Richard Hoare Archive


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In the last print edition of Gavin’s Woodpile, which was December 2003, I wrote "Thanks to Richard Hoare for his many contributions to the newsletter since 1997. You’ve made it a better read. How Richard and I first connected is a small story in itself, but perhaps saved for some future telling.”

Richard passed away on July 1, 2019. Interestingly it was on Canada Day. This page is devoted to all of the contributions that Richard made to Gavin’s Woodpile. Some of those contributions are not things that can be expressed in words.

Thank you ever so much, Richard.

In the early 1990s I replied to an ad in a music collectors magazine for a newsletter devoted to Bruce’s work. The newsletter was called Cala Luna. I tucked a five dollar bill and a note into an envelope and mailed it off to the United Kingdom to a fellow named Richard Hoare. Weeks, then months went by but I did not receive the newsletter. Darn. It would take a few years to realize this was a good thing.

A short time after this, in late 1993, I started Gavin’s Woodpile. In December 1996, after having published issue number 18, the phone rang at my home near Seattle. Almost before saying “hello" the person on the other end of the line apologized sincerely for not having delivered my copies of Cala Luna. It was Richard Hoare. My recollection is that he had tracked me down through True North Records.

Richard had just interviewed Bruce in London on December 10, as Bruce was there to promote the coming release of The Charity of Night. After telling me of the interview experience, he said, “Did you know that you got a mention in the liner notes?” I was stunned and silent. Richard said, “Daniel, are you still there? Daniel?” He laughed.

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We were off and running after that phone call. It didn’t take long to realize we were a good pair. We were both collectors of Bruce’s work and we immediately bonded over that, exchanging obscure and rare items associated with Bruce's musical journey. We also shared a great interest of music in general. Richard was detailed-oriented, I was more of a big picture person. This was a good combo.

In a flurry of FAXes and telephone exchanges over the next month, we agreed that his recent interview with Bruce would be published in issue number 19 of Gavin’s Woodpile (February 1997). He was working on issue number 4 of Cala Luna at the time and also published the interview there.

In the nearly nineteen year friendship we met only four times: 1997, 2009, 2011 and 2018. Richard visited my wife, Jerri, and I in Snohomish, Washington, in 1997. We visited with Richard and his family in the UK in 2009. On that visit he and his wife, Mary, accompanied us to Paris for two days. We went on our way to Denmark and they headed back home to the UK. In 2011 we met up with Richard at the Louvre in Paris. Our meeting spot was inside the museum at the statue of Venus de Milo. He took the Eurostar train from London and back in the same day just to spend a few hours with us. We visited many, many times via phone and FaceTime over the years. Not the same as Face-To-Face Time, but better than FAXing.

The last time we saw each other was when Richard flew to Seattle in 2018. It was a big ole chunk of fun. Big picture: we were attending one of Bruce’s shows in Seattle and two in Portland, Oregon, as well as the three soundchecks. Right after the Seattle show ended we drove to Mt. Rainier National Park for the night. We made a quick trip into the park the next morning for some spectacular views then headed to Portland with time to check into our hotel and get to the soundcheck. The morning after the second show in Portland we dropped Richard off at the nearby railway station and he was on his way to Seattle and his flight back to London. However, even before he got to the airport in Seattle I had an email from him telling me he had already drafted up his three-shows-in-three-days concert reviews. That was Richard. He loved this kind of adventure. Excited as a kid.

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When Richard approached interviewing Bruce or writing a review or an article, the things that were important to him were details, places and dates of when things happened, the facts, and that proper research was done. He wasn’t big on fluff. It was also very important to Richard to respect Bruce's personal space and the access he had to Bruce. He was very guarded about that. Richard had a scholarly interest in Bruce’s work and he was always grateful for the opportunity to see him play, to attend soundchecks and to be able to sit down and interview him. He never took any of this for granted.

