing hook that’s not unlike Cockburn’s 1979 nugget, Wondering Where The Lions Are.

The rest of the album is no less finely crafted. His first studio project in seven years, it’s also the first since Cockburn moved to the San Francisco area, married his longtime girlfriend, M.J. Hannett, and welcomed a baby girl into the world. Their daughter, Iona, who turns six in November, is in first grade at a French immersion school in San Fran.

While the new songs are not obviously political, they are informed by living in the U.S., as hinted in the title of the first single, States I’m In, an atmospheric mood piece built on Cockburn’s precisely fingered acoustic guitar work and world-weary lyrics. He describes it as a “dark night of the soul experience.

“It’s just one of those songs that come from looking around and feeling what’s happening,” he says. “The whole album is coloured in a subtle way by the fact that I’ve been living in the States for a few years, and it is a really different place.”

You won’t hear another If I Had a Rocket Launcher on this record, but you will hear songs  that explore spirituality from a Christian perspective, something Cockburn has embraced to varying degrees throughout his life.

These days, it’s a big focus, partly because Cockburn has been going to church again for the first time in years. “It’s been a long time since I darkened the door of a church,” he says. “I kind of fell away from it when I moved out of Ottawa at the end of the ’70s.”

But when his wife started attending services at San Francisco’s Lighthouse church, she encouraged him to join her. “I resisted it for a while and eventually gave in,” he says. “Then I walked in the door and it was like I had walked into a sauna, only instead of heat, it was love. It was a tangible  vibe in the room. It was really a shock actually.”

A couple of songs — Forty Years in the Wilderness and Stab at Matter — feature a chorus of singers from the Lighthouse church.

Produced by fellow Canadian musician and longtime collaborator, Colin Linden, the album is based on the musicianship of Cockburn and bandmates John Dymond (bass) and Gary Craig (drums), with a roster of guests, including his nephew, John Aaron Cockburn, on accordion. The younger Cockburn, a singer-songwriter-producer and multi-instrumentalist who plays accordion, guitar and piano, grew up in Ottawa and has his own band, Little Suns, will also join his uncle’s group for the upcoming tour, Bruce’s most extensive in years.

At 72, it’s clear that Cockburn is not interested in slowing down. “I’ve never taken the notion of retiring seriously. Of course, anything could happen. My hands could stop working or my brain could stop working, and that could be the occasion for retirement,” he muses.

“But I never think of that. My models are the old blues guys, like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who basically just played til they dropped. That’s kind of my expectation.”



IMG 1827

September 17, 2017

Worth The Wait
A review of Bone On Bone
by Joseph Hunt, Viking


What gives, Bruce!  It’s been 6 years since we’ve worn holes through 2011’s Small Source of Comfort.  6 years!  Imagine us lost souls sitting faithfully in our pews, dare I say . . . looking and waiting.  I know nothing of muse, but I’m blaming her.  I hear the artist can’t move until she strikes.  OK, the muse and writing your memoir, “Rumors of Glory.”  OK, and getting married and having a baby.  It’s not like you haven’t been busy.

Thank God Amazon Prime delivered Bone On Bone (BoB) to my office on Friday afternoon, September 15.  I immediately tore off the cellophane and leafed through the booklet.  Listening would have to wait till I finished my day job.  But when I did . . . it was all worth the wait.  By my fifth spin on Saturday morning pushy Daniel Keebler (who contributes skillfully to BoB with photo imagery to suit the music’s thematic elements) began texting me for my favorite tunes.  “Stop it, Ranger!  No way!  That’s like asking for my favorite children.”  Daniel reminded me I have only one (according to public records).  OK, I’ll try.  So here I am Sunday morning starting to stream-of-conscious my early thoughts . . . ironically at 5:51 a.m. 

To all who dare spin this disc, I say, for God’s sake, play it LOUD!  Let yourself move (in the privacy of your own home, please).  And I don’t mean the head bobbing type.  I mean the all out, arms-a-flailing, feet kicking, heals first kind of moving.  From the beginning intricate acoustic work of “States I’m In,” to the final “hallelu” of “Twelve Gates To The City,” this is vintage Bruce to the core.  You will taste and savor the blues, rockabilly and gospel running throughout.   Us pew-faithful Burnheads  (short for long-term, loyal, obsessed Cockburn fans) will catch aromatic hints of past songs, and warm to it.  While welcoming back the familiarity of what we have known before, we are mostly reminded of how Bruce cannot be defined or compared to any other artist.  Bruce lives alone in his own genre, all of nothing and a blend of everything.    

Here is one man’s take after 5 spins.

BoB opens with the quick moving, lyrically dense, States I’m In.  With sweeping, pulsating acoustics, States accelerates through an experiential look-back at a life’s journey and the emotional response to contradictions one finds along the way. 

Stab at Matter brings a shout-it-out, foot stomping, rhythmic sensation.  We are now first introduced to the beautiful harmonies and angelic voices of the San Francisco Lighthouse Choir.  Straight to Google.  Who are these folks? Not much internet presence as it turns out, but it appears this choral ensemble is the musical piece of the San Francisco Lighthouse Church.  It seems a perfect musical decision to bring these voices in to the project.  They will float in and out of six more songs, offsetting and complementing Bruce’s deep belly vocals.

40 Years in the Wilderness.   Did I say vintage Bruce?  Harken back to Pacing the Cage, All the Ways I Want You, Messenger Wind or Lord of the Starfields.  “40 Years” is simply gorgeous, rich, and perfectly composed in every way.  It comes from and goes straight to the heart, and if you are the self-reflective type like me, yours might just break wide open.   The soulful melody and emotional imagery make so much sense you may wonder how it could be you have not heard it before?   It hits close to home.  I feel like I waited my entire life for this song, and then it arrived when the “spirits of the scouring winds” decided it was time.

Café Society.   Join with the community of humans down at Peet’s, the latte sipping busybodies, who rant, rave and muse about the big and the little that touch us all.   This is a high-pace tune with joyful, rockabilly energy inviting us to embrace our inclination to complain and gossip about the “goings on up and down the street.”  

3 Al Purdys.   Oh my!  You say you like the Cockburn gravely growl, ala “rats in the maze?”  Well, unless you’ve been feeding rocks to your wood chipper, you haven’t heard anything until “I’ll give you 3 Al Purdy’s for twenty dollar bill.”  I had never heard of Al Purdy (insert American guilt here), so back to Google.  I love this dramatic tune.  The melodic voice over-on the lead-in made me think of “Use Me While You Can.”   Then, Bruce picks up steam with a musical documentary about “one tough son of a bitch” poet from Ontario, Canada.  There’s more to the story here as Bruce co-wrote “3 Al Purdys” together with the prolific but unknown and maybe disregarded writer himself in 2014, although Al died in British Columbia back in 2001.  Play it loud and growl along.

Looking and Waiting is a track I can already tell will, like “Look How Far” and “Live On My Mind,” grow on me over time, and I like this aspect of it.  My bond with “Looking and Waiting” is already forging, and like all true bonds will last a lifetime.    “Looking and Waiting” is a thoughtful and introspective appeal for the God who is there, but so often elusive. 

 Bone on Bone.  Thank you, Bruce for the incredible, enduring gift of your guitar work.  Bone on Bone is a soothing instrumental. I can’t play guitar, but I have long sensed the quality of sound that fills the room from Bruce’s fingers expertly maneuvering and flowing across string and fret.  Bruce states to be playing bones on this track.  Bones?  Hmmm  . . . these bones have been giving all they have to give for 50 years.

Mon Chemin.  If, like me, you don’t speak French, you can only feel this one through the ears.  I sense self-loathing, and fervency, and maybe some anger.  Is this “Vagabondage” revisited, with an edge?  The English liner notes speak the poem, “My Road.” Bruce never fails to reveal himself, how he considers and questions the life he’s lived. 

In False River, Bruce produces a vivid, throbbing, but melodic account of our destructive nature, in this instance, our violence upon the waters.  Both musically and lyrically, notwithstanding a cameo from Bart Simpson, “River” may be the saddest song on the disc.   There are no answers, just resignation.  It “ain’t the way it’s supposed to be.”   

All is not lost.  Bruce closes out BoB with two reviving spirituals, Jesus Train, which he wrote, and Twelve Gates to the City, a traditional to which Bruce contributed additional verses.  Both songs fit together, like the closing hymns of the service, busting through the doors of a southern country church.  It’s a rambunctious, grass roots gospel medley to be sung together.  Hope endures.  Together we ride joyfully to the City of God, to a beautiful city, open to all, through any gate, “hallelu.”   

BoB delivers a musical journey through the spirit and heart.  No Burnhead will be surprised.  Bruce does what he has done for 40 years, capturing what we inherently feel but cannot express, offering up what he has gathered and grasped along the way.  Accompanying Bruce on this powerful work are trusted old musical friends, John Dymond, bass; Gary Craig, drums and percussion; Colin Linden, various guitars (Colin also masterfully produces the album); and Julie Wolf, accordion.  Finally, special treats from John Whynot on the organ, John Aaron Cockburn on the accordion, Ron Miles on the cornet, Scott Amendola on drums, John Shifflett on upright bass, and Roberto Occhipinti on upright bass.   Thank you Bruce.  You made us wait . . .  but it was well worth it.


September 15, 2017
(Interview date August 25, 2017)
Artsfile

The creative spark still burns brightly as Bruce Cockburn delivers new album, tour
by Peter Robb

At a certain point in his career, Bruce Cockburn decided that if he wanted to be a “serious” writer of songs he needed to get … well … “serious.” That led to a year of emulating other “serious” writers by spending each day putting pen to paper.

At the end of that year, he learned something.

“I didn’t have any more usable songs than I would have, if I had just waited for the good ideas to come,” he said in an interview. “So I dropped that policy and just waited for the good ideas and I’ve been doing that ever since.”

Seems to have worked out just fine.

In fact, the Nepean high alumnus has just released his 33rd album Bone on Bone and will be inducted formally into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Sept. 23 with Neil Young and the seminal Québécois artists Beau Dommage and Stéphane Venne at a ceremony in Toronto. That’s right after his latest tour rolls into town for a show at the National Arts Centre.

At 72, the multiple JUNO winner is still doing what he does best, but nobody ever said it was easy.

“I don’t feel like I have all that energy but it seems to keep going anyway. So why stop? I certainly don’t take it for granted. The body is aging, the brain is aging, all that stuff.”

It’s been awhile since the last recording was released. In between he churned out a memoir of his life so far called Rumours of Glory. That effort left him drained and dry.

“When I finished the book,” he says, “it was on my mind whether I was going to write any more songs. I had been working on the book for three years and hadn’t written anything else.”

But after a period of time the songs started coming again and there was eventually enough for an album and a few instrumental pieces and bits and pieces that were not included on the record.

“So there is reason to think it will keep going. But I don’t take it for granted because stuff gives out.”

Writing, for Cockburn, is very much dependent on inspiration.

“Sometimes good ideas come from having a certain kind of intention. I’m not the kind of writer who says ‘I’m going to write about topic X.’ It has to wait for an idea but once the idea is there, then I do pursue it” in a rigorous and vigorous manner.

“Sometimes I’ll be somewhere and I think, I really want to write a song about this but it’s more I hope I write a song about this. You put it out there and sometimes the idea comes. That’s as close as I get to planning.”

His instrumental pieces are written with his hands.

“Once an idea or a motive comes and is established I’ll hunt around for things to go with it, but the initial impulse comes from the hands when I am practicing or fooling around with the guitar.”

Bone on Bone the album is named after Bone on Bone the instrumental piece.

The cover artist for the CD found that title funny, Cockburn said.

