December 15, 2012
Jackson Browne and Common Unite to Bring Leonard Peltier Home
by Patrick Flanary
During a phone call from a Florida prison minutes before Friday’s concert for Leonard Peltier, the activist jailed for the last 37 years pushed organizers at New York's Beacon Theatre to refuse money pledged in his honor.
"I hope this evening is not about raising funds, but raising consciousness," Peltier told event co-host Harry Belafonte, who with actor Peter Coyote introduced a lineup of Oglala Sioux Nation tribal leaders, human rights activists and musicians calling on President Obama to free the ailing American Indian prisoner before Christmas.
Throughout the event, titled Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012, grainy clips of news footage showcased the sprawling years of Peltier’s trial, conviction and doomed appeal. Jailed since 1976 on a conviction of murdering two FBI officers during an Indian Reservation shootout, Peltier, who is nearing 70, will serve time through 2040 unless the president commutes his sentence.
Folk tunes and Native American spirituals stretched over four hours, beginning with several never-performed verses of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" that 93-year-old Pete Seeger said he recently found in a batch of lyrics he’d written 60 years ago: "A time for dirt, a time for soap/A time for hurt, a time for hope," he gently wavered while strumming his acoustic.
Fresh off a flight, Mohican guitarist Bill Miller tuned his guitar onstage before attacking it with lightning-fast picking through Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower." Fellow First Nations musicians, including Jennifer Kreisberg and Geronimo and Buddy Powless, stripped things down and used only their voices to fill the venue with traditional and contemporary songs.
Bruce Cockburn and Jackson Browne later shared the stage for "Indian Wars," a song they recorded together in 1991. Browne followed with a tribute to his Native American friend, the late Floyd Westerman, with covers of "Boarding School Blues" and "Custer Died For Your Sins," and ended with Steven Van Zandt’s singalong, "I Am A Patriot."
Halfway through the evening, Common, the only performer backed by a band and DJ, injected 20 minutes of throbbing hip-hop into the event’s mostly acoustic setlist. Racing across the stage with his hand raised, he thundered through hits including "The People" and "The Light," and stunned the audience with an unannounced appearance from Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def, who emerged from the dark for "Umi Says." "If you want peace, work for justice," he said before departing as suddenly as he had arrived.
One man who dedicated his life to such justice was Rubin Carter, the former boxer whose story Bob Dylan memorialized in his song "Hurricane." After serving almost 20 years in prison, Carter was eventually released after it was determined he had not committed murders at a New Jersey bar in 1966. "Our freedom account is being looted," he said during the event, holding a worn piece of paper – a writ of habeas corpus –in his right hand. "I consider it to be absolutely sacred, and I never leave home without it."
Global figures like Nelson Mandela and the late Mother Teresa have long lauded Peltier as a humanitarian and called for his release, based on judicial misconduct and lack of evidence proving that he killed the federal agents. From his prison cell during the 2004 presidential election, Peltier ran as the Peace and Freedom candidate in states that allowed the party on the ballot. In California, more than 27,000 voters favored him over George W. Bush and John Kerry.
Six presidents have held office since Peltier’s conviction.
"If not you, President Obama, who?" activist filmmaker Michael Moore asked as he addressed the crowd. "All the wrong people are in prison in this country. As an American, this is not how I want to be remembered. And so I think that we have a much larger job: We have to get Leonard out of prison immediately."
Seeger returned to the stage and was joined by the night’s performers for the show closer, "Bring Him Home," which Seeger adapted from his Vietnam War protest song, "Bring ’Em Home."
Photo: Bobby Bank
Posted: December 5, 2012
2012 Whistler Film Festival Screens Cockburn Documentary
The documentary, Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, was screened at the Whistler Film Festival on December 1, 2012. Director, Joel Goldberg, told me:
"The evening was incredible. The screening was oversold, so the festival organizers had to scramble to set up extra seating before the screening. I gave up my seat as I was already at the press screening. I sat in the projection booth. Bernie and Bruce sat in the back row. Bruce, Bernie and I were welcomed by a singer/drummer from the Squamish tribe, as the screening was at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre. She did a great job and expressed her tribe's honour at having Bruce at the Centre. The packed house gave a standing ovation after the film ended. They even cheered after some of the song performances contained in the film! There was a Q&A afterwards and Paul Gratton, the programmer for the festival, said it was the first Q&A in which the entire audience stayed to participate."
You can follow Joel's work at his website, Joel Goldberg Productions.
Welcomed in song by a Squamish tribal member
Joel Goldberg (Director), Bruce Cockburn, Bernie Finkelstein
December 4, 2012
Bring Leonard Peltier Home 2012 Concert
by Shirley Pena
On Friday, December 14, 2012, The Beacon Theatre will host a diverse, devoted and distinguished line up of North American musicians to sing for freedom for LEONARD PELTIER.Hosted by Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger. Featuring Performances by Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, Jennifer Kreisberg, Bill Miller, Margo Thunderbird. Guest speakers include Author Peter Matthiesson, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Actor Peter Coyote and Former Amnesty International President Jack Healey.
On Friday, December 14, 2012, The Beacon Theatre will host a diverse, devoted and distinguished line up of North American musicians to sing for freedom for LEONARD PELTIER, a celebrated Native American activist and humanitarian imprisoned since the mid Seventies for his involvement with controversial incidents at Wounded Knee and Oglala, South Dakota, including the shooting deaths of two FBI agents. Robert Redford's 1992 documentary Incident at Oglala tells Peltier’s story.
This all-star concert is a multi-cultural event intended to raise awareness to Peltier’s 37-year ordeal and plea for clemency. Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte will join Pete Seeger to co-host performances by Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, Native American singers Bill Miller and Jennifer Kreisberg among others. Seeger, who also will be performing, says the event is the blessing he’s long been waiting for.
These musicians will be joined by a number of notable speakers including actor Peter Coyote and American author Peter Matthiesson, who wrote In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse, the Peltier story, and The Snow Leopard. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former Middleweight Boxer who spent 22 years in jail for a crime he did not commit and became an advocate for the wrongfully imprisoned, will speak for Peltier. Carter was the subject of the Denzel Washington film, The Hurricane and the song by Bob Dylan, “Hurricane.” Former Amnesty International President Jack Healey, of Human Rights Action Center in Washington, will speak about the many human rights violations in Peltier’s case. Tom Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux tribe, Bill Means of the American Indian Movement and Dorothy Ninham of the LPDOC will also discuss the case.
A beautiful short film that includes Carlos Santana and others voicing their support will be screened followed by a song recorded by singing duo Bear and the Willow.
Leonard Peltier is an accomplished author and artist, also known for his humanitarian achievements from behind bars. In 2009, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the sixth consecutive year. Peltier also has been awarded the Human Rights Commission of Spain International Human Rights Prize (1986); North Star Frederick Douglas Award (1993); Federation of Labour (Ontario, Canada) Humanist of the Year Award (2003); Silver Arrow Award for Lifetime Achievement (2004); First Red Nation Humanitarian Award (2009); Kwame Ture Lifetime Achievement Award (2010); Fighters for Justice Award (2010); and First International Human Rights Prize, Mario Benedetti Foundation (2011).
Peltier was convicted for the deaths of two FBI agents during a 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and has been imprisoned since 1976. Many around the world question whether he has received justice. Peltier has been designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the late Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, 55 Members of Congress and others — including a Federal judge who sat as a member of the court in two of Peltier’s appeals— have all called for his immediate release. He has been nominated six consecutive years for the Nobel Peace Prize – all from behind bars.
This one-time-only event is a rare opportunity to gather with traditional Native American artists and singers, including an opening prayer by Navajo Len Foster, opening song by Wisconsin Oneida singers Buddy and Geronimo Powless and Gina Buenrostro. The Canadian Cree drum group Eagleheart Singers will join with Mashpee Wampanoag drum group Wakeby Lake Singers to perform traditional honoring songs for Peltier. Both groups have been singing for Freedom for Peltier since the Seventies, often together.
Tuscarora Jennifer Kreisberg has contributed to several movie soundtracks and sung back-up for Bonnie Raitt, Richie Havens and Jackson Browne. Formerly a member of the group Ulali, Kreisberg is a mainstay of the Native American music scene as is Mohican singer Bill Miller of Wisconsin. Miller has toured with Pearl Jam, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie and many others.
Dorothy Ninham of the Wisconsin Oneida Nation, one of the concert organizers, and President of the Board of the LPDOC recently stated: “We speak as much for him, as with him. Each step we take to New York is a prayer. Our prayers will be answered when President Obama commutes Leonard's sentence. It's time for Leonard to go home. Mr. Peltier's human and constitutional rights have been violated many times.”
Ticket Price: $35, $55, $75, $125 (incl. $5 facility fee)
Where To Purchase: available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com by calling 866-858-0008 and in person at Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall and MSG Box Offices.
100% of net proceeds benefit Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee.
For more information about Leonard Peltier, visit:
Fact sheet about Leonard’s case:
December 2, 2012
Bruce Cockburn opens up as new documentary about his life screens at Whistler Film Festival
by Glen Schaefer
Bruce Cockburn shows up at the Whistler Film Festival for a screening of the documentary Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, and it occurs to me that he always seems to be moving.
The Ontario-born singer's career has been defined by songs that reflect restless travel to far-off places - Mozambique, Guatemala, Afghanistan, or B.C.'s Haida Gwaii.
"Let me pull off a couple of layers," Cockburn says, coming in from the cold. With a heavy overcoat, granny glasses, white hair and an earring, the 67-year-old looks like a hip granddad.
But, in fact, he's a new father, and despite the documentary - which got a full-length screening for the first time this weekend - and last month's lifetime achievement award from Canada's Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers, Cockburn isn't one to look back.
"I'm not very interested in retrospect," he says. "I'm more inclined to look at what I'm doing now and what I'm doing next than where I've been, in general."
Director Joel Goldberg followed Cockburn on a solo tour in 2009, and intersperses that footage with interviews from admirers ranging from writers William Paul Young and Brian Walsh, to fellow musicians Bono, Sylvia Tyson and Colin Linden. The tour also produced the Cockburn live CD Slice O' Life. It's the talking part that makes Cockburn nervous.
"I do some talking and other people do some talking about me ... which makes it mildly embarrassing to sit through in the presence of witnesses at least," he says. "It's a different kind of spotlight, less comfortable, I have to say, than being on a stage where you get to interact with an audience."
Cockburn was as interested as anyone else about what other people said. Writers talked about his spirituality - he's gone from a Christian world view to something more all-encompassing, a shift reflected as well in his music.
He's clearly pleased at what his fellow musicians have to say: "Colin Linden's comments about my guitar playing are very nice."
I wonder whether all that travel, and the curiosity that goes with it, is a key to his creative longevity.
"I've noticed that myself," Cockburn says of the sense of place that marks much of his work. "It wasn't something I set out to do. ... If you listen to the first couple of albums, they're really inside my head, not tied to a place or a set of events."
By the time of songs like the mid '80s hit, If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Cockburn was writing like a war correspondent. In the 1990s, he wrote The Mines of Mozambique after a trip to that country. "It's not journalism, in that I'm not under the obligation to pretend to be speaking objectively," he says. "It's my emotional response to what I encounter that triggers the songwriting process.
"It's my attempt to share the way those things have touched me. I don't take any of it for granted. I could end up not writing another song for the rest of my life as far as I know and that could have been true from day one. But when the ideas come, I try to grab them."
He went to Afghanistan in 2009 to play for Canadian troops and see the life being lived by his younger brother John, a doctor who volunteered to join the army at age 55.
B.C. remembers Cockburn best for his activism and a benefit concert in the mid-'80s on behalf of the Haida in the then-Queen Charlotte Islands, as they manned blockades to oppose clearcut logging on Lyall Island. The issue of land claims was settled in the Hai-das' favour, and the island chain's old name has been relegated to history.
"I'm sporadically in touch with the Haida folks," says Cockburn. He played at Haida Gwaii to mark a recent anniversary of that campaign, and "every now and then some emails go back and forth."
Cockburn cites his experience with the Haida in how his own spirituality as changed over time.
"I've been through phases in my life where I had more of a narrow view than I do currently," he says. "What the Haida and other native cultures have to offer ... is the recognition of and respect paid to interconnectedness. That's something the western faiths have lost sight of."
But there are no saints or sinners in Cockburn's view.
"The Haida were like the Vikings of the West Coast, raiding up and down, taking slaves. Nobody is free of taint, but in a way that makes us all in it together," he says. "We need to put those understandings together if we're going to survive."
Now living in San Francisco, where his new wife has a career, Cockburn says he's watching the current debate over oil tankers near Haida Gwaii and a new pipeline through B.C.
"I hope that pipeline does not happen, but history tends to suggest that it will," he says. "More often than not, the bad thing does happen, but you've got to keep working at it anyway."
Does that mean a new round of activism and benefit concerts?
"It hasn't been discussed at all, but if it was necessary and appropriate, sure. There's a lot of these trouble spots everywhere in the world and this is a big one."
November 29, 2012
Documentary on music icon hits Whistler Film Festival
Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage Screens December 1
by Alyssa Noel
When director Joel Goldberg set out to make a documentary about Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn, his timing was both perfect and unfortunate.
It turned out that Cockburn — who has released over 30 albums in his 40-year career — was getting set to record his 2009 live album, Slice 'O Life, during a tour of northeastern U.S. and Quebec and seemed to be a willing subject.
The market for music documentaries, however, was another matter. "It's very hard to sell one-off documentaries these days," Goldberg says. "You really have to find a broadcaster to trigger the funding."
Enter Vision TV, a Christian broadcaster. The religious affiliation didn't throw the doc off course, though. Instead, Goldberg and Cockburn met again, this time at his home, to talk about spirituality.
Bruce Cockburn Pacing the Cage, the hour-long finished product, ran to much success, but when the opportunity came up to screen an extended version at the Whistler Film Festival, Goldberg jumped at the chance. Cockburn will also attend the screening and take part in a Q&A after.
Goldberg spoke to the Pique recently about going on the road with his musical hero, Cockburn's surprisingly humble demeanor and the challenges of marrying film and music.
Pique: What can you tell me about the film?