Richard always took notes. He had his notepad and pen handy many times when we FaceTimed. He would have a list of topics that he wanted to cover, and at times would jot down notes about what I was saying. At shows and soundchecks he would do the same. Getting it right mattered.

Richard was keen on bookstores and record shops. He loved vinyl. In Portland we spent some time in Powell’s Books poking around looking for gold. Afterward we walked to a record store where we had fun flipping through the bins and commenting on this and that. We had coffee and treats at Peet’s Coffee on NE Broadway, dinner with Gary Craig and John Dymond one evening and Gary and John Aaron Cockburn another evening. The lights of Portland twinkled in the cold February night air.

Richard had a very broad knowledge of music, musicians and music history. It was quite amazing. He was a walking encyclopedia of music, and not just Bruce’s music. I always marveled at that. When he got going all you could do was smile and hang on. He could weave a story.

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Richard was a kind, considerate, respectful and gentle person. We spent good times having discussions about Bruce’s work. If either of us were at a concert we were excited to contact the other as soon as possible to share the experience. When a new album was in the works we were jumping up and down about that because we knew we would share with each other through that process… recording sessions, photo shoots and the coming tour. I will miss all of that.

A part of what all of this has meant to me has gone with Richard. Life is full of moving on...


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November 16, 2018

Bruce Cockburn - Solo - Three Dates in November 2018 – England, United Kingdom

Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room – Thursday 8th  
Band on the Wall, Manchester – Friday 9th
St Pancras Church, London – Saturday 10th 

Observations and comments from Richard Hoare


Bruce has been performing groups of solo dates since April 2018 and he wound up the current batch in the UK last week after 42 dates. His last visit to these shores was in October 2015 when there was no new album to play although the then latest release was the box set to accompany his memoir. This time Cockburn included more than half the songs from the most recent album Bone on Bone (2017) re-arranged for solo performance.

The high-ceilinged Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room was full with an audience of about 250. The attentive and quiet audience provided the best gig of this trio of dates. Bruce wore a green shirt and tie and a very cool thin blue coat with chrome zipper pulls. Cockburn kicked off, on six string Manzer, with the opening track from Bone on Bone, States I’m In with some stinging guitarwork. He then settled in with Lovers In A Dangerous Time before including the first surprise of the evening, Silver Wheels from In the Falling Dark, rehearsed for the recent dates in Japan. Forty Years In The Wilderness, a fine song played as recorded on the recent album provided a stillness followed by the crowd pleaser that is Peggy’s Kitchen Wall. Bruce commented that Peggy Cade was originally from Liverpool. Cockburn introduced Café Society as a San Francisco song which, without the album’s harmonica or vocal distortion, was delivered with a welcome clarity. Bruce played Bone on Bone with a brighter presence than on the CD. Last Night Of The World was greeted with recognition by the audience and the first half closed with 3 Al Purdys, the project that kick started his song writing again after completing his memoir.

The second set opened with Bruce on charango for beautiful renditions of Bone in My Ear flavoured  with sparkling windchimes and the most recent album’s Mon Chemin, a personal favourite of driving rhythm. Back to the six string Cockburn played Pacing The Cage as a request. Bruce continued to pile on the classic numbers and he played a beautiful harmonics solo to introduce If I Had A Rocket Launcher. Cockburn then swapped to the twelve string Manzer for Call It Democracy and a rearranged Jesus Train which I think I prefer to the skiffle take on the album, great guitarwork. Back to the six string and another disguised intro for Wondering Where The Lions Are. The second set concluded with the delay drenched If A Tree Falls and the surging momentum of The Gift revived for the band dates earlier this year. The audience had been very attentive throughout and were rewarded with three exquisite encores – One Day I Walk, World of Wonders (this rearrangement is light years from the original album take) and All The Diamonds In the World. It was a really satisfying show.