“I told him the title … he’s a pretty funny guy … and he goes, ‘Oh sexy!’ and ‘kinky this and that’.

Cockburn had to disabuse him of that idea by saying “it’s about not having any cartilage. It’s about arthritis. But it’s a good title, it has a bit of a snap to it.”

He does say the album has “more spiritual stuff on it than other recent albums,” although, it’s “not exclusively that. It’s kind of from everywhere, it’s me being alive in the world today.” That spiritual sensibility shows up in songs such as Jesus Train, Twelve Gates to the City, Looking and Waiting and Stab At Matter, echoing in the title at least the Stabet Mater.

“I have always believed that my life had a direction, that it was not something I had to decide on. I make all kinds of decisions and choices but in the broader sense, there was a direction coming from outside, coming from God basically.

“Frequently I’m distressed because I can’t understand why I have to go through this s**t, but God said so.”

But the fact is, he says, it all has worked really rather well.

There are 11 songs on the record produced by Colin Linden. One of them is called 3 Al Purdys, a tribute to the poet and ranconteur. Cockburn participated in a fundraiser to preserve Purdy’s home in southern Ontario and few years back.

Cockburn today calls San Francisco home. He’s there because his wife has a job there. It’s where they are raising a daughter called Iona. But you get the sense it’s not necessarily a comfortable place.

The U.S. is a “crazy place” today, Cockburn says.

“I feel closer to the centre of the craziness than when I was living in Canada. In some ways it  would be very nice to move back to Canada, but I am committed to be here for the time being.

“It has struck me that we Canadians live in the one pocket of sanity in the western hemisphere.”

But like songs that don’t always come, Cockburn believes Canadians shouldn’t take their current national sanity for granted.

As someone who wrote a song about picking up a rocket launcher, Cockburn is politically attuned.

He believes there is energy to the debate in the U.S. and elsewhere, but he worries that people who oppose President Trump are just offering resistance.

“I’m happy for that. But at the same time we have to offer something more than resistance. Resistance means you give up. I’d hate to see that. What we are not seeing is someone offering an alternative leadership. One hopes it will come out of this ferment.”

Now that Bone on Bone is up for sale and people are praising the msuic, is there a sense of relief?

“Absolutely. There are always questions. We finished the album a few months back now and I’m going ‘Gee, I wish we had done this or that or the other thing.

But that’s nature of making music from scratch, he says.

One neat aspect of this album and tour is the fact that his brother Don’s son, John Aaron, has joined the merry band.

‘It’s an interesting connection and it certainly feels good” to have him on board.

The Ottawa show will feature the new album, some hits and some other older songs that are more obscure. The set list might change so he wasn’t sure what would make the Ottawa lineup at the time of the interview, but he did mention one tune from the album Big Circumstance released in 1988 called The Gift and another from the album Further Adventures Of released in 1978 called Rainfall. Both of these seem to fit the times, he says.

“Sometimes these things will just pop up out of the murk of time and want to return again.”

Cockburn says he does like coming back to Ottawa “my family is there and it’s part of my history for sure, but I have never really felt that anywhere was home. Home is out there somewhere.”



bccdportrait daniel keebler

September 12, 2017

“Pulse to the pull of moonrise”

Bone on Bone
Bruce Cockburn
True North Records – CD – TN0678
Released – 15th September 2017
Produced by Colin Linden

Review by Richard Hoare


This is Bruce’s first new album release since the publication of his memoir, Rumours of Glory by Harper Collins in 2014 and the True North CD Small Source of Comfort in 2011.

His return to matters of the spirit and the gospels puts this strong work third in development after In The Falling Dark (1976) and Dancing In The Dragons Jaws (1979). The gospel theme is aided by The San Francisco Lighthouse Chorus. Bruce’s wife found a church she identified with and after a while Cockburn joined her.

Most songs use the nucleus of Gary Craig on drums and John Dymond on bass fleshed out with Colin Linden on guitar, John Aaron Cockburn on accordion and Ron Miles on Cornet. Two songs employ the rhythm section of Gary Craig and Roberto Occhipinti on upright bass who played with Bruce to great effect at the Montreal Folk Festival and Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2015.

The album’s lyrics weave a theme that seem to create a complete work.   

States I’m In fades in with dusk and clears with dawn burning off. The lyrics set out Bruce’s stall of conflicting life experiences that make up who he is today. These incidents and observations play on his mind while he tries to make sense of his life. Cockburn plays rhythmic acoustic guitar and the band drive the song along embellished with organ, mandotar and startling singing bowl.

The title Stab At Matter is a play on the title of the 13th century Catholic hymn Stabat Mater which portrays Jesus’ mother’s suffering during his crucifixion. Bruce on acoustic guitar is joined on vocals by Ruby Amanfu and they stir the crying and singing to set the spirit free. 

Forty Years In the Wilderness is Cockburn’s title twist on the story in the gospels of Jesus spending 40 days and nights in the wilderness trying to avoid temptation. 40 years ago Bruce was drawing on themes of the spirit in albums in the late 1970s. Cockburn mulls over his unforeseen opportunities over the last forty years and what direction he may take in the future, with a song chorus of immense beauty. John Aaron Cockburn plays an accordion wilderness bed throughout the song. 

In Café Society Cockburn surveys the population that visits his local coffee shop at the start of the day with his all-seeing eye noting “misery loves company”. As Tom Waits once wrote and sang on Blood Money (2002) - Misery Is the River of The World – a Cockburn favourite. Bruce may just have hidden one of the great put-downs of Trump in the last two lines of this song. The band lock into a chugging harmonica powered rhythm like a track from “Exile on Main Street” and we are introduced to the wonderful cornet of Ron Miles, the album’s secret ingredient. A musician who found wider exposure playing with Bill Frisell.

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3 Al Purdys – Al Purdy (who passed away in 2000) was a unique straight talking Canadian poet whose work had not entered Cockburn’s sphere until he was asked to contribute to a documentary about the man – Al Purdy Was Here. This was the first time Cockburn had written any song since writing his memoir so it forced him into breaking the song drought. Poets have had a strong influence on Bruce throughout his life – Bill Hawkins, Paul Stoddart, Allen Ginsberg, Ernesto Cardinal, Kenji Miyazawa to name a few. Here Cockburn has imagined “a down and out” street person ranting tracts of Purdy’s poetry as well as his own narrative. Julie Wolf plays accordion and Ron Miles’s beautiful cornet puts me in mind of Jack Kerouac era jazz. While the film is not available outside Canada check out the Al Purdy anthology, Beyond Remembering. The performance reminds me of a Cockburn quote from Metal Trails Music Magazine (2013) “I like music that has a bite or edge to it with a sense of exploration”. 

Looking and Waiting seems to me a beautiful vignette of how Bruce juggles the twin experiences of catching songs from the ether and experiencing the divine. The performance is underpinned with the graceful understated slide of Colin Linden and a delicate infectious coda of mbira and sansula. Bruce used the similar analogy in Radium Rain – “a flock of birds writing something in the sky in a language I don’t understand”. 

Bone on Bone, after which the album is named, is an instrumental played on (acoustic) guitar and bones – it says in the CD booklet! Presumably his bones! Unfortunately bone on bone normally signifies osteoarthritis. This week Bruce was asked this very question in an interview by blogger Spaced-Out Scientist in Montreal and Bruce confirmed that Bone on Bone refers to that condition. He has hands like that. I can’t think of many other artists who would parade their ill-health in an album title!  

Mon Chemin is French for My Road. In the late 1970’s Cockburn included songs sung in French on each of four consecutive albums starting with In The Falling Dark. This is possibly the most infectious band performance on the album which includes Bruce on charango and John Aaron Cockburn on accordion delivering a hypnotic, seductive rhythm and Ron’s cornet blowing some beautiful understated solos including the meandering coda.

False River was one of the last songs to be recorded, the longest track and a lesson in restrained playing – delicate harmonica and accordion supported by the back beat of Michael Occhipinti on upright bass and Gary Craig on percussion and drums. These are some of the best lyrics on the album hung on a tanker oil spill then spreading out to highlight the detrimental effect this and other related matters are having on the environment. Listen carefully to this wonderful song and performance.

Jesus Train was one of the early songs to break Bruce’s song writing drought and he performed it live ahead of other material on this album. From a dream apparently, possibly recalling fragments of People Get Ready written by Curtis Mayfield and performed by The Impressions in 1965. Curtis wrote “All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’, You don’t need no ticket, just thank the Lord” while Bruce has penned “standing on the platform locomotive throbbing, I’m drawn to that open door, in the wonder of a child’s heart I’m stepping up the stair” to a skiffle shuffle beat with the Lighthouse chorus in full voice.

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Twelve Gates to The City is a traditional song with new verses written by Cockburn. In the Joan Baez Songbook from 1964 there is the following text – “This song has long been one of the favourites of African American street singers and itinerant preachers throughout the US. It was recorded by blind street minstrels in the early days of “race” records and these recordings undoubtedly affected the oral circulation of the song. The reference is to the City of Heaven mentioned in the New Testament – Revelations 21:13, 14”. Bruce’s lyrics make all citizens of the world welcome to the kingdom of heaven. This performance is a joyous spiritual with lots of call and response vocals topped off with Ron Miles New Orleans style cornet.  

The CD package is another original work designed by A Man Called Wrycraft. Bruce took the selfie on the digipack cover and Daniel Keebler photographed everything else. Daniel shot the booklet portrait on the balcony of chez Cockburn against his former stage backdrop. The photo of the carved wooden crow and magnifying glass stand is from the same location while the real upstart crow and rear cover of the digipack are near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The Keebler camera also took the shot on the disc itself at Bruce’s hideaway rehearsal space in the same city and the photo across the gatefold of Bruce playing his beautiful resonator. 

I have played this CD a great deal. Bruce was asked to write a spiritual memoir by Harper Collins but no one at the publisher seemed to be able to define that term. Whether intentionally or not Cockburn has now produced an inspirational spiritual themed album of songs that defines the state of Bruce in 2017 and is immensely enjoyable. This album is an object lesson on how to play an acoustic guitar with a band. Cockburn still has what it takes. 

Photos: Keebler



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September 10, 2017
The Spaced-Out Scientist

Bruce Cockburn on his new album, upcoming tour, spirituality​ and the state of the world
by Annie Webb

Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist and activist Bruce Cockburn has been described a “spiritual poet”, an “iconoclast” as well as the “Bob Dylan of Canada”.

With a career spanning almost half a century, Bruce Cockburn is an ever-evolving artist, who has undergone many stylistic shifts. He is a consistently meticulous guitar player and a skilled lyricist. His music blends folk, rock, pop and jazz, and his lyrics address human rights, environmental issues, politics and spirituality.

His 33rd album Bone on Bone is out on September 15th, 2017, which coincides with his induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame and the launch of his longest touring schedule in decades, with a stop in Montreal on September 19th at Club Soda.

Bruce Cockburn is a 13-time Juno Award winner and an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee and a recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. In 2011, he welcomed the birth of his daughter and in 2014, he released his critically-acclaimed memoir Rumours of Glory.

I spoke to Bruce about his new album, osteoarthritis, Jesus, the search for God, the state of the world we’re leaving to our children and his upcoming tour.

____________

Your new album flowed out of an invitation to contribute a song to a documentary film about the late Canadian poet Al Purdy. Why did this set you off on the writing of your album and how much of an influence is Al Purdy in your lyrics?

He’s a considerable influence on the lyrics of the song called “3 Al Purdy’s”, which includes the recitation of pieces of his poetry. Otherwise not.

That song was the first to be written. It came after an extended period where I hadn’t written anything at all – at least no songs. I wrote a book, which is a whole different kind of thing. That enterprise took up all the creative juice that would have gone into song.