Joel Goldberg: We split it up into different parts of Bruce's psyche. He's been on the road more in his life than at home. For him, the road is home. Then we went into his songwriting, guitar-playing abilities — he's one of the greatest in the world — his activism and Christianity then the final chapter is a Canadian icon looking back on his career. He's an amazing person.
Pique: Did you get to know him well?
Goldberg: I got to know Bruce really well. He's a brilliant person. There's not a lot written about him. The biggest thing I discovered is he's sort of a regular guy. He's a regular Canadian. He has a great sense of humour. He loves to talk about politics and current issues. He's more curious about other people. He doesn't like to talk about himself too much. I think it's that curiosity that has made him into an activist and made his songwriting so amazing.
Pique: How did you balance showcasing the music and telling a story?
Goldberg: When you're a documentary filmmaker, one of the things you find is that you watch the movie over and over again. The rhythm comes out of that. The last two I did (were) a combination of concert and content... To me the songs that we picked blend into the content really well. Joan Jenkinson (from Vision TV) said, 'I want to see a full song off the top of the movie.' I was very reluctant to do it. We put "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" off the top and it works incredibly well.
Pique: Who is this film aimed at?
Goldberg: To me it's more for the casual fan. I hope they take away the fact that this is an underappreciated Canadian artist. If you look at the Mount Rushmore of singer-songwriters in Canada you've got Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young. To me, Bruce Cockburn belongs up there.
Pique: What about young people who might know his work in passing?
Goldberg: Younger people growing up now are exposed to huge amounts of music. It's not just people their own age they're attracted to because the Internet and all the other accessories — the exposure to music is huge. If they're exposed to Bruce, he's going to get a whole new fanbase. He's 66 or 67 now. He just had a baby. We cover that in the documentary. He's a young soul. To me, he looks the same as he did 20 years ago.
November 20, 2012
Bruce Cockburn, Trooper, Deadmau5 Honored at 2012 SOCAN Awards Gala
by Karen Bliss
Canadian musician/activist Bruce Cockburn and "Raise A Little Hell" rockers Trooper were honored with lifetime achievement awards last night at the 23rd annual SOCAN Awards Gala, which recognizes the accomplishments of Canadian songwriters/composers.
The evening honored all styles of music - dance, urban, folk/roots, pop/rock, country, classical - in addition to music for film and television. The majority of the awards are given to members based on the greatest number of performances (on domestic radio or television) that a song/composition achieved in their respective categories in 2011.
The private, invite-only affair, held at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto kicked off with a performance by Dragonette, whose track "Hello" with Martin Solveig was given the Dance Music Award.
Other live performances throughout the show included Danny Fernandes; JRDN; rising rock band Young Rivals, whose video for "Two Reasons" has 700,000 YouTube views; and a tribute to Cockburn by Royal Wood ("Wondering Where The Lions Are"), Serena Ryder ("Lovers In A Dangerous Time") and Hawksley Workman ("If I Had A Rocket Launcher").
Cockburn - who was introduced by his long-time manager and friend Bernie Finkelstein - received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding success throughout his musical career. His songs have been covered more than 400 times; he has released 31 albums, 20 of them gold or platinum; and has won 12 Juno Awards, the first in 1971, the latest in 2012.
Trooper was given SOCAN's National Achievement Award, which is presented to members who have had outstanding success, predominantly in the Canadian music industry, over the span of their career. Ra McGuire and Brian Smith, who still perform with Trooper, have been working together for 47 years. The pair also received the SOCAN Classic Award recognizing more than 100,000 plays domestically each of "Raise A Little Hell," "Janine" and "General Hand Grenade."
Also receiving the Classic Award this year was Mark Gane, writer of "Echo Beach," performed by Martha and the Muffins.
Other honours went to Joel Zimmerman, better known as deadmau5, who was given the International Achievement Award for receiving worldwide recognition in 2011 for his music; recent Latin Grammy winner Alex Cuba took home the Hagood Hardy Jazz Music Award for his outstanding success in the genre of jazz, instrumental or world music, predominantly in the Canadian music industry in 2011; and Michael Buble was given International Song Award for "Hollywood" (co-written with Robert Grant Scott) for the song that achieved the highest international earnings in 2011.
SOCAN will also recognize outstanding Francophone music creators and publishers at an awards gala November 21, at the Hyatt Regency in Montreal.
November 18, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press
Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn to receive SOCAN lifetime achievement award
by Nick Patch
TORONTO - For Bruce Cockburn, the best thing about winning SOCAN's lifetime achievement award is that no one else has to lose.
"The thing I like about it ... is the fact that it's not really competitive," Cockburn said down the line from his San Francisco home this week.
"To me, the competitive aspect of most of the awards that are offered is a negative — and I just don't think that's what music's about. For this, I suppose there's some degree of competition in that there must be a committee who decides who they're going to give it to, but it's not like you're saying so and so is the 'best' something or other."
Well, SOCAN — the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada — certainly felt strongly about Cockburn, anyway.
The 67-year-old, known for his conscientious folk songs and acoustic guitar wizardry, will be honoured alongside Vancouver hell-raisers Trooper and Niagara Falls, Ont., electronic producer and recent tabloid fixture Deadmau5, who will receive national and international achievement awards respectively at a Toronto gala on Monday.
It was Cockburn's stunning longevity that really impressed the SOCAN board, said CEO Eric Baptiste.
"It's pretty obvious that he's one of the most high-profile members SOCAN has who deserves a lifetime achievement award," Baptiste said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "He really fits the bill very nicely."
As Cockburn chats about the honour, the 11-time Juno winner's soft voice is occasionally overwhelmed by the background wailing of his baby daughter, born roughly a year ago.
The crying serves as at least one reminder that while a lifetime achievement award can sometimes feel like a career bookend, the "If I Had a Rocker Launcher" singer is focused firmly on the future.
"The one that really felt like that was getting inducted into the (Canadian Music) Hall of Fame — aren't you supposed to be dead for this to happen?" he said with a laugh.
"Having done that, this one doesn't feel quite as weird... Certainly, if I remain alive and kicking, the creative process is still going on. It ain't over till it's over."
November 16, 2012
Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012
Concert at the Beacon Theatre in NYC
On Friday, December 14, 2012 a diverse group of people from the music community, in the United States and Canada, will gather at the Beacon Theater, in NYC to sing for freedom for a man who has been locked away since the tumultuous days of the early seventies and the violence at Wounded Knee and Oglala, South Dakota. Many around the world question whether he has received justice.
This concert is a cross-cultural event meant to bring awareness to the 37 year long ordeal of Native American Activist Leonard Peltier. Pete Seeger says it is the blessing he’s been waiting for. The chance to gather with those he’s invited to participate has been a long time coming. Joining forces with Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte, the two have invited artists including Jackson Browne, Canadian Hall of Fame folk artist, Bruce Cockburn, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Native American singers Bill Miller and Jennifer Kreisberg and others.
For more information visit http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/
To purchase tickets click link below and use Promo Code: LEONARD
Valid Start Date for promo: November 15, 2012 09:00 AM
Valid End Date for promo: November 16, 2012 09:00 PM
November 12, 2012
SOCAN press release
Bruce Cockburn, Trooper, deadmau5 to be Honoured at 23rd Annual SOCAN Awards Gala
Canadian songwriting legends Bruce Cockburn, Trooper and deadmau5 will receive prestigious Lifetime, National, and International Achievement Awards at the 23rd annual SOCAN Awards Gala on November 19th at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.
Presented by SOCAN - the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada - the SOCAN Awards Gala recognizes the accomplishments of Canadian songwriters in Pop/Rock, Dance, Urban, Country, Jazz, Folk/Roots, Classical, Film & Television, and International categories.
For being honoured at the upcoming Awards Gala with the SOCAN Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting success in his career of more than 35 years, Canadian Music Hall of Fame member, Order of Canada recipient, and 12-time Juno award-winner Bruce Cockburn said: "SOCAN has been there for songwriters all these years, taking care of an essential aspect of the music business. To be honoured with a SOCAN Lifetime Achievement award is very gratifying."
Raising a little hell for 37 years, hit-makers Ra McGuire and Brian Smith of Trooper will each receive the SOCAN National Achievement Award and three SOCAN Classic Awards for the Canadian rock anthems "Raise a Little Hell," "General Hand Grenade," and "Janine."
Songs that achieve 100,000 airplays on domestic radio earn official "SOCAN Classic" status. The National Achievement Award is presented to SOCAN members who have attained outstanding success specifically in Canada.
"I'm sincerely honoured to receive the SOCAN National Achievement Award - along with three more SOCAN Classic Awards - at this year's gala," said McGuire. "I thank SOCAN for recognizing and celebrating the importance of songs and the songwriters who created them."
"I would like to thank SOCAN for this great honour," Smith commented. "The National Achievement Award is a crowning jewel in my career to date."
Billboard-topping electronic music superstar Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, will receive a SOCAN International Achievement Award for his songwriting accomplishments worldwide.
"We're thrilled to honour Bruce Cockburn, Trooper and deadmau5 with SOCAN Achievement Awards," said Eric Baptiste, CEO of SOCAN. "Each represents what is so fantastic about Canadian songwriting, and each has earned every accolade he is receiving on November 19th."
Canada boasts many of the world's most talented and successful songwriters, and songwriting is the lifeblood of a multi-billion-dollar industry in this country. The SOCAN Awards Gala is a who's-who of the Canadian music industry, with performances by several prominent artists.
A recent research study conducted by Leger Marketing on behalf of SOCAN revealed that a majority of Canadians would prefer to have dinner or a drink with a famous Canadian musician than they would a famous athlete, author or politician. Eighty-five per cent of Canadians feel that music is "important" or "very important" in their lives.
The full list of this year's SOCAN Award winners will be announced the morning of Monday, November 19.
SOCAN is a not-for-profit, member-based organization that represents the Canadian performing rights of more than three-million Canadian and international music creators and publishers. SOCAN is proud to play a leading role in supporting the long-term success of its more than 110,000 Canadian members, as well as the Canadian music industry. SOCAN collects licence fees from more than 48,000 businesses from coast-to-coast and distributes royalties to its members and music rights organizations around the world. SOCAN also distributes royalties to its members for the use of their music internationally in collaboration with its peer societies. www.socan.ca
November 12, 2012
Toronto Globe & Mail
Bruce Cockburn on awards, raising hell and his critics: 'I don’t want to be hated'
by Brad Wheeler
Is the pen mightier than the rocket launcher?
On Nov. 19, singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. From his home in San Francisco, he spoke about old songs, new books and raising (as well as catching) hell.
This SOCAN award isn’t your first trophy, and it won’t be your last. But how does it feel?
It feels good. It’s nice to be highly thought of, or even thought of at all. I like that this isn’t a competitive thing. I’ve never been big on imposing competitive attitudes on music.
You’ll be recognized at Monday’s gala at Roy Thomson Hall with Joel Zimmerman (a.k.a. deadmau5) and Trooper. The latter spoke for a generation, I think, when they sang “Raise a little hell, raise a little hell, raise a little hell.” Are you familiar with that song?
Familiar might be overstating it, but I do remember hearing it.
In your own way, with your music, have you raised a little hell?
Well, it’s in the spirit of rock and roll to do that. And I came into the world of music influenced from a few different directions, rock and roll being one of them. If you stand outside the mainstream and offer any kind of social critique, then there is a certain amount of hell raising, in the way I think you mean it.
I mean it in a If I Had a Rocket Launcher kind of way.
There was a Toronto critic, when Stealing Fire came out in 1984, who basically said that all the copies of If I Had a Rocket Launcher should be rounded up and melted down. [The critic was The Globe’s Liam Lacey]. He hated it. He called it vile.
There’s something to be said for that, isn’t there? Even if it’s negative?
I don’t want to be hated. At the same time, if you speak what you believe to be true, you’re going to get a reaction from people. Not everybody is going to have the same idea of what is true. To me, the writer clearly didn’t understand where the song was coming from. But anybody’s truth certainly can smack anybody else in the face, in ways they don’t like. So, if you offer that, you stand a chance to be both praised and maligned.
When music fans hear a favourite song from the past, it can strikes them powerfully, euphorically. Do you feel that same kick when you perform those songs?
It’s an interesting question. The answer is that it’s not the same when you’re doing it for a living. For me, I have an emotional connection with the events that inspired the songs. So, I don’t like to sing If I Had a Rocket Launcher, for example, because I don’t want to go there. But to properly perform the song I have to. The same is true for Wondering Where the Lions Are, or for any song. I remember where I was when I wrote it . Sometimes that’s bittersweet, sometimes that’s fun and sometimes it’s plain horrible.
You’re revisiting those contexts now, as you write your autobiography. How’s that going?
I’m working with a co-writer. I originally wasn’t, but I was getting bogged down, and the publishers were getting anxious. I found that it was really easy to write about the early stuff, partly because the memories are simpler and more stark, and partly because they’re distant in time, and many of the participants are dead. You don’t have to worry about offending them.
Your long-time manager Bernie Finkelstein released his autobiography recently. Did you read it?
I did. I thought it was surprisingly gentle. I was expecting some things that I would have to be nervous about. But he’s so gracious to everybody in the book. I found it quite touching, actually.
What would you be nervous about?
He’s been a very necessary buffer between me and the business. It’s interesting in his book how involved he gets in the Canadian Content issue, and I found the insider view of that to be very interesting. I found myself thinking, “well, gee, it would have been nice if I’d been more there for him emotionally for some of that stuff,” because he’s always been so supportive of me.
He’s not a shy guy. Has he given you any tips on writing an autobiography?
[Laughs]. No, not really. He hasn’t seen any of it. I know he’s dying to, and I’m sure I’ll hear about it when he does.
-This interview has been condensed and edited-
September 26, 2012
Woodpile reader, Ragnar Aalbu, has just published a book called The Duck in the Wilderness. It is wonderfully illustrated and includes a cameo appearance by Bruce. Hmmm... what is that tune the duck is listening to in his car as Bruce looks on? For more information you can visit the publisher's website.
This story tells the tale of a duck who embarks on a fishing trip in the wilderness. However, on the way out of the city his fishing hook comes loose from the rod, and a whole queue of passers-by are involuntarily brought along for the ride.