The Band on The Wall was also full, with a slightly more vocal crowd who sang along with gusto to Peggy’s Kitchen Wall and Wondering Where The Lions Are. Tokyo was substituted for Silver Wheels and  Mighty Trucks of Midnight replaced Pacing The Cage. Unfortunately, shouted requests for any number of encores wrong footed Bruce who always has a plan. The crowd having settled, Cockburn played a beautiful (requested) All The Diamonds In the World however he then asked the audience to sing along to the unrequested Look How Far, a song I love. It didn’t quite work and I can’t remember in the past experiencing a Cockburn gig end on an indifferent note.

The venue in London is a fully operational church not really set up for concerts with stage lighting etc. A stage was erected in front of the altar and Bruce performed leaning against the organists bench. The pews were full, and the set list mirrored that of Liverpool. I am guessing that a large element of the audience was aware of Bruce through Greenbelt. The rather overexcited crowd not only sang along, at Bruce’s request, to Peggy’s Kitchen Wall and Wondering Where The Lions Are but also to some other numbers which rather marred the enjoyment of Cockburn’s performance for some of us. I was therefore fully expecting the barrage of encore requests. I think the “congregation” got what they wanted – One Day I Walk and Lord Of The Starfields. The latter was the only time this hymn like track was played over the three days.

Marco Adria made the following observations (in his book Music of our Times published by James Lorimer & Company Limited, Toronto 1990) “On a fall night in 1987, I went to hear Bruce Cockburn perform solo in Edmonton. Using only two acoustic guitars, a Chilean instrument called a charango on Santiago Dawn, and a set of wind chimes, he kept a sold-out crowd enraptured for two hours without an intermission. It had been several years since Cockburn had appeared solo. When he is accompanied by a band his voice and the artistry of his guitar playing do not shine as they do when he is alone. But what impressed me most that night - I’ve seen him in concert several times - was his ability to keep an audience with him for the entire performance.”

Over 30 years later Bruce is 73 and he now has a short intermission between the two, one-hour sets. He still keeps an audience with him for the entire performance. I had not heard Bruce play solo since 2015 and after the Liverpool show I contacted Daniel Keebler that night to report the show was so fresh and enjoyable.

Photos from Liverpool soundcheck by Richard Hoare




February 16, 2018

Bruce Cockburn and Band in the Pacific Northwest, USA 

Neptune Theatre, Seattle – Sunday 28th January 2018 (800 seats)
Aladdin Theater, Portland - Tuesday 30th January 2018 (600 seats)
Aladdin Theater, Portland – Wednesday 31
st January 2018 (600 seats)

Review by Richard Hoare


The Bruce Cockburn band as a four piece, in support of the Bone On Bone album, started a forty-five date Canadian and US tour shortly after the release of that work on True North in mid-September 2017.  This time Bruce is out on the road with Gary Craig on drums & percussion, John Dymond on bass and John Aaron Cockburn (Bruce’s nephew) on accordion, electric guitar and violin.

As Ron Miles played wonderful cornet on some of my favourite tracks on Bone On Bone I was apprehensive as to how those numbers would be re-arranged for the tour. At the same time, I was not aware until the tour started that John Aaron Cockburn was also going to play electric guitar and violin.

As the likelihood of Bruce bringing the band to the UK is remote I arranged to visit Daniel Keebler and Jerri Andersen in Snohomish and attended the shows in Seattle and Portland. I have known Daniel and Jerri for over 20 years and we first met in 1997, but this would be the first time we had attended the same shows!

All three shows were sold out. By the time the band reached Seattle they were cooking. Seattle was great, the first Portland show was better, and the second Portland show was even better. Daniel reports that the Grants Pass, Oregon show was outstanding, but we are getting ahead of ourselves!

Bruce selected a diverse set of songs for the tour including 7 or 8 tracks from Bone On Bone. Cockburn has re-arranged the tracks from that album and accentuated a clarity for each number which makes them more accessible. The performances are measured, sedate, tense, full of emotion and some are ratcheted up to unleash a coiled spring at different stages.