When the book was published and I didn’t have to think about that anymore, I’m standing around wondering if I’m going to write any more songs now because it’s been four years since I’d written anything. When I was in the midst of this period of uncertainty, the invitation came along to write a song for that film. I said “yes”, because I felt like if it works, it would get the process going again and put me back on the songwriting track. I was very glad to be able to get that song and have it work, and I’m very grateful for the ones that came along afterward.

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What are your main inspirations for your new album, as well as the overarching themes? 

The inspiration for all my songs is life as I experience it. There’s no particular theme. I’ve never been the kind of writer who sits down and plans out what I’m going to write songs about or how to put together an album around a particular idea.

The album acquires a type of thematic content because the songs come from a particular period in my life. There’s a certain kind of unity and feel – to some extent lyrical content – that reflects whatever I was going through when songs were written. Out of that stew pot of experience, there’s a fairly noticeable spiritual bent, which is not new and not unusual. But there have been times when it’s been less an obvious part of songwriting as it’s been on this album. There’s that and there’s how it feels to be in the world the way it is right now.

In the film Pacing the Cage you’re asked, “Are you more of an optimist or a pessimist?” and you rapidly reply, “I think we’re fucked”. I know you’re a social and environmental activist and have a 5-year-old daughter. I have a young child as well and I’m worried about what the world will look like when she has her own kids. Do you feel the same way about your young daughter’s future, perhaps more than with your first daughter (who is now 40 years old)? 

Yeah, I think so. I’m not sure if it’s more because 30-40 years ago there was a lot to worry about as well. It feels like it’s more precarious now than it was 40 years ago – the state of the world, that is, and the state of the world as something that I’m handing on to my child. I found that when my first daughter was born, the sense of responsibility became very strong, but that I’m somehow responsible for at least to whatever degree I’m complicit in perpetuating this stuff we see around us.

When you’re going hand this world onto your kid, you better make it the best one you can. At the same time, you want to prepare your child for what they’ll have to deal with. There’s a balance that has to be found between keeping things in hand and preparing for the inevitable – or what might be the inevitable.

I feel like the world is actually coming apart. I don’t have enough confidence in that opinion to sell it as a prophetic message, but that’s how I feel. I look around and it looks like entropy to me. One of the songs, “Cafe Society”, mentions that: the word “entropy”. If you want to look at it from a religious point of view, it looks satanic. It looks like the forces of chaos are really flexing their muscles. The effects of that are far more noticeable than any antidote that might be offered in spiritual circles.

Flapping lips of flatulence bellow “vote for ME"
Everything is spinning in the looming entropy 

– Cafe Society

I believe there is that light. Even if it’s a faint hope, there’s the hope that enough people will be motivated to act out of a sense of our interrelatedness to each other and the planetary processes that keep us alive. If enough people get that and start living from a place of understanding that, then it will have an effect.

The title of your album and the title track is Bone on Bone. Bone on bone usually refers to osteoarthritis, when you have no cartilage left between joints. What is the significance of “bone on bone”?

You’re right. That’s exactly what Bone on Bone refers to. I have hands like that. My finger joints have no cartilage left and some other spots like that too. It’s interesting because most young people don’t think about that. The phrase “bone on bone” doesn’t mean anything to them.

Micheal Wrycraft did the album artwork. In one of our first phone conversations, he asked me what the title of the album was going to be and I told him: Bone on Bone. And there was a pause, and he said, “Ooooh, sexy.”  I said, “No, Michael, no. So not sexy.” But that’s what it is, and it seemed like a good title for a guitar piece using those fingers.

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Does the osteoarthritis in your hands affect your guitar playing these days?

Yes, it does. I don’t think it affects it in the way that anybody’s able to hear yet. Eventually, it will. I hope I don’t have the presence of mind to quit when that comes around. But at this point, I’m getting away with it.

There is religious and spiritual content to many of the songs on the album like “Jesus Train”. You’re on the “Jesus Train”: who is Jesus and what does he represent? 

If you asked me this in the 70s, I would have given you an answer that was compatible with church teaching. That he was the incarnation of the divine on earth, that he lived how he lived and died how he died, etc. etc., and returned from the dead. Over time, that mental picture weakened, and I was not convinced of the reality of that – but not of what he stands for.

Lots has been written on these kinds of questions. In a certain way, the Jesus story echoes older stories from other cultures in the area, from ancient Egypt for example – these kinds of messianic figures that appear in various cultures and at various points in history. I have trouble with the exclusivity and the historical facts of whether or not there was Jesus.

I never lost interest in having a relationship with God, but what that relationship is supposed to consist of has come under question. But that search has led around. After decades of not being a church-going guy and for a long time not even thinking of myself as Christian, here I come back around again and now I do go to church. I’m not quite sure if I’m a Christian or not, but I’m thinking a lot about that.

Who is Jesus? He’s a representation of the divine. Whether he’s the only one or the best one is up for discussion. Part of my picture of Jesus is kind of a Jungian archetype, a collective animus. I don’t know if that’s right either. This is all subject to revision and drastic change with whatever next step is in front me that I haven’t taken yet.

Where did the song “Jesus Train” come from? Is it a metaphor for the spiritual path?

The song “Jesus Train” just popped out of me in church. It popped out having a dream in which there was a train that was definitely a spiritual presence: a powerful, armored locomotive. Looking back at the dream, it just seemed like that was the Jesus Train. It then ended up being a song.

There’s a lot of power in that train. For me, the image is not one of blissful meditation or feeling in tune with the universe. This is: “get on this train and charge through whatever landscape you have to charge through to get where you’re going.” Because it’s a train, you don’t have to fight your way through yourself. You’re on a vehicle that is going to take you there, no matter what.

Standing on the platform
Awed by the power
I feel the fire of love
Feel the hand upon my shoulder saying “brother climb aboard”
I’m on the Jesus train

– Jesus Train

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Over your almost 50 year career, what’s changed the most and how have you evolved as an artist?

The biggest change I notice is in my body. I’d like to think I’m a better artist and I’m deeper into what I do. I have a keener sense of what makes a good song than when I started. Certainly in the beginning, my sense of what a song was, was really a product of all the songs I’d listened to rather than the ones I’d written.

At this point, when I’m writing a song I can be critical of what I’m writing at the same time as I can be excited about it. I think in the beginning there was only the excitement and not the criticism and not the ability to stand back and say: “Is this really going to work? Is anybody going to understand this?” I don’t want to be ruled by my anticipation of people’s response to the song because that’s not how you make art. But, at the same time, the album is out there for people to hear so you want to make it to some extent accessible.

This is your longest tour in decades. How are you feeling about getting back on the road?

I’m very excited about it. This tour is paced in a different way than what used to be normal because of my daughter primarily – because I have a family I want to maintain a relationship with. I don’t want to go out for six weeks at a time and come back for two, and then go out for another six, which is the way we used to do things when we had a new album.

But I haven’t stopped performing. This tour will be done in 3-week chunks with more time in between, so I get to have a family life at the same time as I get to do the touring. I’m very excited to be getting back on the road, especially with a band because almost all the work I’ve been doing for the last number years have been solo. It’s going to fun to have a real extra oomph on stage.

Bruce Cockburn performs at Club Soda on September 19th in Montreal. Doors open at 7 PM, show at 8 PM. Tickets: $53.25 to $55.25. See tour dates across North America here.

Photos: D. Keebler



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September 8, 2017
No Depression

Bruce Cockburn’s New Album “Bone On Bone"
by Brittney McKenna


Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada's most beloved songwriters, earning 12 Juno Awards and spots in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame over the course of his storied career, which spans nearly five decades.

It's been six years since Cockburn released a studio album -- 2011's Small Source of Comfort -- but the songwriter announced earlier this year his plans to release a 33rd LP, Bone on Bone. The new collection of songs, produced by Colin Linden, touches on many subjects close to Cockburn's heart, including the poet Al Purdy, life in Trump's America, and the complexities of personal spirituality.

Below, Cockburn offers some insight into a handful of Bone on Bone's tracks. Listen to the album in its entirety before its September 15 release date.

On "40 Years in the Wilderness"

“There have been so many times in my life when an invitation has come from somewhere... the cosmos... the divine... to step out of the familiar into something new. I’ve found it’s best to listen for and follow these promptings. The song is really about that. You can stay with what you know or you can pack your bag and go where you’re called, even if it seems weird, even if you can’t see why or where you’ll end up.”

On "States I'm In"

“It’s literally a ‘dark night of the soul’ kind of song, as it starts with sunset and ends with dawn. It passes through the night. The song is about illusion and self-delusion, looking at the tricks you play on yourself. Maybe it’s also a play on words about me living in the States.”

On "3 Al Purdys"

“I went out and got Purdy’s collected works, which is an incredible book. Then I had this vision of a homeless guy who is obsessed with Purdy’s poetry, and he’s ranting it on the street. The song is written in the voice of that character. The chorus goes, ‘I'll give you three Al Purdys for a twenty dollar bill.’ Here’s this grey-haired dude, coattails flapping in the wind, being mistaken for the sort of addled ranters you run into on the street—except he’s not really ranting, he’s reciting Al Purdy. The spoken word parts of the track are excerpts from Purdy’s poems. After that, once the ice was broken, the songs just started coming.”

Photo: Daniel Keebler



September 8, 2017
The Chronicle Herald

Cockburn Back On Track
by  Tim Arsenault


bc 1 daniel keebler

Bruce Cockburn hasn’t exactly led an unexamined life.


The Canadian singer-songwriter published a memoir in 2014, has been the subject of biographical documentaries and likely submitted to countless newspaper and magazine interviews throughout his career.

The most conspicuous evidence about himself, though, is contained in his large catalogue of songs, starting with his self-titled debut in 1970 as a fresh-faced folkie. After a recent tuneless dry spell he found worrisome, Cockburn, 72, releases his 33rd album, Bone on Bone, on Sept. 15 and commences a tour next week in the Maritimes.

Cockburn considered during a phone interview whether he had enough perspective to judge the depth of his new work.

“I wonder if I do,” he said.

“Let’s see. Let’s think about that for a minute.

“I wouldn’t dispute that it’s an introspective album at all. In that sense, in my mind, it would be typical of most of what I’ve done. I think that’s just as true of the stuff that people wouldn’t necessarily interpret that way. … People think If I Had a Rocket Launcher, for instance, is some sort of political polemic but it’s a totally introspective song. That might not be how people heard it on the radio, but that’s what it is.

“I don’t know that this album is more introspective than that, it’s just maybe because there’s nothing that can be attached to a social issue or whatever.”

The cover art of Bone on Bone even shows Cockburn peering intently through a magnifying glass, suggesting that topics will be subject to investigation.

“Yeah, there’s not much hidden from view; not much that’s interesting, at least. It just goes with the territory. The alternative was to remain in obscurity,” he said.

“People get to hear my songs, and I get to make my living doing what I do.”

Cockburn fans should find Bone on Bone fits just fine alongside his best work. There are several spiritual songs, a version of Twelve Gates to the City that should sate blues fans and the title track, a deft guitar instrumental.

“You’ve probably read all the crap they’re sending around so you know that it’s the first in a while because I was working on the memoir, then after the memoir was done — I spent three years writing prose — I wasn’t sure I was going to have any more song ideas. I was very relieved when they started coming.”

So, the man who came up with Lovers in a Dangerous Time, If a Tree Falls and Wondering Where the Lions Are was sort of left waiting for a miracle. One arrived, so to speak, in the form of the raspy 3 Al Purdys, something initially intended for a completely different project that ultimately sparked a fresh creative period.