Posted: September 23, 2012
Three Shows In Three Days
Bruce Cockburn 2012 UK Tour
Milton Keynes, Cambridge and London
Reviewed by Richard Hoare
The last time Bruce toured the UK was in 2007. The week before the shows I attended, Bruce played two different sets at Greenbelt and the cover of Church Times of 24th August (tabloid size UK newsprint publication) was a full page, full length photograph of Cockburn by Kevin Kelly from the session for the Small Source Of Comfort CD.
This time Bruce was touring with three acoustic guitars made by Linda Manzer. The two six string blue green topped guitars are distinguished by their headstock detail. The older guitar has an inlay based on a Mayan firefly figure and the second guitar has a red-tailed hawk inlay. The third guitar is a twelve string and the inlay on the headstock is based on an image from the film A Trip To The Moon (1902).
All the concerts were small seated venues with Bruce performing about twenty titles per show including one off numbers revolving around a core set list. As Cockburn put it in a between song aside “I’m still touring in support of Small Source of Comfort which was released in March 2011 as long as I can get away with it!”
This tour welcomed the return of After The Rain, a strong song from Dancing In The Dragons Jaws that includes some great picking. Bruce has taken to playing Bohemian Three Step when he changed from the trio to solo performances to promote the current CD. It is both a compelling tune and a tour de force example of his adventurous guitar work. Strange Waters ,which was re-arranged for the 2011 trio shows in North America, is just as hypnotic played solo and a highlight each evening. Each One Lost is prefaced by Bruce describing the ramp ceremony on which it is based before he delivers heart wrenching performances each night. The acoustic, When you Give It Away, somehow works better for me than the original band version on the CD. Old favourites like If A Tree Falls and the audience vocal contribution to Wondering Where The Lions Are are both well received. The exquisite God Bless the Children from Night Vision has slipped into the set list since the arrival of Bruce’s new daughter and the powerful rendition of Put It In Your Heart closed the second set of the shows.
Songs unique to individual dates out of three concerts I attended were as follows.
31st August - The Stables, Milton Keynes
Five Fifty-One, which still maintains the strident groove of the original and a surprising Fascist Architecture given the subject matter of the lyrics - a pre concert request by persons unknown.
1st September - Junction, Cambridge
All The Ways I Want You from Dart to The Heart was a surprise delight in the first set. The encores included a rare performance of All The Diamonds and a just beautiful stately rendition of Celestial Horses.
2nd September - Bush Hall, London
This was a sold out show with quite a rowdy audience and Cockburn largely just got on with it without too much chat. Tonight we were treated to a strong rendition of If A Had a Rocket Launcher and one of the encores was Shipwrecked at the Stable Door – the source of “it’s horrible to be born!”
Cockburn was in good form and still holds his own amongst his contemporaries and all comers. Bruce provides a great show – enjoyable, highly musical and thought provoking. Child of the Wind was played on two nights and for me is Cockburn’s beacon for his future.
Photograph by Harry Scott - Used with permission
Junction, Cambridge, England - 1st September 2012
August 31, 2012
Bruce Cockburn, Selby Town Hall, September 6
by Charles Hutchinson
Introducing… Canadian folk musician and humanitarian Bruce Cockburn’s first British tour since 2007.
SONGWRITER and guitarist Bruce Cockburn has travelled to the corners of the earth in aid of humanitarian concerns, often to trouble spots to experience events that inform his songs, but he has never visited Selby . Until now.
“Somebody made us on offer to go there. That’s usually how it works,” says Bruce. “My agency made the booking. I don’t organise these things myself, but if it fits in, then great.”
On Thursday, he will play Selby Town Hall, bearing songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery from his 31st, yes 31st, album, 2011’s Small Source Of Comfort.
CHARLES HUTCHINSON fires questions at the Ontario folk roots senior statesman, who has been spending time in San Francisco, Brooklyn and the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to observe the human experience.
Thirty one albums, Bruce. Wow! How has your songwriting changed since album number one?
“This is my 31st album over an even longer time. The first one was in 1970 and now my writing is a lot more thought out, much more conscious, but not deliberate in that I won’t decide a theme in advance.
“I still have to wait for a flash of inspiration for a theme to hang it on, though I now know more about what will work and what won’t.
“In 1970, the writing was much quicker and like a reflex, and it could just be a stupid song in the sense that it just didn’t work or was based on the notion of something that should have worked but didn’t.”
Bob Dylan releases his 35th studio album, Tempest, on September 10, and you are not far behind on 31. Do you ever run the risk of repetition after 42 years?
“I’ve said a lot already and sometimes I’ll be thinking, ‘That’s a great idea’ and then realise I had the same idea 20 years ago.
“Even though a lot gets added on in terms of experience, I don’t think a lot changes about you. A lot of the essentials are still there and so it’s more difficult to come up with original thoughts.”
Can you become set in your ways or are you on a quest for new knowledge all the time?
“I tend not so much to think about beliefs but questions arise over my ongoing relationship with God and the universe and what that asks of me. The understanding of what that is changes and continues to change and I don’t think I have the answers or ever will, but it’s important to pursue a relationship with God and that can happen in different ways and manifest itself in different forms.
“There was a time when I was happy to identify myself as a Christian, around the age of 30, and then thought of myself that way and did my best to understand myself and the world in those terms for a couple of decades, but gradually those terms were inadequate and didn’t fit a place in my consciousness.
“Plus in North America, Christianity has become associated with redneck attitudes and I didn’t want to be associated with that. There are lots of ways I disagree with mainstream Christianity.”
How open is the debate on such matters, be it abortion or homosexuality?
“It depends on who you talk to. There are people who are comfortable with having a healthy debate, but among the media in the less well-educated parts of the community, it’s less well debated and accepted and people are even dying over it.”
You are drawn to observing human experiences, going up against chaos, no matter what the potential risk, to be closer to the truth. At 67, this zeal shows no sign of fading…
“My mother once said that I must have a death wish, always going to what she called ‘those awful places’. I don’t think of it that way. I make these trips partly because I want to see things for myself and partly out of my own sense of adventure.”
How do you transfer your observations into songs? Do you carry a notebook at all times like the playwright Alan Bennett?
“I don’t keep a journal, but I do have notebooks and what goes into them is the songs, though sometimes it takes a few pages of writing to make a song.
“It’s not like keeping a blog, either.
“For instance, the song about Afghanistan, Comets Of Kandahar, was written in a couple of hours after getting from there, when the feeling was very strong, the imagination was very vivid, and it was pretty easy to put it down on the page.
“In fact I found myself choking up the first few times I sang it as the memories were still so intense. These darker feelings are the ones that haunt you.”
You will never rest on your laurels, Bruce, while there is work still to be done.
“I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next. My models for graceful ageing are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stopped working till they dropped, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.”
August 31, 2012
Talent Supporting Talent: Bruce Cockburn inspired by Team Canada in Paralympic Athletes Village
London, England - Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn toured Team Canada's facilities in the Paralympic Athletes Village this morning and came away inspired by the Canadian Paralympic Team.
Several Canadian athletes enjoyed the chance to explain their sports to one of Canada's favourite folk rock guitarists, who was accompanied by the Canadian High Commissioner to London, Gordon Campbell.
Cockburn is in the UK from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7 on tour supporting his latest album, Small Source of Comfort.
"I know that Team Canada will make us all proud," said Cockburn, after meeting the tandem blind cycling powerhouse duo of Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, ON) and pilot Lyne Bessette (Knowlton, QC). "I'm looking forward to seeing all the great results that are going to come out!"
Cockburn also met visually-impaired athletes from the sport of goalball, along with wheelchair fencer Sylvie Morel (Pincourt, QC), who challenged him to a duel.
Bruce Cockburn and Gordon Campbell, Canadian High Commissioner to Great Britain, pose for a group photo with cyclists Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, ON) and pilot Lyne Bessette (Knowlton, QC) at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the Athletes Village. (Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee)
Sylvie Morel (Pincourt, QC) of Wheelchair Fencing challenges Bruce Cockburn to a duel during walk about at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the Athlete Village. (Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee)
Bruce Cockburn and Gordon Campbell, Canadian High Commissioner to Great Britain, pose for a group photo with cyclists Robbi Weldon (Thunder Bay, ON) and pilot Lyne Bessette (Knowlton, QC) at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the Athletes Village. (Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee)
Sylvie Morel (Pincourt, QC) of Wheelchair Fencing challenges Bruce Cockburn to a duel during walk about at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the Athlete Village. (Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee)
August 28, 2012
World of Wonders: the Lyrics and Music of Bruce Cockburn
Jim Heald has released a book that takes a look at the lyrics and the music of Bruce Cockburn. The Kindle version and the paperback version can be purchased at Amazon.
The book is an appreciation of the lyrics and music of iconic Canadian Singer-Songwriter-Guitarist Bruce Cockburn. This book is the first comprehensive look at the works of Bruce Cockburn from the 1960's to the Present.
Bruce Cockburn is, first and foremost, a visionary artist; engaging and probing songwriter, spiritual seeker, truth teller, and extraordinary guitarist. He is a songwriter’s songwriter and musician’s musician. If you measure success in album sales, or chart position, or merchandise sales, or mentions in People Magazine or Rolling Stone, then Bruce is not for you. While he has failed to scale the mountain of popular adoration in the United States market, he has nonetheless had an extraordinary career as a Canadian solo artist, and he’s done it pretty much entirely on his terms. Given our America Centric view of the entertainment industry (and pretty much everything else), it is hard for us to realize how big a star Bruce is in Canada. It’s also hard for us to realize that success outside the U.S. actually means something. We should count ourselves lucky that we have found Bruce and other kindred spirits like South Africa’s Johnny Clegg or Australia’s Midnight Oil.
There are very few musicians who have recorded for more than 40 years, putting out consistently good records every couple of years, with few, if any, artistic misfires. He’s sold a lot of albums and won a lot of awards. He has continued to gain in popularity and plays to packed venues across Canada, the United States, and Europe, with occasional forays to Japan and the Far East.
He has traveled to war-torn locations like Central America, Africa, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq as an observer and good will ambassador. The songs that have resulted from these journeys celebrate the resilience of the human spirit, chide the powerful and greedy, and turn a spotlight on corruption and injustice. He would most likely bristle at these thoughts, preferring to consider his successes a matter of luck, or simply the result of dogged persistence or even stubbornness.
Jim Heald is a poet, songwriter, and guitarist. He grew up in the suburbs of New York City. He attended Colby College and Manchester College, Oxford where he studied English Literature and East Asian Studies. He attended graduate school briefly at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Oriental languages and history, and received a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Jim picked up the guitar in the mid 70’s and started turning his poetry into songs. He’s played professionally since the late 70’s around Chicago, Austin, and the Washington DC area. He was a two time finalist in the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition and has two CDs available. He lives with his wife Laura in Alexandria, Virginia.
More information on Jim Heald at his website.
August 24, 2012
Songs in the key of love
The veteran Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has helped to shape the vocabulary of the Greenbelt Festival. Huw Spanner discovers that, while his theology has shifted, his ardour has not diminished
THERE will be bigger acts taking the stage at the Greenbelt Festival over this weekend, but probably no more estimable artist than Bruce Cockburn. The singer-songwriter, who will be headlining tonight, has been compared to Neil Young and Joni Mitchell - and not just because he is, like them, Canadian, and of a certain age. His often poetic lyrics are literate, acutely observed, and both politically and spiritually engaged. He is also a quite extraordinary guitarist.
Many years ago, he was described by the then editor of Melody Maker as "the last great rock obscurity". Although he is fêted in his native land - he was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in Canada in 2001, a year before U2's producer, Daniel Lanois - that obscurity still stubbornly persists.
Last year, his 24th studio album, Small Source of Comfort, was ignored by the mainstream British media. He has appeared at the Royal Festival Hall, but he has not performed in this country since the 2007 Lewes Guitar Festival.
In 1984, the year Cockburn first appeared at Greenbelt, an album review in The New York Times spoke of "impressionistic songs that combine Christian mysticism and leftist politics with illuminating flashes of imagery". That summed him up pretty well.
Late at night, in the festival's Big Top, Charles Williams and John Pilger seemed to meet, metaphorically speaking, in an electrifying solo set that ranged from "Lord of the starfields" ("O love that fires the sun, Keep me burning") to "Nicaragua" ("You're the best of what we are").
Cockburn had travelled to Central America the previous year, at the behest of Oxfam, and was deeply affected by the hope that he saw in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, and by the horror that he heard of in Mexico, where refugees from the "dirty war" in Guatemala gave him eyewitness accounts of "things too sickening to relate". His most powerful song, which was to be a modest hit, was "If I had a rocket launcher" ("I would retaliate").
AT THAT time, Greenbelt was artistically still rather lightweight. On mainstage, Cliff Richard and Sheila Walsh pulled the crowds. Cockburn was something else: a musician and lyricist of multi-award-winning quality who spoke the same language as the festival's heavyweight speakers, but sang it much better.
He expressed the same love of God, the same passion for peace and justice, the same sense of the wonder and mystery of things. Reportedly, one of the reasons why Bono sneaked into Greenbelt in 1987, disguised as a steward, was to see him perform.
Over the years that followed, some of his distinctive turns of phrase became essential parts of the festival's phrasebook. Greenbelt 1990 was titled "Rumours of Glory" after one of his songs, and, for years, a line from another Cockburn composition, "Lovers in a dangerous time" - "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" - seemed to be quoted in every second seminar.
When, in 1999, the festival moved from Deene Park to the more worldly surroundings of Cheltenham Racecourse, he was there, once again, to reassure the old hands that Greenbelt's heart was still in the right place.
A GREAT deal of water has gone under the bridge since those days, and, when I rang him, I was curious to know whether, at 67 years of age, he is still, in his word, "burning". He now lives in San Franscisco, where he is looking after a new baby daughter (born 35 years after her half-sister).
His latest album is characteristically classy, and features no fewer than five instrumentals. His eye for an image is still as acute, his wit still as wry, but many years have gone by since he wrote a powerful "political" song. The word is out that he no longer calls himself a Christian.
I ask him whether he has managed to maintain the passion of his younger days. "I think there's a certain curve we go through in our lives," he says. "You start full of warrior energy, and, eventually, you end up becoming more spiritually inclined - or perhaps just lazy."
Does he still find, as he put it in "Call it democracy", that the iniquities in the world "render rage a necessity"? That song is surely as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1985, about the money men who "don't really give a flying fuck About the people in misery".