Cockburn creates a broad pallet of sound with a wide choice of guitars - six string acoustic, Dobro, twelve string acoustic, six string electric, twelve string electric and a charango.

The stage set up is John Aaron on the left, Bruce centre, John Dymond right, all with mikes for vocal contributions and Gary Craig behind. John Dymond has three electric basses – a 4 string Fender Jazzman, another 4 string and a 5 string.  John Aaron plays a beautiful, majestic accordion, Bruce’s Fender Telecaster guitar and an acoustic violin. Gary Craig has a Yamaha drum kit modified specifically for Bruce’s shows. The unique sound comes from the different tones by having wooden hoops on the toms and Evans Calftone drum heads all around. The sounds are warmer and fatter. The kit is complimented with an array of handpicked cymbals. Then there is a side table of singing bowls and bells, a variety of shakers and tambourines topped off with a gong! All these are played with a variety of sticks, mallets and blast sticks to bring out the different textures. As Gary told me “The idea is to blend these sounds in with the array of guitar tones that Bruce brings to the songs.”    

The band kicked off the gigs with solid renditions of old favourites Tokyo and Lovers In A Dangerous Time, both well received by the crowd. Two songs from Bone On Bone followed with States I’m In, including Gary’s stinging singing bowls and the beautiful, lyrical Forty Days In The Wilderness with John Aaron’s lilting accordion.

Each night Bruce found a new way to introduce Free To Be, dating from 1977, saying that unfortunately the lyric is still relevant after 40 years. John Dymond played a fine bass emulating the original live Bob Boucher performance. 

Bruce played a dobro on Café Society complimented by John Aaron’s accordion and Gary’s brushes on the kit. In concert the lyrics had a new clarity and the pace was less frenetic than on the album.

Peggy’s Kitchen Wall is a crowd pleaser each tour it is revived. This time is no exception and the audience sang along without encouragement. One evening Bruce repeated the back-story which you can also find in his memoir.            

If I Had A Rocket Launcher began with an unfamiliar introduction and was ignited mid-song with guitar interplay between Bruce and John Aaron.

Bruce announced an intermission after the next song, the wonderfully moody Strange Waters, which swaggered and swayed with Craig’s percussive bell string and Dymond on his five string bass. It slowly built until Bruce took flight by letting rip on his six string electric before winding up with a feedback finish.        

Refreshed Bruce returned to the stage with a dobro for the second set and started with the album title instrumental, Bone On Bone. The concert version was embellished with Gary’s inventive percussion and a rhythm for Cockburn to follow.

Out came the diminutive charango – “It punches above its weight” Bruce interjected at one of the shows, and he was off playing a driving, sparkling Mon Chemin with accordion in tandem. It was one of the most hypnotic tracks off the new album including a long instrumental section.

Cockburn revived Coldest Night Of The Year as an acoustic ballad and the sedate majesty of the new arrangement was enhanced with some fine accordion.

High energy returned with the skiffle rock of Jesus Train and the twin vocals of Bruce and his nephew.

Each night Cockburn disguised the introduction to Wondering Where The Lions Are. At the first Portland show the song was prefaced with the tune to Home, Home on The Range! Bruce signaled the audience to sing but they didn’t need much encouragement!

The relentless, driving, infectious rhythm of False River featured Bruce’s six string acoustic and John Aaron’s accordion.

If A Tree Falls, with its familiar whammy bar and delay, whisked up a storm which was upstaged by the duel between Bruce’s electric guitar and John Aaron’s violin (this instrument’s only appearance at these shows.)

The second set closed with the The Gift, a song from Big Circumstance, rarely heard after the tour for that record. This re-arranged new version was beautifully enhanced with John Aaron’s clipped highlife electric guitar fills. The original book, The Gift, by Lewis Hyde has recently been referenced in Robert Macfarlane’s essay, The Gifts of Reading, now a compact A6 Penguin paperback.