“It came about because there were some folks in Ontario who were about to make a documentary on Al Purdy, who’s one of the all-time great Canadian poets,” Cockburn said.

“He would have been of my dad’s generation; a really great wordsmith and a kind of quintessential Canadian, as far as that goes.

“I figured this would be a chance to find out if I was going to be writing songs again — or not. If I could do something for the film, it would kind of get the whole creative process rolling. And it worked out; right away, I got this idea for a homeless guy who’s obsessed with Purdy’s poetry and raps it on the street.

“After that, the songs just started to flow.”

The band he’s taking on the road will feature drummer Gary Craig, bassist John Dymond and Cockburn’s nephew, accordionist John Aaron Cockburn. They will gather for about a week in Toronto to go over the show, which Cockburn suggested would already be in firm shape on the East Coast.

“I don’t think people are going to think of it as something formative that they’re witnessing. It’s going to be a show. What’s been the case in the past is that there’ll be certain songs in my imagination that will work well together and we’ll do a show like that and maybe they will, maybe they won’t. If they do, then we’ll keep doing that. If they don’t, it gets adjusted.

“Generally speaking, the show will be pretty much the same in the Maritimes as it is next February, when we’re on the West Coast. “

Cockburn plays Halifax on Sept. 16 at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, with Terra Lightfoot opening. There are also shows Sept. 15 in Fredericton and Sept. 17 in Summerside.

He said he’s fond of travel and still enjoys touring. Still, concessions are made to accommodate shifting personal obligations.

“I look forward to it greatly. I think it is also sort of an obligation. That’s perhaps too strong a word; it’s certainly the default position when you’re putting out an album. The expectation is you’re going to be touring.

“There’s a slight difference now. I’ve got a five-year-old at home and a family relationship that I need to maintain, so the pacing of the tour is going to be slightly different than previous ones. … It’s generally three-week stints instead of six-week stints so I can be away and still be recognizable when I get home.”

Cockburn, long an exceptional guitarist, said maintaining that talent also has demands, including an obligation to practise daily.

“The fact is, I don’t. But I should, and I regret it when I don’t because the older you get, the longer warmup time is needed to get back to wherever you thought you were.

“It’s just like any physical activity; you need to maintain co-ordination and muscle strength and all that stuff to execute the moves you want to make, and you need to maintain the kind of brain-hands co-ordination that’s required, which takes repetition to make happen. I want to explore, not just play scales and do my exercises.”

It may not seem right to some, but Cockburn, a national icon who will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Sept. 23, has been living in the United States for eight years.

“It comes and goes. You think the civil rights movement was over in the ’60s but it’s not at all. Different aspects of it have surfaced because parts of it got addressed and parts of that problem were fixed, but overall it wasn’t fixed.”

The Ontario native has put down roots in San Francisco. Based on his description, it sounds like the city lives up to its reputation as an enlightened urban enclave.

“I think it’s more comfortable. My friends who live in Nashville have to keep their heads down, more for social reasons. You just don’t want people mad at you all the time; it’s not because their lives are in danger.

“And, yeah, San Francisco’s beautiful.”

Photo: Daniel Keebler


September 6, 2017
CBC Music

Q & A: Bruce Cockburn, Bone On Bone
by Andrea Warner

“Take up your load, run south to the road,
Turn to the setting sun,
Sun going down, got to cover some ground,
Before everything comes undone.”

-Bruce Cockburn


The gentle lilt of his guitar, that familiar voice a little more road-worn but still warm and wise, and those words. This is his first studio album in seven years, but few lyricists help us to know ourselves more deeply than award-winning singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn.

Above is the chorus from “40 Years in the Wilderness,” the third track off of Cockburn’s new record, Bone on Bone. CBC Music has the advance stream playing a week ahead of its Sept. 15 release. Listen via our player, pre-order the album here and get a list of his Canadian tour dates here.

A week after Bone on Bone drops, Cockburn will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Sept. 23 in Toronto, alongside Beau Dommage, Stéphane Venne and Neil Young. It’s a fitting honour for Cockburn, who, over the course of almost five decades in the music industry, has penned some of the most thoughtful and enduring folk and pop songs of the 20th and 21st centuries, including his U.S. breakthrough, “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” and the gorgeous “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”

But after writing his 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory, Cockburn wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to write anything ever again.

“I didn’t write any songs until after the book was published because all my creative energy had gone into three years of writing it,” Cockburn said in a press release. “There was simply nothing left to write songs with. As soon as the book was put to bed, I started asking myself whether I was ever going to be a songwriter again.”

Three years later, Bone on Bone is here.

Cockburn spoke with CBC Music over the phone from his home in San Francisco about writer’s block, finding his faith again and how the late Canadian poet Al Purdy helped kick start the making of Bone on Bone, his 33rd album.

_____________

The fifth song on the record is called “3 Al Purdys” and I love the fact that he was an entry point for you after your break with songwriting. What was your relationship to him and his poetry? 

I actually didn't have any relationship with him or his poetry really, until the invitation came to contribute to the film [Al Purdy Was Here]. I was aware of him certainly and I was aware of his reputation but I hadn’t really gotten into his stuff at all. When the prospect of doing something for the documentary was raised I went out and got his collected works and I was completely blown away and amazed that I'd missed it all those years. And regretful, because it would have been great to have met him, or at least to sort of been able to track the development of his work over the years. You can kind of do that looking at the book as a retrospective, but he really was an incredible poet and so Canadian. I can't think of anyone other than Stompin' Tom Connors who so exemplified a certain aspect of Canadian culture.

And there's so much pathos and humour in his work.

When I got asked to write a song, I had not written anything for a while. All the time I was writing my memoir and I couldn't really get into the concept of songwriting because all the creative energy was going to the book. I was kind of wondering, "Am I going to write songs again?" The invitation came to do this and it was like, "OK, this will be the kickstarter." I immediately thought of this image of this homeless guy who comes across as being penniless for his art. I pictured him kind of in the wind, coattails blowing and he's ranting on the street. Well, not really ranting, he's reciting Al Purdy's poetry, he’s obsessed with his poetry. The chorus is "I'll give you three Al Purdys for a 20-dollar bill," I think Purdy would've approved of that, probably.

I think so too.

Basically the guy's like, "You look at me, you see a homeless bum, you think I'm ranting. But you've got to pay attention to this, 'cause you can spit on the prophet, but pay attention to the word."

I think a lot about those themes, and they’re in your work, too, the obligation of humanity to see a little bit deeper than we sometimes want to.

I agree with you. When you encounter the surface of something, there's a massive depth behind it. Allow for that even if you don’t know what's in there, so that you have the chance to discover more. It's important to kind of approach everything in life like that.

Can we talk a little bit about 'Forty Years in the Wilderness'? I think this is one of the most extraordinary songs I've heard this year and I'd love to know a little bit about what went into writing it.

I was in church one day and the sermon was about Jesus descending from heaven and he realizes who he is, or what his mission is let’s say. One of the gospels basically describes him as kind of jumping up and running off into the desert. He spends 40 days in the desert and in the story he's tempted by and being offered all sorts of great worldly things, which he rejects. This [sermon] happened right about the time, not to the date, but more or less 40 years since I'm a churchgoer. And I'm back in church and I'm hearing this, and I'm thinking, well — it's not quite correct to say why, but a large part of me not being a churchgoer was learning about the world.

It hit me at the end of the ’70s, way back when, that if I was going to love my neighbour as myself I'd better find out who my neighbour was. I embraced urban life at that point, which previously I'd been very suspicious of, and I made a point of kind of socializing myself in a very different way from how I had been before that point. And over time, I mean, didn't just happen overnight, but ah, you know, I had a lot of adventures. I met a lot of great people and some not-so-great people and I travelled to some amazing places and I pretty much fell away from going to church, although I did not fall away from my belief in God and my desire for a relationship with God.

My wife who was going through her own spiritual searching was kind of steered toward this particular church [in San Francisco] and had gone pretty regularly for several months before she managed to convince me to actually go and I went and I completely fell in love with the place — well, not with the place but with the people and the spirit that's there.

Your guitar playing is really the centrepiece for so much of the record and I was really curious about how the guitar has helped shape you as a storyteller over the years. It seems like it's an extension of your storytelling.

I almost think of it the other way around. I'm a songwriter because I wanted to be a guitar player. I started off wanting to play rock and roll guitar, under the influence of Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent and Elvis. I never did end up playing that music, per se, but that got me wanting to play the guitar and, you know, over the years, the earliest years of playing I began to imagine myself being in the jazz world and playing, you know, composing music mainly, but playing on the guitar. I never got the chops together to be a jazz musician.

Well the reason I didn't is that I felt after I got to know it more, that it wasn't really where I was being invited to go. I was interested in all kinds of other music as well by the time this kind of turning point, decision-making wise. I was heavily under the influence of Bob Dylan and singer-songwriters/folk music of the ’60s. My mother said, "Well, you're gonna have to sing, you know. Play guitar and sing too." And I'm going, "Nah, no way, I'm not singing." She had a lot to do with convincing me that singing was something I could pull off, even though I was terrified of doing it.

Once I was learning folk songs and blues tunes, it wasn't a very big step to start writing songs. It was the guitar that started it all. And I've always loved the instrument and loved making music on the instrument, whether there was a song to be sung or not, you know?

I’d like to talk about the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction. I was wondering if we could just briefly look at some of your most popular songs and just how your relationship has changed to them, perhaps, in some cases the decades between when you wrote them and when they are now. Let’s talk about ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher.’

That was a heavy song at the time and it's still heavy when I perform it. In order to make a song live in a performance setting I kind of have to be in the song, I have to be in the state of mind I was in when I wrote it, and ah I honestly don't like being in that state of mind. It's not a fun place to be, but not because of the notion of committing an act of violence that I don't particularly approve of, but just to relive the atmosphere that produced that song. But people like to hear it. I like playing it because I like the way the music fits. I like doing the guitar solo in it, in particular, so that helps mitigate the sort of cloak of angst that I have to put on in order to put the song across properly.

Does it feel particularly relevant again?

I don't think its relevance has ever really diminished. The connection to the current goings on is pretty obvious, of course, and the ... I mean if you write a song about war or about the kind of mindset that goes with war. We're surrounded by it in the media right now and it's right up in our faces because we're being invited by a couple of maniacs to think seriously about participating in a war.

Absolutely. What about ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time’?

I sing that song a lot, the same applies to "Rocket Launcher" and a couple other ones, the ones that have been particularly popular. I get tired of singing them because they're in every show, you know? Like, "OK, can we just have a show that doesn't have this?" But at the same time I want to sing them and I want to give people, first of all what they paid to hear, to some extent, and I also am grateful that people have allowed these songs to touch them and I don't in any way want to be thought of as disowning these songs. So I sing them and I'm fine with that but at the same time, you know, "Lovers" is a song I could see not doing for a while except that it's going to be in the shows because for the reasons I said. The fun part of this is going to be the tour that's coming up is a band tour. I haven't done a band tour for quite a while and so we can really rework some of these things a little bit from the kind of solo presentation that I've been giving. And that'll make it fresh and fun for me.

What about an overlooked gem of yours? What do you think is a song of yours that should have resonated but maybe it didn't and you love it a lot?

Oh boy. I don't have a very good answer for that one. When I'm thinking about putting a show together or thinking about, like, the repertoire that I'm going to be drawing from for a period of time — 'cause I can't retain all of the songs in my head at the same time. I can manage to hold about 50 or 60 of them and then after that, if I were to pick an old one I'd have to go back and relearn it. There are songs that the "non-hit," quote unquote, ah, songs that I think of as, at any one time as part of the repertoire change over time and um, so right now I'm thinking about songs like "The Gift," which I'd forgotten all about and it came back. Saw a video of me doing it on a German TV show and I thought, "Wow, that's a pretty good song. I should get that together again."