It is, Cockburn tells me, "the only response that I'm able to find. Maybe 'outrage' is a better word. Perhaps a better response would be serenity, to see it from the top of some spiritual Everest, but not very many of us have the luxury of being able to do that, or the qualifications."
So, why has he not written anything as forceful for years? "In general," he says, "the inspiration to write comes through the heart. When I write what people think is a political song, I'm not thinking politics, I'm trying to express some way that I've been made to feel by the things I've encountered - and anything deep and moving is always more intense the first time you encounter it. I've seen a lot more injustice and suffering since [I wrote "Rocket launcher" and "Call it democracy"], but I doubt very much that I would write a song like that now."
To some extent, he says, that is because his own understanding of the world has deepened. "When you're writing a song, you're attempting to reduce a complex picture to something communicable in four or five minutes, and that's most easily done when you don't know very much about what you're writing about. The more you know, the harder it is to fit it into a song."
THERE is one song on his latest album which he likens to "Rocket Launcher": "Each One Lost" similarly comes across as a call to arms, although not a call that Pilger would endorse. Cockburn wrote it in 2009, after witnessing, on the way to Kandahar (where his brother was serving with the Canadian army), a ceremony honouring the bodies of two young servicemen who had been killed in Afghanistan that day.
"This is going to get me in trouble, probably, but there is a point where loving your neighbour means stopping your neighbour from being brutalised - maybe.
"I don't know that it's always wrong to get militarily engaged in something - I don't sympathise with the notion that we should just let these people sink in their own shit. But it's very tricky, and it's never clean, because, once you start that stuff, you've unleashed something very negative on the world. It's something I'm still wrestling with, as you can hear."
If his politics are "very broadly in the same place", Cockburn's spiritual journey seems to have taken him further afield. "At the moment," he confirms, "I'm not comfortable calling myself a Christian, because I have too much doubt about the possible limitations of the Christian understanding, let's say. Do I believe in the historical reality of Christ? I'm not sure - which, I guess, is a bogus way of saying I don't."
He refers to C. S. Lewis when he adds that "it doesn't matter: Christianity is mythic, in the biggest sense of that word. I see it as one of those noble bodies of myth that gives us access to the divine, but it's not the only one that does that. There's a lot of deep spiritual understanding among people that is not Christian, and I feel I've gained as much from contact with other spiritual pathways, including the writings of the Chinese and Arabic sages."
Cockburn has long talked about "the mystery of it all", and, for many years, his lyrics have invoked the Spirit rather than the man he recently referred to as "the guy on the cross with the beard".
HE DID have a life-changing encounter with Jesus, once, but he has been re-evaluating it. "One of the reasons I came to Christ", he says, "is that, the day I got married, in 1969, at the point in the ceremony when we were about to exchange rings, I became aware of this warm, glowing presence, and I was completely blown away. Some people might have called it an angel, or a hallucination, but I thought: 'Well, we're in a Christian church: it's got to be Jesus.'
"I had a subsequent encounter with the same entity, and I became very focused on understanding Christianity, and that led to me deciding that I was a Christian, because I felt that reality.
"I still feel that reality. I just don't know that it's Jesus. I don't think Jesus is the only way that energy can appear to us."
Where does this unravelling of past beliefs end up? Is the idea of the divine just a metaphor, then? Or does he have some apprehension that there is something real, but at the moment unknown, out there?
"The divine is not a metaphor," Cockburn says. "We are a metaphor for the divine, if anything. God is, I think, after a relationship with us - with each of us. To me, everything is about that relationship."
Does he feel that he is in touch with the divine? "I feel that the divine will fill me up if I [allow it] - though I find it very, very difficult to. I'm always excited and grateful when I get that feeling that there's something going on, something divine."
COCKBURN pleads, in "Each one lost": "Screw the rule of law, We want the rule of love, Enough to fight and die to keep it coming." He comes from a generation that once paid lip service to love - his first band once opened for Cream and Jimi Hendrix, after all. So I wonder what exactly the word means for him.
"Well, I don't mean hippie love. To me, love is a force like gravity, the glue that holds the universe together, down at the level of that Higgs boson particle they think they've discovered. We feel this connectedness; it makes us feel at home; it makes us long for something that we aren't in contact with; and that's where it starts, for me.
"The rule of love, to me, is the anarchic notion that, when you get down to that level of things, when you're motivated by God, you don't need rules. Can you run a society like that? Probably not. But in the hearts of us all, there's room for that."
In the past, Greenbelt has described Cockburn as "prophetic". It is not how he sees himself, but he tells me: "I hope that people will take this stuff seriously, and be moved by it. I try to write songs in such a way that I think that that will happen. If the songs open the world up for people, or touch them in some way they feel is prophetic, that's as much as any artist could ever hope for."
Does he find that the kind of people who go to Greenbelt are especially receptive? "It's different from other festivals that I go to. There's this whole intellectual and heart-based dimension to it that's quite distinctive." He adds, drily: "I don't think I've played for another audience that sang along as lustily to 'If I had a rocket launcher'. Nobody did that at the Royal Festival Hall."
Bruce Cockburn is also being recorded for the Bob Harris Show on BBC Radio 2 on Sunday 26 August. It will be broadcast in the autumn.
The Greenbelt Festival takes place from 24 to 27 August at Cheltenham Racecourse. www.greenbelt.org.uk
Bruce in a conversation at Greenbelt in 1987
August 22, 2012
Garth Hudson Presents Chest Fever: A Canadian Tribute To The Band
On October 2, Curve Records will release Garth Hudson Presents Chest Fever: A Canadian Tribute To The Band, featuring Band organist Garth Hudson performing alongside Canadian artists like Neil Young, The Sadies, Cowboy Junkies, Blue Rodeo, and Bruce Cockburn.
The album was produced by Hudson with engineer and co-producer Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies, Lucinda Williams). The playlist represents Hudson’s favorite Band tracks to play. According to the press release, Chest Fever marks “the first time a Band project has been sanctioned and produced by a member of The Band.”
The song selection ranges from post-Robbie Robertson era Band tunes like “Move To Japan” to familiar favorites like “The Shape I’m In,” to Bob Dylan’s “Clothes Line Saga” from The Basement Tapes, which The Band performed on.
“It was very organic how the artists and songs matched up so perfectly,” says the 75-year-old Hudson. “I had aural visions of how each song could be enhanced by the talent of each artist… each voice, instrument, and spirit.
“These songs were among the most enjoyable to me while the Band was together because of the words, or the story, or humor… an example of all three is the reading of ‘Clothes Line Saga,’ written by Bob Dylan and sung by Margo Timmins with Cowboy Junkies,” says Hudson. “Each of these songs stands on its own, yet they mystically sequence together as a string of jewels.”
1. Danny Brooks and the Rockin’ Revelators – Forbidden Fruit
2. Mary Margaret O’Hara – Out of the Blue
3. Peter Katz and the Curious – Acadian Driftwood
4. Neil Young and Sadies – This Wheel’s on Fire
5. Suzie McNeil – Ain’t Got No Home
6. Cowboy Junkies – Clothes Line Saga
7. Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckly – You Ain’t Going Nowhere
8. Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo – Sleeping
9. The Road Hammers – Yazoo Street Scandal
10. Raine Maida – The Moon Struck One
11. The Sadies – The Shape I’m In
12. Chantal Kreviazuk – Tears of Rage
13. I Loved Your Too Much – Hawksley Workman
14. Great Big Sea – Knockin’ Lost John
15. Blue Rodeo – King Harvest
16. The Trews – Move to Japan
17. Garth Hudson – Genetic Method (Anew)
18. Ian Thornley and Bruce Cockburn – Chest Fever
July 18, 2012
Northern News Services
If I had a Rocket Launcher to take me to YK
Q & A sessions with Canadian folk legend, Bruce Cockburn
by Nicole Garbutt
Folk on the Rocks music festival kicks off this weekend with a headliner whose career spans generations of music fans. Canadian music legend Bruce Cockburn will be performing in Yellowknife for the first time in his nearly 50-year career.
He is scheduled to perform in a collaboration workshop at Folk on the Rocks on Saturday afternoon at the Right Stage with Pura Fe, David Essig and Yellowknife-raised Indio Saravanja.
Cockburn is also scheduled as the closing band on Sunday evening on the Main Stage, to be followed, as tradition dictates, by the Yellowknives Dene Drummers.
Cockburn, a Juno-winning Canadian folk music legend famous for songs such as "Wondering Where the Lions Are," and "If I had a Rocket Launcher," is originally from Ottawa, but grew up on a farm in Pembroke Ont. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Yellowknifer spoke to the recording artist earlier this month.
Yellowknifer: Have you ever been to Yellowknife before?
Bruce Cockburn: Yes, actually, I drove up in the 1970s to check it out and have a brief visit with my aunt and uncle who were living here at the time and then in the mid 1980s I went on a canoe trip on the Hood River (in Nunavut), so we flew out from Yellowknife, but those were both brief drive-by experiences with the city.
YK: Any plans to take in some tourist-type activities?
BC: Well, it isn't very long this time, either. I arrive Friday, I think, and fly out again on Monday. It is the nature of things these days with festivals, but I imagine the mosquitoes are sharpening their beaks just the same. ... It is always exciting to have the chance to come back North.
YK: What do you enjoy so much about the North?
BC: I like the degree to which human presence is not a part of the landscape The vast openness is an attraction. It is nice to get a sense of the world the way it is intended. As well, I get to play for people who I wouldn't regularly get to play for.
YK: On the Saturday afternoon, you are scheduled to do a collaboration for Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Was he an inspiration to you?
BC: I actually don't know many Woody Guthrie songs, but I do know a host of music that is associated with him. Doing other people's songs is not something I usually spend time working on, but in the sense that he's a model for a certain type of singer/songwriter, he made a big mark on things. I read his book, Bound for Glory, and I appreciated it. A lot of what I have written I might not have if not for the Woody Guthrie influence in the general sense. With festivals it is normal to do collaborations. This one made the most sense for me to be a part of.
YK: Do you feel that you still have room to learn and grow as an artist by playing jams or collaborations with other musicians?
BC: Oh yes, there is always something to learn, nobody knows everything. I enjoy playing with others if it goes well, and usually it does. People will do their own things and it is always fun to see how people approach songs, maybe in a way you hadn't thought of before.
YK: What do you enjoy about festivals the most, compared to playing a solo show in another venue? Playing a theatre is a different atmosphere than a folk festival. The audience at a festival is looser and there to have fun. I like as well that some may not know my music and they get a chance to discover it. These days, who can afford to buy concert tickets when you don't know the artist and what they will do, so that is certainly a perk of festivals. For me personally though, they offer the chance to bump up with other musicians and get introduced to them. I always look forward to finding new music.
YK: Are there any other performers on the festival lineup you are really looking forward to seeing?
BC: I haven't gotten familiar with the line up yet, but I know David Essig is taking part in the Woody Guthrie collaboration as well, so I am looking forward to that.
The Canadian Press
Tribute to Kate McGarrigle at Luminato more celebratory than sombre
by Nick Patch
TORONTO - A tribute to Canadian folksinger Kate McGarrigle held at Massey Hall on Friday was more celebratory than sombre, with dozens of her family and peers gathering for a joyful celebration of her unique songwriting.
The event — held as part of Toronto arts festival Luminato — was a testament to the sturdy charm of McGarrigle's compositions, which sparkled even without the shine of the McGarrigle sisters' inimitable harmonies.
Kate McGarrigle — one-half of the influential Montreal singing duo with her sister Anna — died of cancer in January 2010 at the age of 63. On Friday, a lineup including Emmylou Harris, Bruce Cockburn and members of Broken Social Scene offered a mix of straight interpretations and cleverly revised covers featuring flavours of rock, soul and gospel.
"It's a wonderful feeling to be part of a show like this," Cockburn said before launching into a version of "Come a Long Way" buoyed by his skilled fretwork.
"(Kate) added so much to so many people's lives."
Friday's concert marked the third such charity tribute to the folksinger — with proceeds going to the Kate McGarrigle Fund, created to further sarcoma research — and like previous shows in London and New York, this was a family affair.
With the stage sparsely decorated with a couple rugs, two chandeliers hanging overhead and a diverse array of instruments, McGarrigle's sisters (Anna and Jane), children (Martha and Grammy nominee Rufus Wainwright), nieces, nephews and in-laws joined a heady lineup of musicians that also included Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith, Toronto singer/songwriter Jane Siberry and Montreal multi-hyphenate Robert Charlebois.
"They're a wonderful family," Harris said.
But even those who weren't part of the preternaturally talented extended McGarrigle clan seemed intimately familiar with one another. As a rotating cast of musicians hopped on and offstage with each number, they usually exchanged hugs or a quick laugh on the way.
Indeed, the event was seldom mournful. Siberry seemed to hit upon that idea with an introduction to her first performance that only seemed solemn.
"This is a terrifyingly moving love song," she said. "I have trouble singing it because of the emotion I feel, but I'll try my best."
She then launched into the jaunty, goofy "NaCl — The Sodium Chloride Song."
Later, when Charlebois missed his cue and flubbed the start of a song (he admitted he was "out to lunch"), Rufus Wainwright milked the moment for all it was worth.
"Oops!" he said, laughing. "Well, it's a McGarrigle show — forget the chandeliers and the lighting."
Still, even if the mood remained jovial, the musicians capably delivered some devastating takes on McGarrigle's songs.
Harris and Martha Wainwright melded their voices beautifully for a hushed take on the sorrowful "I Eat Dinner," Missouri singer Krystle Warren wowed with a performance of "I Don't Know" and Rufus Wainwright showcased his pristine tenor while singing "Walking Song" solo at the piano.
Members of local indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene — including Kevin Drew, Amy Millan and Andrew Whiteman — provided two of the more compellingly different interpretations with soulful, rock-infused versions of "Come Back Baby" and "Mother Mother."
Kate and Anna McGarrigle's were perhaps best-known in Canada for their distinctive rendition of Wade Hemsworth's "The Log Driver's Waltz" and saw their wry, evocative folk songs covered by the likes of Judy Collins, Elvis Costello and Sarah McLachlan.
But Friday's event explored more obscure corners of the McGarrigles catalogue, including several never-released tunes likely known only to the select few onstage.