There's a couple like that. There's another, a song, this isn't quite what you were talking about, but there's one of the songs that's really been popular with people, called ‘Peggy's Kitchen Wall’ and that I have not been able to play for a long time because my fingers over the years, in the last decade or so, have become a little arthritic and they've actually changed shape a bit so I can't quite reach as far on the guitar neck as I used to be able to do. It's only a matter of of a couple of millimeters, but that's a couple millimeters between one side of a guitar fret and the other side of the guitar fret so I haven’t been able to play ‘Peggy's Kitchen Wall’ but I recently discovered a way to actually make it work so I'm excited about being able to play that again.


September 2017
International Times

Looking and Waiting
Bone On Bone
by Rupert Loydell

I’m not alone in thinking that Bruce Cockburn’s releases for the last decade or more have not been very exciting, certainly nothing to match his 1970s and 80s output, (particularly The Further Adventures of,  Humans and Inner City Front for me) when he was busy combining mystical visions of nature with sceptical questioning of both faith and politics, and drawing on the guitar explorations of bands like Television’s Tom Verlaine, what became known as world music, and the work of writers like poet Allen Ginsberg and mystical novelist Charles Williams.

So although I’ve continued to listen to Cockburn’s music, and read his autobiography last year, I’ve learnt not to expect anything earth-shattering or too different from him, just enjoy the music and lyrics. This seems a sensible approach, as people are far too good at claiming so-and-so has made a return-to-form or that their new album is their best ever. Bone on Bone is neither of these, but it is an interesting, freewheeling, loose-limbed and lithesome collection of songs (and one instrumental), with some revisiting of ideas and themes from earlier works.

The album begins with a fingerpicked acoustic guitar and then the sound of singing bowls, before Cockburn considers both personal and national identity in ‘States I’m In’. It’s a clever pun, a playful approach that’s continued with the second track, ‘Stab At Matter’, a  wordplay on Stabat Mater, which is the name of an ancient hymn exploring Mary’s suffering seeing her son crucified, here re-imagined as someone shaking off lamentation through incantation and revelation, moving on to ‘set the spirit free’.

Elsewhere, Cockburn people watches in the city, waiting and wondering about strangers and his state of mind, considering ‘Cafe Society’ as a wonderful ‘sip of community’; reimagines ‘Forty Years in the Wilderness’, perhaps linking to Jesus’ 40 days out there, an event he previously wrote about in ‘Dialogue with the Devil’; wonders about where his ‘road would be / if not here’; and considers the desire for and pull of spiritual belief in the loping chug of ‘Jesus Train’. The album concludes with a cover version of the gospel song ‘Twelve Gates to the City’, here a metaphor for heaven, peace, love and communal living, where ‘no matter what tribe you’re in there’s a way in for you’, everyone is welcome and all can find a home. It’s a clever and uplifting, oblique critique and stand against racism and nationalism, and all the better for that subtlety, in contrast to the somewhat heavy-handed ‘3 Al Purdy’s’ earlier on.

Throughout, the production is warm and clear, often simple and direct, always considered and appropriate. Cockburn’s (mainly acoustic) guitar playing is exemplary, the percussion, keyboard, accordion and cornet particularly effective when introduced to shade and colour the music. Cockburn has clearly relaxed into San Francisco, is enjoying family life as an older father, and benefitted from five years away from the recording studio. Bone on Bone is a carefree, and enjoyable album that intelligently explores the spiritual and societal states we’re all in. I’ve been playing it over and over again for the last few weeks, and will continue to do so. Despite being well known elsewhere, much critical acclaim and several UK tours, Cockburn remains somewhat invisible over here. Let’s hope this helps raise his profile, even if it is 40 years too late!


August 2, 2017
Toronto Star

Songwriters share their fave obscure Canadian songs
by Peter Goddard 

This is an excerpt from the original article.


Bruce Cockburn

His pick: “The Black Fly Song,” by Wade Hemsworth

“The summer I was 15, I was working as a pot-washer at Camp Ahmek on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. It was my fourth summer there,” says Cockburn. “I had an electric guitar. I’d been playing for about a year. There was a kid named Jay Something-or-other who had a Martin acoustic on which he did rudimentary finger-picking. Tum tiddy tum tiddy tum tiddy tum tiddy. He played ‘The Black Fly Song’ with that rhythm. The lyrics resonated strongly in that Laurentian Shield rock, water, jack pine and no-see-um atmosphere. The song still resonates as a perfect expression of what for me was an archetypal Canadian experience.”

Editor’s note: Hemsworth is arguably the least prolific songwriter in Canadian history, with just some 20 songs in over 50 years. Originally from Brantford, he spent much of his life living, working and just plain surviving in the north. “The Black Fly Song” says everything about his love/hate relationship with the land he loved best. “I’ll die with the black fly a-picking my bones/ In north On-tar-i-o-io, in north On-tar i-o-i-o.”


July 7, 2017
The Vancouver Sun

Comox-bound Bruce Cockburn reflects on impact of his hit Rocket Launcher 
by Larry Pynn


It has been 33 years since the release of Bruce Cockburn’s darkly infectious hit, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, a stirring commentary on the injustices the Canadian singer-songwriter experienced during a visit to Central America.

Today, the song remains as valid — and potentially misunderstood — as ever.

“A lot of people relate to it currently, in terms of Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria, any number of places,” Cockburn said in a recent interview in advance of his July 15 appearance at the Vancouver Island Music Festival in Comox.

“Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be running out of war and pain.”

Cockburn recalls the “scary” experience of playing the song for 2,000 Christians at a music festival in England in the 1980s, and everyone enthusiastically singing: “If I had a rocket launcher … some son of a bitch would die.”

For reasons like that, he is not comfortable with people singing along to the song.

“There’s nothing joyful or celebratory about it. It’s truthful, but that’s not a pleasant truth to me. I don’t like reliving it.”

Cockburn also appeared in Santiago, Chile, to support banned artists during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. A Chilean singer repeated each line after Cockburn in Spanish. “When we got to the end, the audience was on its feet. That was also quite chilling. These people had a different perspective on it.”

The Ottawa-born Cockburn wrote Rocket Launcher after visiting a refugee camp in Guatemala.

“Most people relate to it for close to the right reasons. It’s a cry of outrage. Very few people understand it as a call to arms.”

Ultimately, what does he hope to achieve from a political song?

“I hope to write a good song and have people hear it. That’s it. I don’t think songs change the world. People change the world and if people embrace a particular song as a kind of anthem, then that song becomes part of the process of change.”

Cockburn is talking over the phone from a Starbucks in San Francisco, where he’s lived the last eight years and where his second wife, M.J. Hannett, works as a lawyer. This afternoon, he’s with his five-year-old daughter, Iona, and apologizes for the interruptions.

“Sorry, I am using a carrot to try to spread peanut butter on a piece of bread. Actually, I’m quite proud of myself.”

Over the decades, Cockburn has drifted between Christianity and spirituality, spurning the trappings of formal religious dogma and the unyielding conservatism of some movements. He’s found some solid ground at San Francisco Lighthouse Church.

“I am kind of coming back to calling myself a Christian again,” he says. “It’s a vibrant, alive place, and kind of free thinking. Everybody is here because they really want to be, not out of habit or social convention.”

Cockburn is an accomplished lyricist and guitarist who, at age 72, endures arthritis in his hands.

A few songs such as the instrumental Foxglove are now too difficult to perform.

“It’s not enough of an impediment to stop me from performing. If you come and hear a show, I won’t think, ‘Oh, he doesn’t play like he used to.’ ”

Cockburn has 32 albums to his credit. Some of his best-known songs include Tokyo, Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Wondering Where The Lions Are, The Coldest Night of the Year, and If A Tree Falls — a 1989 song that touched environmentalist David Suzuki.

“I was blown away by it because we were involved in a big battle to stop a dam in Brazil,” Suzuki recalls. “It was a powerful demonstration that music transcends language and culture and cuts straight to the heart.”

Cockburn’s 33rd project, Bone on Bone, is scheduled for release in September. He says fans can expect spiritual undertones, a “bluesier and rougher” sound than on past albums, with a political song about oil called False River.

What propels him at this stage of his life?

“The words demand the music. It’s not a deliberate process. The songs take the shape they do.”




July 5, 2017
Prince George Citizen

Cockburn playing free show in Prince George Tonight
by Frank Peebles

Rock 'n' roll poets are few, but Bruce Cockburn is one of those rare legends of both instrument and word. 

His songs have been quoted in books and movies and even in other songs (by U2 in God Part II). Cover versions of his songs have catapulted other acts to stardom (Barenaked Ladies). And his name has been evoked in global conversations for humanitarian efforts and social development. 

Other stars like Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett and Emmylou Harris are outspoken fans. Steve Bell, one of Canada's most notable Christian performers, did an entire album of Cockburn covers. 

Cockburn is, by any estimation, a master of the guitar. He plays a finger-style that was honed on jazz at the Berklee School of Music but the raw material was carved from the blues found around his Ottawa upbringing, then steeped in international concepts he picked up along the way. When Cockburn travels, he always brings a little something home. 

He also has a healthy appetite for poetry, from which his abundant lyrics emerge. 

He's written some lightning bolts, the most famous of which is "gotta kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" found tucked in the folds of his classic hit Lovers In A Dangerous Time. 

It is hardly alone. Sizzling metaphors and turns of phrase engorge the sails of his music career. 

He told The Citizen that he studies master poets and reads it for fun as well, but he knows his place on that bookshelf. 

"In a way, writing songs gives you an out. You can get away with - and sometimes you're obliged to get away with - things that wouldn't really stand up on the page very well, because they have to go with the music," he said. 

"I can say yeah, I'm a pretty good guitar player for a songwriter, or I'm a pretty good songwriter for a guitar player. It's not really poetry, what I do, but it's so much like it I hold myself to that standard."

He cites Robert Bly, Blaise Cendrars and Kenji Miyazawa as some of his favourites, but the first one that turned him onto poetry at all was Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish he discovered in 

Grade 6, and the first one who inspired some of his directions in life came with a beat. 

"Allen Ginsberg was for me what Bob Dylan was as a songwriter," Cockburn said of the back alley bard of San Francisco - the city in which Cockburn now lives. 

It wasn't a pilgrimage. Cockburn's wife has a job there, Cockburn's work is portable, so the move was academic. So was becoming the stay-at-home parent for their daughter, now five. 

He spent her first three years writing a different sort of composition. He penned his autobiography, Rumours Of Glory, during her first three years. 

"It seemed like the right time. It seemed like I was old enough to have a story to tell," he said. 

The topic of a book had come up before, but this one was suggested by publisher HarperCollins who urged him to talk about his spiritual Christian mentalities as much as his music and social activism. 

"During that period I didn't write any songs so I was kind of wondering if I would be a songwriter again after that was put to bed. And luckily, I think, I still am," he said. The album Bone On Bone is the echo of that, scheduled for release in September. 

Perhaps some of that new material will spread across Canada Games Plaza tonight when Cockburn performs at tonight's edition of the Heatwave Festival celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary. 

Cockburn has always been a proud representative of Canada, on the global stage. But he is also a fiercely realistic one. 

Songs like Stolen Land, They Call It Democracy, and If I Had A Rocket Launcher are but a few that prick the skin of abuse to indigenous people here and around the world. 

He has gone to places where these abuses are splattered in blood. Canada's power imbalance has been violent, there have been brutalities and victimizations, but he is cognizant that at least the conversations now are about reconciliation, restoring balance, and minimizing the ongoing damage. 

"We were duplicitous colonists and then we were bad friends," he said, knowing that this week's Canada Day celebrations are only valid if they take stock of the pain the making of Canada caused, and still causes with documents like the federal Indian Act still overlaying aboriginal relations. 

"It is obviously an ongoing concern," he said. 

"A lot of the right noises are being made but not a lot of the right actions are taking place, yet. There's some good talk, and good talk is better than no talk, and changes are slowly occurring but thing we have to remember on all sides is, we have no where else to go. We've got to deal with this like family members in a situation that needs rectifying. It's a dialogue that has to go on between brothers and sisters, not 'us' and 'them.'"

He also has his daily dose of local politics to keep his eyes clear on Canada's progress. He lives in the nation that can't seem to stabilize its rhetoric anymore. Cockburn likened Donald Trump to the demonic clown named Violator in the Spawn comic book series. 

"The dialogue is no longer civil," he said of the American cultural condition anymore. "There is no room for reasoned dialogue. There's no room for friendly persuasion. The only persuasion is at gunpoint, and we haven't quite gotten there yet, but it is on the horizon. It is amazing to hear where it's gone."

As a poet, a songwriter, an author, in almost any form he's ever taken Cockburn is above all an observer who conveys what he sees in forms of art. Tonight, he shares that with Prince George. 

The festivities get underway at 7 p.m. with opening acts Khast'an Drummers and Scarlett Jane. 



June 30, 2017
FYI Music

A Conversation With ... Bruce Cockburn
by Bill King

We lived in what was stamped a “hippie haven” in the early seventies – Gothic Avenue, which borders Quebec Avenue – in High Park, Toronto. The brown rice/alternative lifestyle sanctuary was a haven for writers, musicians – in fact the late Billy Bryans lived only a few steps away and was playing in a band called Horn. Music was big fun and discovery. You could start in the early morning after a hit of a hash/tobacco joint and walk in on neighbours. Music played day and night, in fact it was all about checking out the person next door’s album collection.

The progressives blasted Emerson, Lake and Palmer – the countrified – Pure Prairie League – and the folkies loved their Tea for the Tillerman/Cat Stevens and a newcomer rising on the Canadian scene, Bruce Cockburn.

Even if you didn’t pay much attention you learned who the artists were were through peripheral listening. I had Bruce’s voice memorized as well as his fluent guitar playing. Cockburn stuck with you like he belonged in your life. Right time, right place!

The debut – Bruce Cockburn, produced by Eugene Martynec, came with a single that seemed to follow Canadians everywhere – Going to the Country. I know the inhabitants of Gothic Avenue were served a new side each year we survived the developers wrecking ball – High Winds, White Sky – Sunwheel DanceNight VisionJoy Will Find a Way and In the Falling Dark.

Come September, Cockburn is inducted into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (CSHF)and releases his thirty-third recording, Bone on Bone. I connected with Bruce from his San Francisco home and collected his thoughts on a number of issues, episodes and events.

You have a couple of big events in September – induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and your 33rd recording – Bone to Bone. Your thoughts?

Any particular order? The exciting thing for me of course is the album – it’s been awhile since I’ve had an album out. I’m happy with the songs and how it came out. I’m anxious to get it out and get people to hear it. The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame thing is nice. There’s a lot of ‘halls of fame’ in the world. In one way, it’s delightful to be recognized by the scene – people who enjoy what I do and people who are close enough to it to appreciate what I do. That means a lot. I can also remember thinking, getting inducted into some kind of hall of fame means you should already be dead or about to be. I don’t feel like that now. It feels pretty good. I also remember being somewhere and there was the towing and removal hall of fame – every industry has one. This is a national one and a big deal – it’s nice and I’m very appreciative.

It’s about songwriting too – something very special.

It’s nice to be recognized by the people who understand what you do.

You have a healthy attitude about your career. It’s spanned decades and there is no reason to retire – just keep making music.

Yes – as long as I can keep doing it, that’s what I want to do. I don’t take it for granted or assume my feelings would ever change – it could, but hasn’t so far. I like what I do and I like performing the songs I write for people. It’s the way they get to hear them best and the way I get to share them in the presence of actual human feedback. As long as I’m physically able to do it, I expect I will.

Do you still enjoy your time on stage?

I’ve always been terrified on stage and that hasn’t really changed that much. Terrified would be overstating now but back in the beginning it was terrifying, now it’s just kind of stressful. When you perform your songs to actual human beings in a live situation, that’s where the song really lives and becomes meaningful. If nothing else, the experience of being there focused on the same thing with a whole bunch of people is a pleasant sensation. Then afterwards, it feels good for a few minutes and then you start thinking about all of the things you did wrong and then it takes a day or two before you start feeling good about it again. Along with the precarious situation is the idea of making a living without having a boss. Being able to travel – some people would find it as having an adventurous lifestyle. It’s a great thing – a gift and not everybody gets to do it.

You were there at a time when the “protest song” made a difference in people’s lives. It was impactful. The war in Vietnam came to a halt through song and action. Are there songs out there today having the same force or influence?

I don’t know. I don’t think it’s down to the songs in this generation, but means and distribution. You can write the best song in the world and it’s not going to change things itself. It has to fall on fertile ground. In the sixties and up to relatively recently, the way a song fell on fertile ground was when it got sung at a protest – when it was sung to an audience who understood what it was protesting about and sympathized with the message. Then it becomes an emotional rallying point for all of that popular feeling that’s out there. If you don’t have that, I don’t think the song is going to have that much of an effect. People relate to music in a different way from most of the time I’ve been around. I’m not sure what that adds up to. In the state that I’m living there’s more popular feeling than you kind of want – it’s so polarized. There’s a lot of angry people on one side and lot of bewildered and worried people on the other. Can somebody write a song that would establish common ground with those opposing views that would be effective?

You live in California – a state that’s kind of a country unto itself now.

It is sort of. It is certainly resisting some of the trends that are sweeping the rest of the country. How long that can go for, who knows? Once they get into the real contest – the vast sums of money that transfer between the federal government and the states – just like in Canada – the federal government has a significant amount of leverage over a state like California. It hasn’t come down to that kind of arm wrestle yet. California, by and large, is forward looking as a society. This is where people are paying attention to environmental concerns in a deeper way than a lot of places. With respect to some issues, California gets carried away. Like Etobicoke in Toronto – it’s famous for having more bylaws than anywhere else. Unnecessary things like how long your grass should be.

We tend to go that way – there are a lot of laws in this state. Some are not very smart, I think. There’s a significant amount of energy behind having a future and having influence over the quality of that future. I think that may have to do with the relative absence of fear. It’s also the kinds of jobs too. The jobs that aren’t skill jobs are mostly agricultural. In Kentucky or West Virginia where the economy has mostly been dependent on mining – they are screwed! They are worried and angry. You can’t blame them. It isn’t about environmental laws like the powers that be keep painting that way, because there are never going to be mining jobs again – it’s all going to be automated.

Even if they rolled back all of the controls and let corporations do whatever they want, there still won’t be work. California is lucky in that respect that it isn’t currently in such a state of collapse. What will happen with the agricultural industry with climate change is another thing. We don’t know.

Bone on Bone? Is there a theme or something that links each song?

They are linked by the period of time they were written. People will notice an emphasis on the spiritual side of things more characteristic of what I was doing in the seventies than what I’ve done recently. It’s a rawer kind of sounding record – kind of bluesy and deliberately rough around the edges than some of them have been. The songs seem to suit that treatment. I don’t think people are going to see this as a “political, quote, un-quote album”. I don’t think I’ve written anything people would call a protest song on this album, but there might be one. There’s a song called, “False River” that’s about oil. That I think would qualify. There are passing references to that state of things but it’s more interior.

Even the Stones reacquainted themselves with their past and just put out a blues side.

I haven’t heard that album and I hear it’s good. I liked it when they started writing songs that were more in line with their actual real roots. The music that came out of English culture, but heavily blues-based. They got more interesting after they started writing about their understanding of life. That said, there’s nothing wrong with honoring those old blues songs. I think that’s what they intended to do in the beginning and did again now.

Some day I have intentions of doing an album of other people’s stuff that would include that kind of thing. From the artists I learned from when I started out. In fact, there’s one of those on the new album, what we used to call a “negro spiritual”. It’s called “Twelve Gates to the City”. I used to hear the Reverend Gary Davis sing it, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry sing it and various others. The song keeps popping up – I don’t know why really. It’s a song I feel I have a relationship with.

With YouTube, Spotify and so many streaming situations it’s like the world of music has been harvested and archived. Do you spend time exploring?

I do that but I don’t have much time to do anything and don’t listen to as much music as I once did. There was a period back in the 70s’ I wouldn’t listen to anything I could be accused of imitating. I didn’t want to listen to any other songwriters. I didn’t listen to rock n’ roll or even the jazz I loved. I went around looking for music I hadn’t heard before. I got deep into European Renaissance music and ethnic music from various parts of the world and what we would now call “world music” and was not called that back then. It was just recordings of people’s folk music.

I was traveling in southeast Asia in connection with the land mine issue in Cambodia and ended up jamming with these two guys. One played percussion and the other the Cambodian equivalent to the erhu and the tunes were traditional music and sounded like a cross between Appalachian fiddle music and blues. Fast tunes really bluesy sounding in a minor key. A lot of sliding notes. I played rhythm – just tried to keep up. I’d never given a thought to what Cambodian music would even sound like. Here I am jamming with this guy – blind from a mine accident.

What’s taking up your time these days?

I have a five-year old. One more day of kindergarten then off for the summer. Going into grade one in the fall – and it’s takes a lot of attention. Some of it is terrific and some of it is draining – I’m too old for this. She’s a terrific kid and there’s a lot about this that is really wonderful. 



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 16, 2017

CANADIAN SONGWRITERS HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCES 2017 INDUCTEES

TORONTO, ON - On Saturday, September 23, 2017, after a five year hiatus, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) Induction ceremony returns with four incredible inductees, Beau Dommage, Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young, and Stéphane Venne, at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall .The bilingual ceremony presented by Richardson GMP, will feature remarkable tributes and performances from sought after Canadian artists including, Arkells, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Damien Robitaille, Daniel Lavoie, Don Ross, Élage Diouf, France D'amour, Florence K, Julie Payette, k.d. lang, Randy Bachman, William Prince and Whitehorse with special surprise artists to be announced in the coming weeks.

Fans can expect an exhilarating live show with breath-taking music, moving stories and stunning visuals. Tickets will be available to the public on Friday, May 19 starting at 10:00 a.m. via www.cshfinduction.ca and www.masseyhall.com.

"We are thrilled to be back to celebrate the extraordinary careers of Beau Dommage, Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young and Stéphane Venne at this year's ceremony at Massey Hall," said Stan Meissner, Chair, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. "These inductees truly highlight the depth and incredible legacy of the songwriting talent we have here in Canada."

The CSHF is a national, bilingual, non-profit organization, founded to honour and celebrate Canadian songwriters. Since 2003, theCSHFhas held seven highly successful induction ceremonies focusing on the unique craft of the song and celebrating the value of music in our society. This year's induction ceremony will be recorded for later broadcast by CBC Music in association with ICI Musique.

CSHF 2017 induction ceremony

Multi-platinum selling rock band Beau Dommage consisting of members Marie- Michèle Desrosiers, Michel Rivard, Pierre Huet, Robert Léger, Pierre Bertrand, Michel Hinton, and Réal Desrosiers, broke sales records with their self-titled debut album in 1974. Their second album, Où est passée la noce?, went platinum on the first day of sales. Beau Dommage went on to be the first group to receive the Medal of Honour at the National Assembly of Quebec and in 2013 they were chosen by Canada Post to be depicted on their own stamp.