Between songs, some of Kate's family shed light on aspects of her personality that were probably similarly unknown to most in the crowd — how she identified with Jack Kerouac and wrote a musical inspired by him that she never finished, how she gave other people presents on her own birthday or how she developed a keen interest in Greek mythology over the last years of her life.
"She actually thought she might be a goddess," recalled Anna McGarrigle to chuckles from the crowd.
"I said, yes, I thought maybe she might be."
For a fitting encore, everyone involved with the production joined together for a rousing take on "Love Over and Over and Over." The show ended with more than two dozen people dancing and shouting the words together at the same time, while some in the audience leapt to their feet to join in.
"This is chaos," said Anna McGarrigle, sizing up the throng around her.
"If anybody liked chaos, it was Kate."
May 3, 2012
Bruce Cockburn documentary: The lion in winter still roars
by Bill Brownstein
Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage
When: Friday at 10 p.m.
His manner is so mild and unassuming that one almost forgets Bruce Cockburn has been — and continues to be — one of the steadiest forces on the Canadian music scene since the mid-1960s.
Yet while he may be loath to toot his own horn, others aren’t nearly so reluctant. Bono himself kicks off the documentary Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage (making its world premiere Friday at 10 p.m. on Vision TV) by reciting the lyrics of the Cockburn classic If I Had a Rocket Launcher.
Others singing Cockburn’s praises in this revealing doc are a diverse bunch: Michael Ondaatje, Sarah Harmer, Romeo Dallaire, Sylvia Tyson, Jackson Browne and the Wailin’ Jennys.
Cockburn appeals to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. He is a musician, lyricist, poet, philosopher and philanthropist.
An Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, he has made nearly two dozen records. A slew of musicians, from Jimmy Buffett to Judi Collins to Jerry Garcia, have done covers of such Cockburn hits as Wondering Where the Lions Are, If a Tree Falls and If I Had a Rocket Launcher.
Cockburn has won a slew of awards over the years, including, most recently, his 12th Juno for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Small Source of Comfort. But it’s a good bet the award he’s most proud of was the first-ever Humanitarian Juno Award, an award much deserved, in light of his efforts to bring awareness to the plight of the needy here in Canada, and as far away as Mali in West Africa.
Pacing the Cage evolved from Cockburn’s 2008 North American tour of sold-out benefit concerts, from which he also made his first live solo album. What emerged was Slice o’ Life, which included Cockburn’s candid insights into everything from Elvis to new parenthood to politics to spirituality —_and which are caught on camera in this documentary.
Those in search of scandalous tales of life in the rock ’n’ roll fast lane best not catch this doc. “I don’t have a very exciting life, so I have to think,” says the soft-spoken Cockburn in a telephone interview. “I don’t get the sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll thing going very much, so I’ve had to replace it with something else.”
While Cockburn acknowledges he takes lots of stuff seriously, he doesn’t take himself seriously at all. And that is made abundantly clear in the film.
“Technology has allowed us to elevate barbershop gossip to the grease that moves all of society, he says. “That tendency has always been there. But now, that’s the order of the day with the Internet; even on TV. Look at CNN. Now it has become another social network consumed with gossip.
“So the people who are more visibly foolish are more entertaining than the people who are less visibly foolish,” says Cockburn, about to turn 67 later this month.
And the sad reality is that far too many people would rather hear about the latest Lindsay Lohan/Kim Kardashian silliness than about a performer becoming actively involved in famine relief in the Third World.
“That’s kind of the cosmetic face of the society we live in, but underneath that, there is all kinds of stuff going on; there are all kinds of people writing good books and songs, painting good paintings, and doing their best to alleviate the problems of the world.”
Cockburn belongs to the latter group, and manages to survive, even thrive, against all the odds he lists.
“I happen to be the subject of this film, but all the people who are kind of testifying on my behalf in the film are also people who have stuck to their guns, and they have all been successful in varying degrees. I find myself in very good company, that honours me by just being there. What that suggests is that there are a lot of us out there putting in the effort, and it’s not the aspect of our life and times that gets the attention.”
Curiously, the performer who first inspired Cockburn to get into music was not a Woody Guthrie or a Pete Seeger, but would you believe Elvis? And the Presley tune that turned him on? Hound Dog. Cockburn, living in his native Ottawa at the time, was all of 11 then.
His musical influences were to change after high school, when he played with different groups. Then, it was the bluegrass strains of the Country Gentlemen and the Greenbriar Boys who captured his imagination, “what we considered then to be the more pure folk music,” he says. “They were the successors to the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four. But the rest of that commercial world of folk music was something that we turned our noses up at, thinking we were more in tune with the true essence of it all. Of course, we were full of s—, because we were kids from comfortable Ottawa who wanted to be the next Woody Guthrie.”
Cockburn’s parents insisted he take guitar lessons if he planned to pursue a career in music. “I also had to promise to them that I would not adopt a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, which, to them, meant a leather jacket and sideburns,” he cracks.
Though full of admiration for the Canadian artists of his era —_Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, et al. — Cockburn is also bullish about the present and future of the national music scene, particularly about Feist: “I think she is brilliant, and I can’t imagine her coming out of any other country, any more than I can imagine Leonard Cohen coming out of any other country. There is such a thoughtfulness to the music that Feist has in spades. Same with Sarah Harmer.”
Cockburn is currently based in Kingston, but he spends a lot of time commuting to San Francisco, where his partner and their five-month-old baby live.
“I’ve always felt it was wrong for people to have to leave Canada, back in the day, but if you were Joni or Neil, you had to leave Canada to get a big audience,” he says.
“I remember having this argument back in the ’60s in Ottawa with a guy who wouldn’t believe Joni was Canadian. Why? Because she was too good. But that was the prevailing attitude then in English Canada — not French Canada. Now, fortunately, there is a recognized and respected Canadian music industry.”
May 3, 2012
The Canadian Press
At 66, Ottawa's Bruce Cockburn pleased to have another shot at fatherhood
by Nick Patch
TORONTO - At 66 years old, Bruce Cockburn says he's pleased to get a second shot at fatherhood.
The Ottawa folkie and his longtime girlfriend M.J. Hannett welcomed daughter Iona in November. She's Cockburn's second daughter — born more than 35 years after his first, Jenny.
But Cockburn says time has granted him new insights into fatherhood.
"It's interesting to go at it a second time after all these years," Cockburn said down the line from his California home this week.
"It's amazing to have a new baby and kind of see it all with the perspective that you get with age. It's quite different. It has its intense moments and its fraught moments, but I'm a lot more able to tune in to the baby."
That was certainly the frequency Cockburn was dialed into on this day, when his slight tardiness in beginning the interview resulted in a flurry of apologies.
Assured that the lateness was acceptable given what must be a busy schedule, Cockburn responds: "Yeah, it's busy in a way that is different from other kinds of busy-ness."
There was a time in Cockburn's life when this sort of interruption to his schedule would have gotten under his skin. Not so now, he says.
"(I don't) worry about what I'm missing out on or the fact that I don't get enough practising done. I mean, all this bothers me slightly but not anywhere near the way it did back when my other daughter was born," Cockburn said.
"Everything was a bit more intense, everything seemed more intense, seemed more vital and important. And the baby was therefore more of an interruption into my life. Whereas now it's really not. I don't feel like my life is interrupted.
"The baby's wonderful and I can appreciate that without having to worry about the other side of things."
Cockburn speaks with a similar candidness in the new documentary "Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage," airing Friday on Vision.
The hour-long special follows Cockburn as he traverses the road during the tour that would become the 2009 live disc "Slice O Life." While testimonials on Cockburn's influence from the lofty likes of Bono, Jackson Browne, Sylvia Tyson and Michael Ondaatje add heft to an intimate portrait of the activist guitarist (whom Bono calls a "zen songwriter"), it's the unguarded moments with Cockburn — discussing religion, family, music and politics — that will be of most interest to fans.
In one scene, a despondent Cockburn sits after a show and obsesses over the "little mistakes" he feels marred the gig. His manager, Bernie Finkelstein, then recalls entire tours where Cockburn hasn't liked even one of his performances.
"You don't gain anything by telling yourself you were perfect when you were weren't," Cockburn says now, before conceding that his self-critical streak does take the joy out of performing live to a certain extent.
"I would say that the truth is yes it does, sometimes. I didn't start out in life expecting to have fun. I've had a fair amount of fun over the years, but it's never been a goal.
"The goal is to get the art done, to make the songs and then perform them without screwing them up — and the closer I am to feeling like I did that, the generally more satisfied I feel. But nothing's ever perfect, so there's always that next thing to reach for."
The film also delves into the way Cockburn, a devout Christian, has never been embraced within religious music circles because of his political views. And he figures that even this doc — airing on a network that's devoted in part to faith-based content — is likely to rile those detractors, particularly due to a reference he makes to the "Christian myth."
"I'm still hearing from people indirectly about the fact that there are cuss words in my songs — 'How can I be a Christian and have cuss words in my songs?'" he says with a rueful laugh.
"Get over yourself. If it's a problem, it's been me and God, not you guys. And I don't think it is a problem, otherwise I wouldn't really do it."
Cockburn, who won a Juno last month for his most recent album, "Small Source of Comfort," says he isn't in a hurry to record a follow-up. At the moment, he's chipping away at his memoir, originally scheduled for release in 2013 with HarperCollins.
But work on that has also slowed with Cockburn's new familial obligations.
"I'm a year overdue for the rough draft," he said.
May 1, 2012
New Straits Times
Canada’s Bruce Cockburn is still making waves with his brand of independent music, writes Subhadra Devan
BRUCE Cockburn sings of politics, environment degradation, love and spiritual discovery in his 31st album, Small Source Of Comfort.
Recently up for honours at the 11th Independent Music Awards (given out last month) in the folk singer-songwriter category, the Ottawa-born, who was made an Officer Of The Order Of Canada in 2002, has received 13 Juno awards and was inducted into the Canadian
Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2002.
“It’s gratifying to know that people in the business are still paying attention,” says the 66-year-old about the many awards he has won. “In general, I take things like awards lightly,” says the artiste who sang about green issues, before Earth Day (April 22) was officially born (in 2009).
“I feel it’s my job to write about life as I experience it. That includes the spiritual, the political, all aspects of human behaviour.
“I suppose the audience for that is people like me, who prefer their entertainment to have some substance to it. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating love and dancing, but it’s not all there is,” says Cockburn whose music can be found on iTunes.
Cockburn lost out to Elliott Brood for the Folk/Singer-Songwriter category at the Independent Music Awards which honours exceptional independent artistes traditionally ignored by mass media and big box retailers.
Produced by Music Resource Group, publisher of the popular industry networking database, The Musician’s Atlas, and producers of the webTV series, Grooveable Feast, the IMA nominees in over 70 song, album, music video and design categories are culled from thousands of online submissions from North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe every year.
On the judges panel are influential industry people and artistes including the Rolling Stones’ founder Keith Richards, folk-rocker Suzanne Vega, jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, rapper-composer Michael Franti, and heavy metal exponent Ozzy Osbourne.
On remaining an independent artiste, Cockburn says: “When I first sought a record deal, I was very concerned about keeping creative control of my work. That has not changed, but really I think I have continued to record for True North Records because the arrangement just keeps working.”
Small Source of Comfort, under the label True North, stays true to Cockburn’s musical style — a bit of rock, folk, jazz and blues. Some of his songs were inspired by his travels which included the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan which brought out the gypsy-like instrumental piece, Comets Of Kandahar.
That piece is one of five instrumental pieces on the album. Says Cockburn: “When I’ve put together enough music to fill a CD, we start recording. What the nature of that music is, whether it’s songs or instrumental pieces, is largely circumstantial.
“In this case there happened to be the five wordless pieces available. I wondered at first whether the album should include so many, but in the end everything seemed to work well together, so there they are.”
Cockburn’s spiritual side is heard on the opening track, The Iris Of The World, and the closer, Gifts, written in 1968 but recorded for the first time for Small Source Of Comfort.
The album also features Brooklyn-based violinist Jenny Scheinman, Annabelle Chvostek, a Montreal-based singer-songwriter, bassist Jon Dymond, and drummer Gary Craig.
I am intrigued by the song, Call Me Rose, which Cockburn writes about former American president Richard Nixon. He sings: “My name was Richard Nixon only now I’m a girl/ you wouldn’t know it but I used to be the king of the world/ compared to last time I look like I’ve hit the skids/ living in the project with my two little kids.”
Cockburn says of his career: “I feel very good about the way my career, for want of a better word, has gone.”
On younger artistes following his “legacy”, he says: “I run across good music from younger artistes all the time. There are so many good ones it’s hard to pick one or two. Tinariwen, Crooked Still, Ani Di Franco, Eliza Gilkyson... these are a few, not necessarily young, but younger artistes I like. I mostly listen to jazz or music from other cultures.“
After the awards which ended last week, Cockburn says he’s supposed to be writing a memoir, “the first draft of which is overdue”.
Find out more about Bruce Cockburn on www.brucecockburn.com or at True North Records. Details on Independent Music Awards at www.independentmusicawards.com. Submissions for the 12th Annual IMAs close in October.
The Ottawa Citizen
First round of Junos goes to Feist and Sheepdogs
by Lynn Saxberg
OTTAWA — Saskatchewan rockers Sheepdogs and indie darling Feist were the big winners in the first round of Juno Awards, handed out Saturday during an industry-only gala dinner at the Ottawa Convention Centre.
The Sheepdogs, who are touring in Australia and were among the many winners unable to attend the gala, picked up the first two Junos of their career. In New Group of the Year, they dominated a field that included great bands like Rural Alberta Advantage, Mother Mother, Braids and Hey Rosetta! They were also a surprise winner of the Rock Album of the Year trophy, beating out established acts Sloan, Sam Roberts Band and Matthew Good.
The band heard about their win within minutes and responded on Twitter: “Just heard we won Rock Album Of The Year at the #JUNOAwards. Very excited. Is 8am in Perth too early to start celebrating?”
Feist, on the other hand, was one of the biggest stars in Ottawa for Saturday’s festivities, adding another two awards to her lifetime total. Her latest album, Metals, was named the year’s best adult-alternative album award, while her DVD, Look at What The Light Did Now, earned the Music DVD of the Year award for producers Jannie McInnes, Chip Sutherland and Anthony Seck.
In a fitted black-and-gold dress, Feist looked surprised to hear her name called in the adult-alternative category. “I really didn’t know this category was up tonight so I’m shocked,” she said, going on to praise the “fortitude, belief and sense of humour” of the team that helps bring her creations to fruition.
It was also a landmark night for Vancouver pop-punk band Hedley, who won Pop Album of the Year, only the second award of their career, despite 18 nominations over the last six years. “Thank you so much,” said singer Jacob Hoggard. “We didn’t see that coming.”
Group of the Year went to Hamilton’s Arkells, not Nickelback, Hedley, Sam Roberts or Down With Webster. The band members joked about how their win will make them the target of Twitter attacks by Hedley fans.
Popular Toronto-based rapper Drake earned his first Juno Award (for rap recording of the year), but was not in town to accept it. Neither was Melanie Fiona, who won the R&B/Soul award, nor Ottawa native Bruce Cockburn, whose Small Comforts album was named the best Roots and Traditional Album, Solo. The Roots & Trad Group award went to Winnipeg’s Wailin’ Jennys, who were bubbling with excitement.
In all, winners in 34 categories were announced, many of them first-time nominees who never expected to win. This year, 99 nominees were celebrating their first Juno recognition, a record number according to CARAS president Melanie Berry.
Artist after artist expressed their surprise, including Dan Mangan, the formerly unkown singer-songwriter who raked in a whopping four nominations this year. On Saturday, his acclaimed album, Oh Fortune, picked up the award for Alternative Album of the year. “I honestly came here with no expectations whatsoever,” said the bearded Vancouverite, whose parents and finace were in the audience. “I’m a big fan of all the other bands (in the category) so this is mindblowing.”
Ottawa blues trio MonkeyJunk was another rookie act to score a win, made even sweeter by the fact that it happened in the city they grew up in, on the eve of their fourth anniversary as a band. “No better win like a home town win,” said band member Steve Marriner. “It feels great.”
The band thanked its fans, calling them Monkeyjunkies, and gave props to the other nominees in the category, whom they consider friends.
Backstage, drummer Matt Sobb attributed the success to the work that went into their award-winning second album, To Behold. He said they took more time with the writing and production, and had plenty of help from Almonte-area engineer Ken Friesen, who co-produced the album with Marriner. “Really, the whole process was probably more thought out and more meticulous,” Sobb said.
“We just played better,” added Marriner.
Touring has also been a key factor in the rapid rise of MonkeyJunk, who got their start during a weekly open stage at Irene’s Pub. “Night after night, that’s how you get a hold of the true believers,” said guitarist Tony Diteodoro. “This band really got its reputation from touring, from Europe to North America.”
“This is a huge surprise and a great honour,” said Jesse Stewart, another first-timer delighted to win in his hometown. The Ottawa-based musician and his group, the Stretch Orchestra, picked up the award for the eclectic Instrumental Album of the year category. “We’re shocked,” added bandmate Matt Brubeck.
Speaking of firsts, the first award of the night was a first for the Junos, recognizing the new category of best Metal/Hard Music album. Canadian metal veterans Anvil were widely expected to reel in the trophy, but instead it went to the metallic noise-rock of Winnipeg’s KENmode.
Hosted by CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi, the gala featured performances by several nominees, including synth-pop singer Lights, jazz pianist Oliver Jones, alt-country sweetheart Lindi Ortega, singer-songwriter Dan Mangan, folk group Wailin’ Jennys and blues trio MonkeyJunk.
The music industry also paid tribute to veteran broadcaster Gary Slaight and rockers Simple Plan. Slaight received the Walt Grealis Award in recognition of his long career as an industry builder, while Simple Plan was honoured with the Allan Waters Humanitarian award for their fund-raising efforts in helping young people.
Other winners included country singer Terri Clark, Hedley producer Brian Howes, Aboriginal singer Murray Porter, Quebec jazz singer Sonia Johnson, francophone rockers Malajube and Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia.
The remaining awards will be handed out Sunday during a live-television event from Scotiabank Place, to be hosted by William Shatner.
Editor's note: Bruce took home a 2012 Juno Award in the category, Roots & Traditional Album, Solo, for Small Source of Comfort. -DK
March 14, 2012
Winnipeg Free Press
Kate McGarrigle tribute planned for Toronto arts festival Luminato
by Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
TORONTO - When the family of folksinger Kate McGarrigle staged a tribute concert five months after her 2010 death they could hardly get through the songs, says her sister Anna.
"I found the whole experience so incredibly moving," McGarrigle, who was also Kate's longtime musical partner, said Wednesday as Toronto's Luminato arts festival announced it will feature a similar tribute concert this summer.
"People were just sort of breaking down in tears behind the scenes as they would get onstage, just because it was almost too much to bear.
"So now it's more a joyous thing."
"Love Over and Over: The Songs of Kate McGarrigle" will play June 15 at Massey Hall with the late musician's sisters, Anna and Jane, her children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and her niece and nephew, Lily and Sylvan Lanken. Other artists on the bill include Emmylou Harris, Bruce Cockburn, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Robert Charlebois, and some members of Broken Social Scene and Stars.
First staged in London in June 2010, the tribute concert has also run in New York. Each city has featured different artists and the Luminato showcase is billed as the Canadian tribute.
A portion of the proceeds from the show will go to the Kate McGarrigle Fund, created to further research into clear-cell sarcoma, which took her life in January 2010 in Montreal.
The concert is a fitting tribute as the singer-songwriter loved performing, said McGarrigle, who produced 10 albums with her sister.
"When she was onstage, she could forget all her troubles. Being onstage has a way of focusing you that way. You don't feel any pain. So (her children) just wanted to keep her spirit alive."
Luminato 2012 will also feature an onstage chat with CanLit legend Alice Munro, who has done few public appearances in recent years. The literary treasure will discuss her career with The New Yorker's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.
Other acclaimed authors set to appear at the festival include Michael Ondaatje, Linden MacIntyre, Irvine Welsh, Peter Carey and Vincent Lam.
Another festival highlight is "Playing Cards 1: SPADES," a new production from Quebec theatre master Robert Lepage. It's the first in a projected four-part theatre series that explores global conflict, and it runs three hours long.
Luminato's new artistic director, Jorn Weisbrodt, said the show is "truly Lepage at his best" and is "a tornado of a production" — literally, as there will be a tornado onstage.
"Playing Cards 1" is one of several marathon productions in the lineup for the festival, now into its sixth year.
"Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts" runs five hours and is a reconstructed version of the acclaimed Robert Wilson and Philip Glass work that they first produced in 1976. This is the international tour of the production, which hasn't been revived in 20 years and features music, poetry and abstract dance.
Meanwhile, pianist Stewart Goodyear will be featured in "The Beethoven Marathon," in which he'll perform all 32 of the composer's sonatas, in the order they were composed, in one day.
Other events on the docket include "La Belle et la Bete: A Contemporary Retelling," a multidisciplinary work that puts a high-tech spin on the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast." It's created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon of Montreal-based Lemieux Pilon 4D Art.
Hip-hop artists K'naan and Kae Sun will open Luminato with a free concert — one of several in the lineup that will also see performances from Rufus Wainwright and Loreena McKennitt, among others.
Incidentally, Wainwright — whose "Prima Donna" opera ran at Luminato in 2010 — is engaged to German-born Weisbrodt and has a daughter with him.
But Weisbrodt, 39, said his introduction to Luminato did not involve Wainwright, and came when he approached the festival about producing "Einstein on the Beach."
"What really attracted me about the festival is that it wants to encompass all these creative disciplines," said Weisbrodt, Wilson's former manager and agent.
Those disciplines also include magic, dance, film, food, and visual arts.
Several events are also lined up to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, including the large-scale art installation "The Encampment," from Thomas+Guinevere, and the world premiere of "Laura's Cow," a family opera about the Canadian heroine Laura Secord.
March 6, 2012
The Ottawa Citizen
Bruce Cockburn: Still making music that matters
by Lynn Saxberg
The category: Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, Solo
The album: Small Source of Comfort
The competition: Craig Cardiff for Floods & Fire; Dave Gunnig for A Tribute to John Allan Cameron; David Francey for Late Edition; Lindi Ortega for Little Red Boots
Bruce Cockburn’s musical quest has taken him on a journey that’s lasted more than four decades and touched on everything from spiritual reflections to electric protest songs. Now 66, he’s had a significant influence on pop culture, and is still making music that matters, as you can hear on his 31st and latest album, Small Source of Comfort.
Born in Ottawa, Cockburn took guitar and piano lessons as a teenager. He attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music for two years in the 1960s before returning to Ottawa to play in various bands, including The Children and Three’s A Crowd (which also included David Wiffen). Cockburn’s career as a folksinger and guitarist began on the coffee house circuit, and was strengthened by an appearance at the 1967 Mariposa Festival. His first album was released in 1970.
By 1980, Cockburn was beginning to make an impact in the United States. His 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws yielded an unexpected top-40 hit with the cerebral Wondering Where the Lions Are, as well as an invitation to perform on Saturday Night Live.
The winner of a shelf-full of Juno awards and the Order of Canada drew even more attention a few years later with the release of Stealing Fire. Although music fans of the 1980s were not used to hearing outspoken songs about issues on the radio, they were drawn by a soft-spoken Canadian ranting about a rocket launcher. The single If I Had a Rocket Launcher was written after Cockburn visited Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico. A second single from the album was also inspired by his travels. Lovers In a Dangerous Time became one of Cockburn’s most popular songs, thanks in part to the 1990s version by the Barenaked Ladies.
Other politically charged songs by the silver-haired troubadour include Call It Democracy, The Trouble With Normal and If A Tree Falls. Driven by a desire to make the world a better place, Cockburn has visited places like Mozambique, Bahgdad, Cambodia and, most recently, a 2009 trip to Afghanistan. He usually comes home with an idea for an issue-oriented song, such as anti-landmine Postcards from Cambodia or Mines of Mozambique. The latest example is the powerful Each One Lost, a mournful ode to lost soldiers that’s included on his recent album, Small Source of Comfort.
Produced by Cockburn’s old friend Colin Linden, the 2011 album demonstrates the artist’s affinity for jazzy folk-pop and dazzling acoustic guitar meanderings. Insightful lyrics and a dash of humour complete the package, which earned last year’s Canadian Folk Music Award for contemporary folk album of the year.
Another recent milestone for the Canadian Music Hall of Famer (and his longtime girlfriend) was the birth of their daughter, Iona. The same year, Canada Post issued a stamp bearing Cockburn’s likeness.
For his humanitarian efforts, Cockburn was given the inaugural Allan Waters Humanitarian Award in 2006. In an interview with the Citizen that year, he explained his motivation.
“Growing up, I did a lot of canoe tripping in Algonquin Park. I went to a camp there in the summers and one of the things that they instilled in us was: Always leave your campsite better than you found it. It just seems to me that applies to life and the world,” he said.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
February 16, 2012
Bruce Cockburn: 'I never had a plan'
by Molly Cormier
At 66, the iconic folk singer is touring and preoccupied with fatherhood
When you hear the name Bruce Cockburn, what do you think of?
Bruce Cockburn says he's made records the same way since the 1960s - he jumps in the studio with friends and makes the best songs possible. He says it's that sense of camaraderie that's made his career such an enjoyable experience.
He's a Canadian singer/songwriter, sure, one of the best. He's also known as a champion for causes that are close to his heart, like human rights and the environment, and has carried the torch for those issues in many of his own songs.
But there is one specific cause, perhaps the greatest of them all, that's been occupying his time these days. Her name is Iona, and she's his three-month-old baby girl.
"She is the prime cause in my life right now. So, I haven't been looking outward all that much."
That's right: at age 66 Cockburn is a dad again. Iona and her mother (Cockburn's girlfriend) will accompany him across the East Coast to make up for a bout of shows that were cancelled after the new dad fell ill with pneumonia last year.
When Here spoke to Cockburn by phone he was relaxing at home in Ontario before heading out for a tour in support of 2011's Small Source of Comfort. The album was inspired by Cockburn's many travels, including a visit with his brother in Afghanistan who was stationed there with the Canadian military.
"I think my nature is essentially nomadic. Home to me has seldom felt like more than base camp. Even when I was kid, though I didn't know it at the time, looking back I can see there never was a sense of being at home anywhere. I had a perfectly functional middle-class home growing up so it wasn't a physical issue, just spiritually I've always been a wanderer and that continues."
Even though he's been a veteran of the music business since the '60s and has 25 albums to his name, Cockburn says not much has changed about the way he prefers to make records. He still jumps in the studio with a group of friends, picks up a guitar, and tries to find a way to make his songs sound the best they can.
"Generally I've been lucky enough to work with people with whom I have a strong feeling of camaraderie and it's a really enjoyable process."
When asked how he'd describe this stage in his career, Cockburn laughs and says: "I guess I can categorically say I'm not at the beginning."
He also adds that he's not yet in the "throes of death."
Instead, the evolution continues for an artist whose songs have been covered countless times by both his contemporaries and a newer generation of performers. Cockburn is an officer of the Order of Canada, has a stack of honourary degrees from schools across the nation, and is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. But he's still learning about his country.
"When I first started touring in the early '70s it was really exciting. It gave me a sense of what I belonged to as a Canadian."
Fledgling musicians do ask him for advice from time to time, but he downplays his depth of knowledge. The industry has changed too much, he says, and there's no need for him to keep up.
"I don't feel like I'm a very good source of advice with respect to people's careers, in regards to what moves to makes. I never paid any attention to it. I made the moves that came to me when it seemed like the right time. I never had a plan."
February 15, 2012
Bruce Cockburn: Passion for work no Small Source of Comfort
Bruce Cockburn is recognized the world over for his insightful songs, including If I Had A Rocket Launcher, Wondering Where The Lions Are and Lovers In A Dangerous Time.
The 66-year-old Cockburn, an Officer of The Order of Canada, is one of Canada’s most celebrated artists with 11 Juno Awards to his credit. He takes the stage at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre Thursday night.
Cockburn’s newest record, Small Source of Comfort, is his 31st record and continues the singer-songwriter’s tradition of wearing multiple hats including humanitarian, protestor and romantic. Combining compelling real-life experiences and beliefs with thought-provoking fiction, Cockburn has held onto his relevancy for more than four decades now in big part due to the immediate, uncensored nature of his songs.