"For nearly a century, from Madame Bolduc to Louis-Jean Cormier, thousands of Québec artists have sung and still sing, day in, day out and in French, the very soul of the people," said Beau Dommage. "Beau Dommage is proud to be one link in that chain. To us, this honour underscores the smiling tenacity ofla chanson Québécoise."

Bruce Cockburn's illustrious career has spanned over five decades. Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song, earning him 12 JUNO Awards, a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

"I'm honoured and deeply gratified to have the recognition of my work expressed by my being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. It's a gas!” said Bruce Cockburn.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Neil Young is one of the most influential and idiosyncratic singer-songwriters of his generation. From the beginning of his solo career in the late '60s through to the 21st century, he has never stopped writing, recording, and performing. The multi-platinum GRAMMY Award-winning artist has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and was honoured as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Acclaimed songwriter, arranger, and producer Stéphane Venne has written over 400 songs (words and music) to date. Twenty of his works charted at number one and are currently among the SOCAN Classics for accumulating over 25,000 radio plays.

"Beyond the ultimate compliment of being inducted in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, I would like to make a wish. I have, for the vast majority of my career, been a writer and composer, with basically no exposure as an artist. I hope my experience can be an inspiration for those who like me, that have something special to contribute thanks to their writing and nothing but their writing," said Stéphane Venne.

"At Richardson GMP Wealth Management, we share a passion for the Canadian independent spirit and we recognize not only the great talent but the commitment of our songwriters to this country," said Andrew Marsh, CEO, Richardson GMP. "As we celebrate 150 years as a nation, we proudly support the CSHF Inductee Ceremony and the recognition of these four great artists."

For more information and to purchase tickets visit: www.cshfinduction.ca or www.massyhall.com.

The CSHF is also pleased to acknowledge this year's event sponsors, ole, SOCAN Foundation, CBC Music, ICI Musique, SOCAN and Gowling WLG along with the Province of Quebec, Quebecor and Boucher Guitars.

For press images please visit: https://canadian-songwriters-hall-of-fame.prezly.com/media

For more information on CSHF please contact:

Laura Steen / Strut Entertainment / laura@strutentertainment.com /416.300.9254

Or

Samantha Pickard / Strut Entertainment / samantha@strutentertainment.com / 647.405.1715

About CSHF

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) honours and celebrates Canadian songwriters and those who have dedicated their lives to the legacy of music, and works to educate the public about these achievements. National and non-profit, the CSHF is guided by its own board of directors who comprise both Anglophone and Francophone music creators and publishers, as well as representation from the record industry. In December 2011, SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) acquired the CSHF. The Hall of Fame's mandate aligns with SOCAN's objectives as a songwriter and publisher membership-based organization. The CSHF continues to be run as a separate organization. www.cshf.ca

About Richardson GMP

Trusted. Canadian. Independent. Richardson GMP is Canada's largest independent wealth management firm, entrusted with over $30 billion in client assets. With offices across the country, we are home to some of Canada's most distinguished Investment Advisors. All Richardson GMP Advisors share a passion for professionalism and a commitment to delivering unbiased- and unparalleled-wealth management solutions. They are supported by the substantial resources of our founding companies and their respective track records of success in Canada. We are proudly Canadian. Fiercely independent. And dedicated to earning and rewarding your trust as stewards of your wealth. www.richardsongmp.com

Strut Entertainment / 545 King Street West / Toronto, ON M5V 1M1 / 647.405.1715 www.strutentertainment.com 


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May 13, 2017
Ottawa Start

For Bruce Cockburn, album tour a return to old ways
by Devyn Barrie

When Bruce Cockburn published his memoirs in 2014, he didn’t think he could go back to writing songs.

It was 2011 when the 13-time Juno award winning Canadian musician first sat down to bang out his book, around the same time his daughter Iona was born. As expected, becoming a father proved a distraction.

“It was weird,” he said in an interview with OttawaStart.com last month. “It was kinda a pain in the butt… I’d never gone that long without writing a song.”

After a while thinking he’d hung up his songwriting hat, the touch he is so well known for came back.

Soon, he’ll set out on a North American tour with his new album Bone on Bone, the 33rd album of his career. He’ll play at the NAC in Ottawa on Sept. 22.

“The tour will be a band tour, which I haven’t done in a while,” he said.

He’ll be alongside his nephew, accordionist John Aaron Cockburn, as well as drummer Gary Craig and bassist John Dymond, who are all featured on the album.

Opening their act will be Hamiltonian Terra Lightfoot, who spoke to OttawaStart.com last week.

Cockburn has become known for his politicized lyrics, often covering topics such as human rights and the environment. But there’s no mention of a very current political situation, he said.

“There’s nothing about Donald Trump,” Cockburn said. “I’d feel dirty if I did something like that.”

While he doesn’t sing specifically about Trump, he said some might interpret a cover of gospel song, Twelve Gates to the City, to be a reference to Trump’s Mexican border wall.

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“There’s a gate for everyone,” Cockburn said.

Lamenting the amount of time it takes to get an album out these days, which he says used to be much quicker, Cockburn said there isn’t a unifying theme in the album, or a single inspiration.

“The songs just come out wherever they come from,” he said. “I didn’t really write any of the songs with a theme in mind.”

Born in Ottawa on May 27, 1945, he was raised in Pembroke and attended Nepean High School. Today he lives with his family in San Francisco and looks forward to returning to the capital.

“I get back there every now and then,” he said, such as for the Juno Songwriters’s Circle at the NAC on April 2.

Growing up, Cockburn said, he felt the need to escape Ottawa’s bubble and travel more.

“I’ve always felt like a nomad,” he said. But he still feels a connection to his hometown.

“I feel very happy to come back and perform.”





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April 3, 2017
Finkelstein Management

Bruce Cockburn Announces North American Tour


Bruce Cockburn Is embarking on a tour of North America.     

All of the dates from September 15, 2017 to February 17, 2018 will be band shows and all the dates before September will be solo shows.

Bruce’s band shows will consist of a quartette with drummer Gary Craig, bassist John Dymond and accordionist, John Aaron Cockburn.

All three or them are featured on Bruce’s new True North album "Bone On Bone,” slated for release in the fall of 2017.

And for the record, John Aaron is Bruce’s nephew.

There are likely to be other dates added after February 2018.


February 16, 2017
American Songwriter

Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Cockburn Bring Star Power to Folk Alliance Awards
by Lynne Margolis

The 29th annual Folk Alliance International conference kicked off Wednesday night in Kansas City with a star-powered awards show that signaled the organization’s growing influence, despite the fact that none of its musical award-winners accepted in person.

Michael Kiwanuka, Sarah Jarosz and Parker Millsap did record video thank-yous for their respective Song, Album and Artist of the Year awards; Kiwanuka and his band, Inflo, won for “Black Man in a White World,” Jarosz won for Undercurrent and Oklahoma native Millsap was recognized in part on the strength of his 2016 release, The Very Last Day.

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And Bruce Cockburn showed up to accept the inaugural People’s Voice Award from performer/presenter Kris Kristofferson, who drew swoons from emcee Paula Cole earlier in the night. Meanwhile, Actress Megan Mullally, who presented the music awards, cracked irreverent jokes and promised to get “naked and wasted” at her own late-night musical showcase. But the evening had many moving and meaningful moments as well, including the acceptance speech by Spirit of Folk Award winner Ramy Essam, whose song, “Irhal,” became the anthem for Arab Spring protesters. He became known as the movement’s “musical voice” — for which he was imprisoned and tortured in Egypt. Now living in exile in Sweden, he said he was lucky to witness the strength music has to unite people of different backgrounds, and how it can “describe people’s hearts when they can’t speak and talk.”

“Dictators are really afraid from the art, the music,” he said. “I saw it when my music was forbidden in my country. I saw that when they arrested me two times; I really saw it in their eyes. They were afraid because art and music is the only thing that dictators can’t stop … that they will never be able to stop. … So, music all the time!”

For veteran Folk Alliance conference-goers, the night’s most poignant moments came during the tribute to former executive director Louis Jay Meyers. Meyers passed away on March 11, 2016, just weeks after last year’s conference and hours before he was to attend then-President Obama’s opening speech at another conference Meyers had co-founded: South By Southwest. A nine-minute video memoriam drew both tears and laughter; even the fact that it had to be restarted when the images failed to appear caused amusement. Speaker Doug Cox joked afterward, “I [was] backstage, about to start crying, and then Louis turned the power off. Thank-you, Louis.”

Cox is director of the conference’s music camp, which Meyers started after he stepped down as executive director in 2014, after nine years, to become special projects director. Original director Mark Rubin called it Meyers’ “last great vision” and Cox announced that the camp was being renamed in honor of Meyers, who took a somewhat identity-challenged organization and turned it into a stronger, growing entity. Attendance at this year’s conference rose to 2,781, nearly 300 more than expected, from 2016’s figure of 2,423. About 1,000 are attending for the first time.

They include Cockburn, who noted his award — which the organization created to recognize “an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers” — was the first honor he’s received in the United States. A Canadian citizen who now lives in the U.S., Cockburn first gained stateside fame with his songs “Wondering Where the Lions Are” and “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”

When he became known as a political writer, as opposed to previous tags of Christian writer or “the John Denver of Canada,” he said, “I had not thought much about the effect of the political aspect of my songwriting; I’d always felt, and I still do, that the job is to tell the truth of the human experience as we live it.”

“I’ve never been interested in protest for its own sake, or in ideological polemicizing,” Cockburn added. “Just fuckin’ tell it like you see it and feel it. If you don’t see it and feel it, write about something else. Songs need to come from the heart, or they don’t count for much.”

Earlier in the night, singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson presented another inaugural award, the Clearwater Award, named after the first organization to receive it, the Clearwater Festival. It will go annually to a festival “that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production.”

The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards, named for the Folk Alliance organization’s co-founder, were presented to composer David Amram (Living), activist and songwriter Malvina Reynolds (Legacy) and Canadian folklorist Helen Creighton (Business/Academic).

Other Spirit of Folk awards went to musical activist Barbara Dane, Australian festival producer Chloe Goodyear, outgoing FAI board president Michelle Conceison, writer and producer Si Kahn and LGBT advocate SONiA disappear fear.

FAI also inducted its first honorees into the new Folk DJ Hall of Fame: Oscar Brand, Mike Regenstreif, Howard and Roz Larman and previous FAI award winners Rich Warren and Gene Shay.

And Meyers’ niece, Laura Callahan, announced the formation of the Louis Jay Meyers Music Project, which will foster and support new and emerging talent and “his insatiable desire to make a difference … by providing and being an advocate and voice for independent music and those who make it.”

The conference continues through Sunday at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City.

Photo of Bruce & Kris by Lynne Margolis / Photo of Bruce, Kris & Bernie courtesy of Bernie Finkelstein 


February 16, 2017
Samaritan Magazine

Kris Kristofferson Presents Bruce Cockburn with First-ever People's Voice Award
by Kim Hughes

Bruce Cockburn will need to clear some space on the proverbial mantel. On Wednesday (Feb. 15), the legendary Canuck singer/songwriter and activist received the inaugural People's Voice Award from U.S.-based non-profit Folk Alliance International.

The award, presented to the San Francisco-based Cockburn in Kansas City, Missouri by no less a towering talent than Kris Kristofferson, recognizes “an individual who has unabashedly embraced and committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career.”

Indeed, the long-standing Folk Alliance International (a.k.a. the FAI and founded in 1989) could not have chosen a better torch-bear for its advocacy, professional development and networking initiatives than Cockburn.