But does his passion for being a champion of social responsibility and various injustices among people around the world still burn deeply inside him? Cockburn laughs at the suggestion that he is a social champion but says that he has always been attracted to things that matter to him personally.
“It is interesting to think of it as social responsibility as it has always been a personal matter for me,” Cockburn says from his Toronto-area home. “I have children and grandchildren and so what happens in the world really matters to me. People who are close to me will grow up with the results of what we are doing now.
“Some of my concerns stem from that but they also stem from a love of our world and nature around us. There are aspects of nature that are harsh and terrifying but really, our planet is a beautiful thing. I do get angry about it sometimes and feel like I want to mouth off,” he laughs.
“But at the end of the day, I simply hope that others will be awakened to what a specific song might be about or develop their own interest in the topic by hearing the song.”
While Cockburn has never been one to shy away from exposing the darker side of the human existence, a couple of songs on Small Source of Comfort stemmed from his visit to Afghanistan in 2010. One of those songs, Each One Lost, pays tribute to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives while the other track, Comets of Kandahar, is an instrumental piece inspired by the light of the fire of the jet engines that take off into the darkness of the Afghan landscape.
“I was in Afghanistan for one week in September 2010. It was an amazingly intense experience. I had the chance to be a part of an incredibly moving ramp ceremony where we were honouring two Canadians who had lost their lives earlier that day. It was a day in my life where it just put things in their proper perspective. It made me realize that the roles that these people in service hold are even more impressive because they are willing to take risks that others don’t.
“Comets of Kandahar was inspired from watching the Canadian fighter jets take off into the night sky,” Cockburn continues. “Of course, the Canadian bases are kept in virtual darkness at night otherwise they would become a target themselves, and all you would see is an incandescent purple tail flame that would shoot across the sky. I was told that no matter how long you had been stationed in Afghanistan, everyone would stop what they were doing and would turn to watch this light dissipate into the night.”
Though he continues to perform with a live band, Cockburn’s show at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre Thursday night will be a solo affair. Calling the show “acoustic in a modern way,” Cockburn says it will feature many tracks from Small Source of Comfort while also revisiting the countless hits from his storied career.
“My brain can retain about two shows worth of songs at any one time. That translates to 40 to 50 songs in playable form. The set list changes over time, from year to year. But there is always an emphasis placed on newer material but there is always a nice cross-section of songs that extend fairly far back as well,” he says.
While his set list may vary, one thing is for certain: Cockburn has no plans to retire from the stage anytime soon. He says that he intends to keep writing and performing until his hands or body prevent him from doing otherwise.
“I always look forward to getting out on the road. I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years and I still like the traveling aspects of being on tour,” he says. “Frankly, I feel fortunate that I am able to continue touring. It is nothing that I take for granted because the older I get, the longer the odds get that I will be able to keep doing that.”
February 15, 2012
Cockburn Comes To Lunenburg
by Robert Hirtle
He has 31 albums to his credit, has won 13 Juno Awards and a Governor General's Award and has received countless international accolades.
He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and promoted to officer 20 years later.
Indeed, singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who began his career in the entertainment field over four decades ago, has stood the test of time as Canada's musical social conscience.
Yet he still loves doing what, for him, has been a lifelong passion, one that began when he was a young lad growing up in Ottawa in the 1950s.
"When I got to the end of high school, I had been playing guitar a few years by then, and it was the only thing that really meant anything to my life," he says. "Not just playing the guitar but music in general. I was interested in composition a lot so I ended up going to music school and I guess that sort of clinched it."
Mr. Cockburn says that at that point, he was not thinking of himself as a songwriter and was more interested in the popular music of the day.
"At the same time, I had always loved poetry and I sort of dabbled at writing [it], but I never thought about putting the two together until I came under the influence of Bob Dylan and John Lennon and others of the time," he recalls. "Then I figured that maybe I can do that too and kind of went from there."
He said that interest was encouraged by his parents, but done so "in a way that they could understand, which is why music was involved instead of just going out and being a musician.
"They felt the old thing of, 'Well, you have to have something to fall back on. You've got to have a degree,' which would have allowed me to teach music in high school or something. I mean, not that there's anything wrong with teaching music in or out of high school, but for me that was not an attractive proposition," he says, adding that in the end, he ultimately dropped out of college before completing his degree.
After playing with a number of different groups during the 1960s, Mr. Cockburn finally went solo late in the decade and released his first album, a self-titled effort, in 1970.
And while there is no one defining moment he can point to that directly led to the phenomenal success that followed, there are several pivotal factors that helped shape not only his career, but also his outlook on life.
"For instance, going to Central America for the first time, opening up a kind of a consciousness, a deeper understanding of what the Third World is all about, what it's like for people who live in developing countries," he explains. "And the first time I drove across Canada comes to mind, where all of a sudden, what had been a hypothetical landscape became actual and stunning. Those kinds of things stand out. It wasn't a point that Paul Anka discovered me or anything like that."
Mr. Cockburn says that his favourite album is always his latest one, and that distinction currently goes to his 2011 release "Small Source of Comfort," which copped him a pair of Canadian Folk Music Awards for Best Contemporary Album of the Year and Best Solo Artist of the Year.
One of the more thought-provoking cuts from the CD, "Each One Lost," was penned after a 2009 visit to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
"I'd been in war zones a few different places in the world over the years, but never with Canadians," he recalls. "My brother joined the army a little before that - he's a grown man, he's had a career as a doctor and he joined up as an army doctor and was posted to Kandahar for a six-month tour. So I thought, and he thought, that this would be a great opportunity for me to get over there."
Mr. Cockburn was joined in Kandahar by an eclectic group of fellow Canadian civilians which included members of the rock band Finger 11 and NHL hockey legend Guy Lafleur.
He says that being in a war zone with Canadians was different than in other such areas he had experienced and he was impressed with the courage and commitment displayed by the troops.
"You know, we had language in common, among other things, and an understanding that we're kind of on the same side," he explains. "A lot of those young soldiers felt like my kids, and there were others ... over 30 that I would normally expect to encounter in an audience of mine. They were amazing and I just kind of felt a definite connection with them."
He was most deeply touched, however, by a ramp ceremony he witnessed that honoured two Canadian soldiers who had been killed in the conflict and whose coffins were being flown back home to their final resting place.
"[That] was so moving because, here you have a sense of connection to these people and they're honouring their fallen comrades. It was very moving and I tried to capture that in the song," he says.
On February 10, Mr. Cockburn kicked off his "Small Source of Comfort Tour," a 14-stop series of solo concerts which began in Quebec City and ends in Arcata, California, in late April.
Among the stops on the tour is an already sold-out February 21 performance at Lunenburg's Pearl Theatre, one of several smaller venues included in the schedule.
Mr. Cockburn had been booked to play in Lunenburg for the first time in the fall of 2010 when the tour was originally supposed to take place, but was forced to change those plans due to illness.
"I was really disappointed that I had to cancel. It's something that I never had to do before, cancel a whole tour like that ... and it was very upsetting, so I'm glad to be able to make it up now," he says.
While Mr. Cockburn believes the success of a concert depends more on the audience than the size of the venue, he does prefer performing in smaller theatres over an arena setting and is looking forward to the Lunenburg show.
"The intimacy is nice, especially for a solo thing," he adds.
February 14, 2012
East Coast Music
Bruce Cockburn Makes It To N.B. - Finally!
by Bob Mercereau
You can forgive Bruce Cockburn for not making his last concert tour in New Brunswick, back in October of 2010. Just a couple of weeks before, Cockburn shut down the tour, doctor's orders. The globe-travelling musician had come back from a trip to Bolivia with souvenirs: pneumonia and a partially-collapsed lung. Now, one might say he took his sweet old time rescheduling, finally showing up on the East Coast this week, but again, we have to cut him some slack. Bruce and his partner welcomed a baby girl to the world last year, so he took much of the year off to devote to the family. In the end, he did as he said he would, honoured the commitment, and will show up for three N.B. dates later this week.
If you've been attending shows in the Maritimes for awhile, you've probably seen him at least a couple of times. But of course, he's been at it for over forty years, and actually admits he hasn't played nearly enough on the East Coast. "It's a whole part of Canada I ought to know better," Cockburn says, on the line from his home near Kingston, ON. "I've always enjoyed it. One of the things that stands out is people's hospitality. It's the spirit of hospitality, the offers are always there. A place to sleep, an offer of a meal. The friendliness, especially for people from Toronto, is quite different. There's a kind of down-homeness to Atlantic Canada." Good to know, we've always enjoyed you, too.
This time, we're getting Cockburn acoustic, which was also the format for the originally-booked shows. Ostensibly these are shows in support of his recent disc from last year, Small Source Of Comfort, although it's really the tail end of that promotion if anything. It did pretty good for Cockburn, earning him two Canadian Folk Music Awards, solo artist of the year and contemporary album of the year. It also had several interesting moments that caught a lot of people's attention, including the songs Call Me Rose and Driving Away. The first was just plain fascinating, as Cockburn took of the most reviled characters of modern history, Richard Nixon, and wondered what it would be like if he was rehabilitated, and even reincarnated! Nixon's back, but he's nicer and a girl, named Rose. It helped that it was a cool song, too. The other, Driving Away, was one of a couple done with a new writing partner, one-time Wailin' Jenny and now solo artists Annabelle Chvostek. Cockburn's almost always been a lone wolf as a writer, and the songs with Chvostek add a new dimension to his work. Also, he did a lot of playing on this disc, with five of the fourteen cuts instrumental.
Cockburn says with the solo show "the emphesis is very much on the new album. But this album does connect with a particular period. That song Gifts, which closed the album, I used to close shows with it back in the 60's, and I felt it brought back that period. There's an old song called God Bless The Children (from his 1973 album Night Vision) that's come back in the repetiore after being out for ages. Playing the 12-string brought it back. It felt similar to the current 12--string shows I've been doing."
Initial shows for this tour were with his band, but touring acoustic lets him mess with the set a bit. "On a solo tour, it's marginally less structured," he says. "With the band, the repetoire is somewhat fixed, although we learned enough to do two complete shows. The solo shows tend to get themselves fixed after a couple of shows, but I do have about 50 songs at any time that are practised enough to play. But I do up a list before the show. I don't decide it onstage, except for the encores. I don't like long spaces on stage while I think about it."
And of course, there are the songs he has to play: "Songs people feel cheated by if they bought a ticket and don't hear, like Wondering Where The Lions Are. They are songs that people feel at home with. It tugs at the heart of the audience, and I get that back on stage."
You can see Bruce Cockburn in concert at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton on Thursday, Feb. 16th, at The Playhouse in Fredericton on Friday, the 17th, and at the Imperial in Saint John on Saturday the 18th.
February 10, 2012
The Chronicle Herald
Cockburn Savours Second Chances in Touring, Life
by Stephen Cooke
Sometimes life has a way of making its own plans for you.
Like any touring musician, Bruce Cockburn has learned to expect the unexpected over the years, but the last couple have brought more than their share, both pleasant and otherwise.
In the latter category, it was a case of pneumonia in 2010 that cropped up after a trip to Bolivia and forced him to cancel a string of East Coast dates.
This week the Canadian folk icon makes good on his promise to return to the Maritimes with a series of shows starting Monday in New Glasgow.
Besides the pneumonia, which took a month to recover from (“I lost weight, which I felt pretty good about, but I don’t recommend it as a way to get out of the rat race”), the 66-year-old musician also had to clear his schedule in November while he became a father for the second time.
“Ten years ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be doing this; I’ve never been much of a planner, but let’s say that my vision for my waning years wasn’t that,” chuckles Cockburn, who now has an infant daughter, Iona, with his girlfriend M.J. Hannett in San Francisco.
“It’s exciting. My girlfriend’s ... at the age where if she was going to have a kid, now would be the time, so we decided to get on with it,” says Cockburn, from his house near Kingston, Ont.
“For me, it’s kind of a second chance in a way, not that I feel terrible about my first chance at it. My grown-up daughter has two kids of her own and a third is imminent, and I’m very proud of her, but I’ve missed a lot. When I was younger I was too wrapped up in the concerns of my art and this and that, all the stuff you think is so important.
“I still think my art is important; I take it very seriously, but at the same time I recognize other things and I’m more awake to the details of having a baby now and appreciating the day-by-day changes. It’s fun.”
The birth of Iona also meant missing out on attending the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards in Toronto, where Cockburn won for contemporary album and solo artist recording of the year with his latest release, the earth-toned Small Source of Comfort, produced by longtime friend and colleague Colin Linden.
The record was also nominated for a Juno Award this week for solo roots and traditional album of the year, a category he shares with Pictou County’s own Dave Gunning.
The pair was also tied as top nominees at November’s CFMAs, and although he was previously unfamiliar with Gunning’s music before the awards, Cockburn says he was glad to see some attention going to his tribute to the legacy of Nova Scotia’s Celtic godfather, John Allan Cameron.
“I have some fond memories of hanging out with John Allan in the ’70s,” says Cockburn, who was also a guest performer on Cameron’s CBC-TV show at the end of that decade.
“I regret that I didn’t keep up with him in later years, because he was such a good guy.
“My life has been sort of a whole ... it continually drifts, so I’ve ended up inadvertently saying goodbye to people over the years, and he’s one of them. He and his wife Angela, and me and my then-wife, used to hang out in Ottawa and elsewhere, but his work deserves to be recognized.”
Cameron was also one of the first artists to cover a Cockburn song, singing his theme to the Don Shebib film Goin’ Down the Road on his 1972 album Get There By Dawn, the first of a number of East Coast acts to dip into his catalogue, along with the Rankin Family, the Barra MacNeils and even Halifax indie rock pioneers Jellyfishbabies.
It’s no wonder Cockburn can’t wait to express his affinity for Atlantic Canada with this week’s solo shows, and the new songs from Small Source of Comfort are perfectly suited to an intimate setting.
The record is mostly acoustic, with some notable assists from Linden, violinist and Bill Frisell collaborator Jenny Scheinman and former Wailin’ Jennys singer Annabelle Chvostek.
Cockburn says much of the album was composed while staying in his girlfriend’s old apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., working primarily with variations on the DADGAD tuning used by guitarists ranging from Richard Thompson and Jimmy Page to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Trey Anastasio from Phish.
Originally he was thinking about making a record that was “really noisy,” more electric and improvisational, “but you can’t make that kind of noise in an apartment."
“You can put on your headphones and plug in your guitar, but that just doesn’t do it for me. What I had in mind was Sunn meets Albert Ayler, and you need to have a big space for that.”
To see Cockburn in some bigger spaces, check out his Maritime tour starting on Monday at New Glasgow’s Glasgow Square Theatre, followed by a Valentine’s Day show on Tuesday at Halifax’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
Nova Scotia dates continue on Sun., Feb. 19, at Truro’s Marigold Cultural Centre; Tues., Feb. 21, at The Pearl Theatre in Lunenburg; Thurs., Feb. 23, at Sydney’s Membertou Trade and Convention Centre; Fri., Feb. 24, at Mermaid Imperial Centre in Windsor; wrapping up on Sat., Feb. 25, at Liverpool’s Astor Theatre.
February 8, 2012
Cape Breton Post
Bruce Cockburn returning to play rescheduled concert date
by Laura Jean Grant
Sidney — Travel is a necessity of making it in the music industry.
Luckily for Bruce Cockburn, hitting the open road has always been one of his favourite parts of the job.
“It’s a bit of a drug for me I guess in the sense that it’s a way to evade the day-to-day reality that most of us have to deal with when we’re sitting in one place,” he said. “And of course the world of touring is even more like that. It becomes totally unrealistic, except with respect to the shows themselves, and that of course, is what it’s all about.”
After taking a break from the road since September, Cockburn is set to head out on tour once again. The renowned singer-songwriter had to cancel an East Coast tour in 2010 when he developed pneumonia, but he’s now making up those dates, which will include a stop at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, Feb. 23
“I’m very happy to be able to be doing this tour. It was a big disappointment to have to cancel it the first time around,” said Cockburn.
It’s a solo show and one where audiences should expect to hear a mix of older material, and newer songs from his latest album, “Small Source of Comfort,” released last year.
“The material will range from stuff from the recent album and just a cross-section of older stuff,” he said. “The obvious ones will be in there. “Wondering Where the Lions Are” pretty much ends up in every show, and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” things like that.”
Cockburn’s travels have also contributed to much of his musical catalogue, as visiting new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things have served as inspiration for his songwriting.
“To oversimplify it’s kind of the shock factor. When you encounter anything that really moves you for the first time, think of the first time you fell in love or the first time you engaged in a sport that you’d never tried and found that you loved it, that kind of thing, it leaves a big impression,” he explained.
Cockburn said when it comes to songwriting the lyrics typically come first, in a notebook he carries with him, and then he adds music to the words.
“I’ve never been good at deciding to write a song about a particular topic. A case in point on this album actually that’s kind of in that very dramatic experience category is “Each One Lost,” which was the result of being at a ramp ceremony at Camp Mirage in Dubai. The whole thing was so incredibly touching and deeply moving that it stuck with me and the day I got back from Afghanistan I wrote that song.”
On “Small Source of Comfort,” Cockburn also branched into the world of co-writing with Annabelle Chvostek, on the songs “Driving Away,” and “Boundless.”
“That is something I haven’t done very much of, the co-writing thing, and it was fun,” he said.
2011 was a big year for Cockburn, professionally and personally. He released “Small Source of Comfort,” his 31st album, took home two Canadian Folk Music Awards, and his second daughter, Iona Cockburn, with his longtime girlfriend, was born in late November.
For 2012, Cockburn said he plans to do more touring and is always working on new material, but is particularly looking forward to spending time with his family.
Cockburn is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and an 11-time Juno Award winner. He was nominated once again earlier this week in the solo roots and traditional album of the year category.
For more information go to www.brucecockburn.com.
February 7, 2012
Nominees in 41 Juno Award categories were unveiled in Toronto on February 7. The 2012 Juno Awards will be held in Ottawa on April 1. Bruce was nominated in the following category.
Roots & Traditional album, solo: Small Source of Comfort, Bruce Cockburn; Floods & Fires, Craig Cardiff; A Tribute To John Allan Cameron, Dave Gunning; Late Edition, David Francey; Little Red Boots, Lindi Ortega.
February 1, 2012
Cockburn to Occupy Glasgow Square
by Aaron Cameron
It’s been an interesting couple of years for Bruce Cockburn. Christmas gifts like BlackBerrys and an iMac have shoved him into the info-age (“My girlfriend decided she had enough of not being able to email me.”)
Last year he released his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort, for which he earned two Canadian Folk Music Awards in December. The singer was originally set to tour in this area in 2010 but that set of shows was canceled due to a bout of pneumonia. When touring did resume in 2011 it was scheduled around the pregnancy of Cockburn’s long-time girlfriend and in November Cockburn became a father for the second time in 30-some years.
“I’m a lot more aware of it (this time) and more appreciative of it,” he says, “It is fairly overwhelming this time, too. (The first time) I was more wrapped up in the perceived need at least to pay attention to music. I didn’t have the confidence to let it sit there and come back to it. Now I know it’s there and I can pay attention to the baby… My first daughter’s birth and childhood went by so fast.”
While his first daughter’s childhood may have gone by fast, it didn’t go by unnoticed. Cockburn’s 1983 classic ‘Lovers In a Dangerous Time’ was in part inspired by his parental concern for her in light of then growing AIDS epidemic.
“’Lovers In A Dangerous Time’ was written early in the public school stage,” he says. “I was thinking about her and her friends in the playground and looking at the headlines. When I was a kid we were growing up with the Korean War but our response was different. Our response was to have air raid drills and hide under our desk. But the idea of dying from being intimate with someone…it has a different significance.”
Cockburn is, at heart, a folk-singer and ‘Lovers’, like many of his songs, tapped into the spirit of the time but did so in such a way that it remains relevant today. Songs like ‘The Trouble With Normal’ or ‘Call it Democracy’, meanwhile, sound as though they may have been written in response to the Occupy Wall Street protests. When you take into account that those songs were written in 1981 and 1985 respectively it is an idea which becomes eerie, although Cockburn would be the first to tell you he isn’t a prophet.
“I wasn’t the only voice that was hollering that message out… That information was out there for a long time. The cause and effect was obvious. Over the years the powers that be have perfected that. Now people in New York can see how they’re being exploited, how they’re being screwed over and they’re in the streets. And they should be in the streets. They keep the issue in front of us and that’s a good thing. But they’re treated as a kind of side show to the real running joke which is these puffed up morons trying to be president. God help us if any of them get into that position.”
Although recent tours have seen him supported by other musicians, his stop at Glasgow Square on February 13 will be a solo performance. The songs will be stripped down to just his voice and unique fingerpicking style but that’s fine by Cockburn, they work that way.
“There are a few songs from the middle of the 80s that are hard to pull off solo because they’re very band oriented and the guitar part is quite small,” he says. “There’s a few, but not too many. In general I’ve written them to be played solo. I was in bands in the ‘60s but that was a long time ago and they were not always successful. The music never really worked either which is what led to me going solo. When I have bands now they tend to be small. I toured last time out with a trio and that was a great band. I do miss the band, I miss the energy and the companionship of those people.”
Small Source of Comfort is Cockburn’s 31st album since his 1970 eponymous debut and by his own estimation in the years since he’s written between 350 to 400 songs although how he manages to find new things to say is a mystery to him.
“I have no idea. It’s never something I take for granted. It’s always sort of touch and go. And there’ve been points where I thought it was over. It’s always started up again. I have no reason to doubt it will continue to flow. It’s been important to me to try not to repeat myself. I try to avoid using the same devices over and over and not writing the same song over and over.”
Bruce Cockburn will be performing at Glasgow Square in New Glasgow on February 13, 2012 at 8 p.m. in support of his 31st album Small Source of Comfort. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door.
January 24, 2012
Interview: Bruce Cockburn
The veteran artist on longevity, war zones, and why he believes Christians can cuss.
After more than 40 years of songwriting, 66-year-old Bruce Cockburn shows few signs of slowing down. A member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame—he even has his own postage stamp!—Cockburn keeps making great music and piling up awards. In early December, he nabbed two Canadian Folk Music Awards for Contemporary Album of the Year and Solo Artist of the Year.
Cockburn has spent much of his adult life making music, fighting for just causes, and sharing tents with soldiers in war zones around the world. He's the first to admit that he's surprised this music thing is still humming along.
"It's kind of amazing," he says, laughing. "How did I get here? How did I last this long? I remember when the idea of living to be 40 seemed absurd. Here I am at 66 and I'm still doing this—and it still feels fresh. It still is very, very far from being old hat or boring."
One reason for that is Cockburn's many travels and experiences, including a late 2009 visit to Kandahar, Afghanistan to see his brother, Capt. John Cockburn, and the Canadian troops. That trip influenced a number of songs on his 31st and most recent album, Small Source of Comfort (True North Records), which released in March 2011.
Cockburn says his brother had been an ER doctor specializing in anesthesiology before joining the army later in life. Cockburn says his visit to Afghanistan was unique.
"Since the early '80s, I've found myself in war zones in various parts of the world," he says. "This was an opportunity to go to a war zone that I had a personal connection, and to see a war zone in the company of Canadians. It was an amazing experience. I came away with the same amount of skepticism about the war that I went in with, but what I hadn't expected was how much affection and admiration I would feel for the troops.
"It sounds strange to say it, but you can be in a war zone and have a lot of fun. Even though war is essentially pain on all sides, human beings have the capacity to enjoy themselves. The soldiers are mostly young people, full of enthusiasm and energy, and that's an exciting thing for an old guy like me."
The song "Each One Lost" was influenced by the death of two Canadian soldiers who had just been killed and were being prepared to be sent home. Cockburn was present for the sending-off ceremony, standing on the tarmac as the two coffins were loaded onto a plane. Cockburn was moved by "the incredible dignity of the ceremony and the empathy of the troops, knowing it could have been them. There was an incredible depth of feeling all around—a lot of tears and a sense of seriousness."
The instrumental "Comets of Kandahar" comes from something a soldier said while watching fighter jets take off in the night. "They would take off in pairs," says Cockburn, "and because they don't have streetlights at Kandahar Airfield, you just hear this incredible roar and a moment later all you could see was this cone of incandescent purple flame shooting across the sky, followed thirty seconds later by another one. Everybody stops to watch it. The soldier next to me turns and says, 'Comets of Kandahar.' I thought the image was so great it became the title of that piece."
Taking inspiration from his experiences is a staple of Cockburn's method—and the things that inspire him are frequently spiritual. His immense catalogue of songs spans many topics, and his large, loyal fan base includes people of various religious backgrounds.
Cockburn says his audience is "tolerant. People who aren't especially interested in issues related to the Divine will tolerate my going there, and the people who are interested in that are willing to tolerate the other stuff, like the cuss words and everything else that shows up."
There have been exceptions. Years ago, Cockburn received a "kind of hurt-sounding letter" from a young woman who was offended by his reference to canine fecal matter in one of his songs. "She wondered how I could call myself a Christian and say 'dog s---'." Cockburn is laughing as he tells the story. "What? You don't think Jesus ever cussed? Jesus may have been the Son of God, but he was flesh and blood and he lived life the way we do. It just seemed absurd to have your salvation tied up with what kind of language you use, or whether or not you drink booze or occasionally have sex or whatever it is that people get all worked up about."
Cockburn says when he first became a Christian in the early 1970s, "it was unfamiliar territory. I listened a lot to people who claimed to know a lot about it which—the people on TV and the fundamentalist types who were quick to tell you they know all the answers. After a while, it was very clear that they were deluding themselves. At least I wasn't cut out to have that kind of approach to things.
"To me, everything in life is a process. There is no stopping point; you never land. If you think you've landed somewhere, watch out, because God or whoever is gonna pull the rug out from under you, and you are going to have to start thinking again, trying to understand how you fit into things."
Cockburn says he doesn't care whether people believe he's a Christian or not.
"What's important is recognition that there is a spiritual side of life, and that needs to be paid attention to," he says. "There's a real distinction between materialism and a sense of the cosmos being a deeper place than that. If it's a deeper place, then what does that ask from us? I don't know the answer. I'm still working on it, and that is perhaps why people are willing to listen to the stuff I put into songs."
Daniel Lumpkin is a journalism student at Kennesaw State University. When he is not daydreaming in class, he serves on the editorial staff for his college magazine.
January 23, 2012
Carlin America Announces Acquisition of Bruce Cockburn Catalog
Catalog is Significant Addition to Carlin Nashville’s Creative Ventures
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 23, 2012) – Carlin America announced Thursday the acquisition of legendary Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist Bruce Cockburn’s song catalog. Carlin Nashville will focus on the exploitation of the catalog in country and rock markets.
A native of Ottawa, Cockburn has recorded more than 30 albums throughout his career. He is regarded as one of the most influential musicians and esteemed songwriters of his time. His nine Top 10 singles include: “Going To The Country” (1970), “Wondering Where The Lions Are” (1979), “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” (1984), “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” (1984), “People See Through You” (1986) and “If A Tree Falls” (1988). Cockburn teamed with producer T Bone Burnett for albums Nothing But A Burning Light (1991) and Dart To The Heart (1994), which charted four and three singles each, respectively.
Cockburn’s songs have been recorded by a wide diversity of artists such as Chet Atkins, Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, Elbow, Dan Fogelberg, Jerry Garcia Band, George Hamilton IV, k.d. lang, Maria Muldaur, Anne Murray, Holly Near and Tom Rush, among others. Cockburn has also composed for television and films and wrote the opening and closing themes for “Franklin,” the long-running popular children’s television series.
Carlin 100 Years of Music
“We are so pleased and excited to welcome Bruce Cockburn to the Carlin roster that includes such other music giants as John Sebastian, Jim Steinman, AC/DC, Billie Holiday, James Brown and Stephen Sondheim,” says Carlin America President and CEO Caroline Bienstock. “Bruce has continued to be among the most prolific, versatile and important songwriters in popular music, and we are very eager to begin pursuing the many revenue opportunities his extensive catalog makes possible.”
Of the new acquisition, Cockburn says: “The time seemed right to try to bring this music to the attention of a wider audience. When the people at Carlin expressed interest in buying the catalog it felt like the songs had found a perfect home. I’m looking forward to working with them.”