His 40-year career has consistently highlighted environmental, social, and indigenous issues globally on behalf of such diverse NGOs as Oxfam, the UN Summit for Climate ControlAmnesty InternationalDoctors Without Borders and Friends of the Earth.

With some 30 albums spanning folk to jazz to rock, the 71-year-old Ottawa-born musician has drawn deep from his travels through Africa, Asia and the Americas, offering first-hand testimonials on environmental and social plights. 

Speaking of that crowded mantel, Cockburn is also the recipient of 13 Juno Awards, the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award (in 2006), nine honorary doctorates, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement (1998), and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013).

He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (2001), and is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a promotion he received in 2003 after first being awarded the Order of Canada in 1983. Pacing the Cage, a documentary film about his life, music, and politics was released in 2013. His memoir, Rumours of Glory, was published by Harper Collins in 2014.

Oh yes, and then there’s the seven million albums Cockburn has sold worldwide since his 1970 self-titled debut, notably Humans from 1980 (see the singles "Rumours of Glory" and "Tokyo”); Stealing Fire from 1984 ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher," “Lovers in a Dangerous Time"); and most recently, 2011's Small Source of Comfort.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1985, after observing the horrors of refugee camps along the Guatemalan-Mexican border, the normally pacifist Cockburn confirmed that he went back to his hotel room, cried, and wrote in his notebook, "I understand now why people want to kill."

The experience led him to write "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" from the above-mentioned Stealing Fire. It remains one of Cockburn’s best known and most iconic songs. 

“We can’t settle for things as they are,” the straight-shooting Cockburn has said. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”

In addition to Cockburn’s People’s Voice Award, the FAI also presented the first-ever Clearwater Award in Kansas City this week, feting “a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in education and sustainable event production.”

The winner? Its namesake organization, the Clearwater Festival, dedicated to celebrating and preserving New York’s Hudson River, now in its 50th year and recognized as one the world’s largest and most proactive environmentally focused cultural events.



February 16, 2017
Montreal Gazette

'Keep singing': Bruce Cockburn calls on folk artists to push for free speech
by David Friend


Folk singer Bruce Cockburn is encouraging U.S. musicians to keep pushing for free speech under the Donald Trump administration.

While accepting an honour at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, MO on Wednesday night he took a moment to address the volatile political climate.

"It seems evident that the current administration is not much interested in democracy," he said in prepared remarks.

"They are trying to stifle opposition across the board by a range of means. Looks to me like they're just getting started."

The Canadian singer, who lives in San Francisco, then urged musicians to be a catalyst for dialogue and debate.

"We may get tired, but we have to keep singing," he said.

Country singer Kris Kristofferson presented Cockburn with the People's Voice Award in recognition of his role in social and political commentary. His 1984 track "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" is widely considered a staple of activist music.

Cockburn reflected on his experiences as a young performer during the Vietnam War, and on later years when he found his voice during the U.S. presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

He then turned to the current U.S. political climate and told songwriters to consider their music as more than just words, but a "focal point for collective energy" of the community.

"Doesn't mean we can't sing love songs," Cockburn reasoned.

"But if you think you can keep your head down and ignore the political side of things, it's liable to be waiting for you with a blackjack in the alley when you come out the stage door."



February 15, 2017
Folk Alliance International
Kansas City, MO

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Bruce, Kris Kristofferson and Bernie Finkelstein at the Folk Alliance International Awards


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Bruce and Kris Kristofferson 



February 2, 2017
Cape Breton Post
David Friend

Sainte-Marie, Cockburn on the return of the protest song and power of music

TORONTO — Folk singer-songwriter Lindy Vopnfjord climbed into bed stunned on the night Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, but he awoke the next morning feeling activated.

Bristling with an urge to speak out, the Icelandic-Canadian musician wrote a series of lyrics that might've seemed alarmist at the time.

And even two weeks ago, when he finally released "Darkness is the Day" to coincide with Trump's inauguration, some of the words didn't resonate quite as much as they do now.

"Opinion is king, one-plus-one is three. The loudest truth is the truest, so repeat after me," Vopnfjord sings. "It takes a little time to get the spin to unwind. It takes a little time."

Vopnfjord is stunned by the evolution of his song's significance.

"There's so much that keeps feeding into the lyrics," he says. "There was more to it than maybe even I realized."

He's just one of countless musicians using their voice to push against what they see as an alarming political climate. Over the past month, prominent artists have contributed a chorus of anti-Trump anthems, which started flowing out ahead of the election last November.

Tracks by Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples ("I Give You Power"), Fiona Apple ("Tiny Hands") and the Gorillaz ("Hallelujah Money") have stood out as recent highlights.

Before that, artists like Franz Ferdinand ("Demagogue"), Jimmy Eat World ("My Enemy") and Amy Mann ("Can't You Tell?") collaborated for "30 Days, 30 Songs," a project that counted down to election day in the hopes of drawing attention to Trump's potential power. The campaign recently expanded to 1,000 songs that will be revealed throughout Trump's presidency.

Listeners appear eager to hear more protest songs too.

Several anti-Trump anthems became viral hits last year, including Ledinsky's "Donald Trump Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack" and YG & Nipsey Hussle's "FDT," a rousing rap track which pairs an expletive with the president's initials.

All of this newfound inspiration has longtime social-activist musician Buffy Sainte-Marie a bit suspicious. She questions why some artists only decided to write protest songs when there's "going to be money" in it.

But she's also not against more people speaking out.

"The art of the two-and-a-half minute song — it's such a powerful tool," she says.

"If you can say something in three minutes that somebody else had to write a 400-page book about, the book is going to be shelved. The song can live forever."

Sainte-Marie says she writes her songs with the mindset of a photographer capturing snapshots of history.

Her 1964 protest anthem "Universal Soldier" was a portrait of the Vietnam War era while "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" tackled the centuries-old plight of indigenous communities that still continues today.

She wrote "Universal Soldier" as if she was a student crafting an essay for a hypothetical professor who didn't see eye-to-eye with her perspective.

"I was determined to get an 'A-plus' out of this guy," she says.

"(I was) deliberately trying to give people a different point of view than they may have come across before."

Fellow activist songwriter Bruce Cockburn is cautious when it comes to deciding how to express his opinions through music. 

With a career spanning nearly 40 years, he's found himself inspired by causes like the environment ("If a Tree Falls") and the devastation of war ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher"). But so far, the U.S. election hasn't motivated him to write anything pointed, and he says it might not.

He says he doesn't want to veer into territory where he's just spouting his political views against a backdrop of bad music.

"It's not always obvious to put it in a song that (doesn't simply become) a propaganda diatribe," says Cockburn, who will receive the People's Voice Award at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo., this month in recognition of his social and political commentary.

So many political songs just capitalize on anger, he argues, but don't have any artistic merit. He points to 1965's "Eve of Destruction," a song recorded by Barry McGuire that topped the Billboard charts, as one example of a misfire.

"It was a huge hit, but a terrible song," he says.

Cockburn suggests the track was too literal and sounds especially dated now. Many protest songs that attack their subject head-on suffer the same fate of becoming irrelevant, he adds.

Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" stands as a far superior example, he suggests, or "We Shall Overcome," which began as a hymn in the early 1900s and evolved into an anthem of the civil rights movement.

"It had tremendous application over the years to any number of causes," he says of the latter.

"It's absolutely timeless."


January 10, 2017
Folk Alliance
Press Release
Posted by Jerod Rivers

Folk Alliance International to Launch People's Voice and Clearwater Awards

As part of a permanent commitment to honoring the socially-conscious roots of folk music, Folk Alliance International (FAI) will launch two new awards during the 2016 International Folk Music Awards show.The People’s Voice Award will be presented annually to an individual who has unabashedly embraced and committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career. The Clearwater Award will be presented annually to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in education and sustainable event production. Additional awards include Lifetime Achievement, Spirit of Folk, and Album, Song, and Artist of the Year presented on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Folk Alliance International Awards Show
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 6 pm 
Westin Crown Center Hotel, Century C Ballroom
Open to FAI conference delegates and registered members of the press.


Bruce Cockburn to Receive People’s Voice Award

The inaugural People’s Voice award will be presented to multi-platinum recording artist Bruce Cockburn, whose 40-year career has consistently highlighted environmental, social, and indigenous issues globally.  

Bruce Cockburn has been all over the world to Mozambique, Nepal, Vietnam, Baghdad, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to protest refugee camps, landmines, and Third World debt. He has been tirelessly vocal in support of native rights, the environment, the promotion of peace, and has highlighted the work of Oxfam, the UN Summit for Climate Control, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth.

His songs "Mines of Mozambique" from album  The Charity of Night, "Stolen Land" (Waiting for a Miracle), and "If a Tree Falls" (Big Circumstance) have traveled the globe providing context for some of the world’s biggest issues of the day, while exhorting to all who listen for engagement with our shared humanity.

In over 300 songs on 30 albums that range from folk to jazz-influenced rock, he has sold more than seven million records worldwide and prolifically captured the story of the human experience through protest, romance, spiritual searching, and politics. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1985, after observing the horrors of refugee camps along the Guatemalan-Mexican border he shared that he went back to his hotel room, cried, and wrote in his notebook, "I understand now why people want to kill." The experience led him to write "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" from the album Stealing Fire.  

Cockburn is the recipient of 13 Juno Awards, the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, nine honorary doctorates, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Pacing the Cage, a documentary film about his life, music, and politics was released in 2013. His memoir, Rumours of Glory, was published by Harper Collins in 2014.

“We can’t settle for things as they are,” Cockburn has warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”

Bruce Cockburn Book Signing
Thursday, February 16, 2017, 12 pm 
Westin Crown Center Hotel, location TBD
Open to FAI conference delegates and registered members of the press.


Clearwater Festival to Receive Eponymous Award

The inaugural Clearwater Award will be presented to its namesake organization, the Clearwater Festival now in its 50th year and recognized as one the world’s largest and most proactive environmentally focused cultural events.

Held along the banks of the Hudson River in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, the Clearwater Festival (also known as the Great Hudson River Revival) has roots based in the environmental movement.

Founded in 1966 by Pete and Toshi Seeger, the Festival began as a fundraising initiative in order to build a one-masted sloop called the Clearwater. The ship has been used for research, education, and advocacy to help preserve and protect the Hudson river, surrounding wetlands, tributaries, and waterways as well as communities in the river valley. To date, over half a million visitors have learned about the river while aboard.

Fifty years after the first event, the Clearwater Festival has become a steadfast defender, supporter, and advocate for the Hudson River. Through music, dance, storytelling, education, and activism it has helped over 250,000 people experience the wonders of its shores and has featured such luminary artists as Janis Ian, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Michelle Shocked, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dar Williams, Taj Mahal,  Christine Lavin, and Buckwheat Zydeco, among many others.

The event strives towards zero festival waste, and the goals of sustainability and social responsibility inform all decisions and programs. Use of carpooling, bicycling, and public transportation are encouraged, and the entire festival is wheelchair-accessible and staffed with American Sign Language interpreters. There are many elements to the festival, including seven sustainable bio-diesel-powered stages, environmental education exhibits, Handcrafters’ Village, Green Living Expo, Working Waterfront, Artisanal Food & Farm Market, and Circle of Song. All proceeds go to support research, education, and advocacy to help preserve and protect the river.

The festival is produced by the nonprofit, member-supported, environmental organization the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. The organization has received global recognition for advocacy, leadership, and its role in helping to pass landmark environmental laws including the federal Clean Water Act. Most recently, Clearwater, Inc. played a key role in the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to remove manufactured organic chemicals (PCBs) from the Hudson River.

http://brucecockburn.com/about/at-a-glance

© Daniel Keebler 1993-2017