Each night the audience fetched back the band for some encores. Generally, Bruce kicked off with the audience favourite, Last Night Of The World, before introducing 3 Al Purdys, putting that Canadian poet in context for the crowd. John Aaron’s accordion was featured again, and in place of the cornet coda played by Ron Miles on the album, Gary played a beautiful untypical drum solo. On the second night in Portland Last Night of The World was substituted for the seductive and hypnotic Look How Far, featuring a delightful John Aaron guitar solo.   

The shows were brought to a climax with feedback, distortion and percussion as Stolen Land loomed out of the din with John Aaron’s punctuating electric guitar harmonics. Mid-song Bruce and John Aaron duelled with their guitars before Bruce guided the song to a feedback finale. This both brought the house down and the audience to their feet.

Each of the three nights improved with timing and poise and Bruce was visibly pleased with the audience reaction. 

In the sleeve notes to the Small Source of Comfort CD, Cockburn described an unfulfilled vision of music, electric and noisy, with gongs and jackhammers and fiercely distorted guitars. On some of the electric guitar numbers on this tour Bruce channelled the spirits of Tom Waits and Neil Young with Crazy Horse to produce elements of those sounds aided and abetted by the creative force of Gary Craig.

Get out there and experience this tour before it sells out. Bruce is 72 and hot!!

Huge thanks for my trip to Daniel Keebler, Jerri Andersen, Bruce Cockburn and Mary Hoare.



September 12, 2017

“Pulse to the pull of moonrise”

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

Review by Richard Hoare


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Keebler


December 7, 2015

Bruce Cockburn – Three 2015 UK Shows 
Reviewed by Richard Hoare

The Stables, Milton Keynes Tuesday 13th October
Bush Hall, London Thursday 15
th October
The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff Saturday 17
th October


I attended three of the eight UK shows this October. Bruce Cockburn brought with him three of his trusty instruments made by Linda Manzer all with interesting inlays in the headstocks. The six string has a red-tailed hawk, the twelve string a round face, an image from the 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, and an abalone shell in the ten string charango. The stage set-up included two small tables, one for the tuner and effects controls and on the other sat two apparently woolly toy sheep.

Two years ago, in November 2013, Cockburn played a single UK show at Bush Hall in London, and the last CD of new work, Small Source Of Comfort, was released in 2011.

Bruce introduced Rumours Of Glory by explaining that he had been hung up writing his memoir for 3 years, not writing songs, but here was the title song of the book. Cockburn went on to say that he was trying to throw off the mantle of author to get back to writing songs. He also added that he wasn’t promoting a new album, just playing the same old songs! In fact this notion had a liberating effect on how he selected the set lists from his wider catalogue.  While there were core songs across the three gigs Bruce introduced some great variants here and there. 

At Milton Keynes Cockburn settled into the set with Last Night Of The World and Night Train before playing a beautiful After The Rain. Rumours Of Glory was introduced as written about New York on a grey day. Open and Lovers In A Dangerous Time followed, topped off by an exquisite Bone In My Ear on the charango.

Planet of the Clowns, which I had not heard in the set list for years, was played against the background of the sound of the sea produced by the woolly Sleep Sheep. This background effect continued for a rendition of the instrumental, The End Of All Rivers, which as Bruce commented, is the ocean. This latter piece provided Bruce with a canvas to stretch out over with some intense and fiery guitar work. The maritime trilogy was completed with a beautiful performance of All The Diamonds, which also concluded the first set.

Cockburn opened the second set with the melodious instrumental, Sunrise On The Mississippi, another track not played live for a while, followed by Whole Night Sky. There then followed a couple of beautiful songs from Dancing In The Dragons Jaws. The rarely-played-live Hills Of Morning and the ubiquitous Wondering Where The Lions Are. If A Tree Falls reminded us again of climate change and he then swapped his six string for the twelve string for the last three songs of the set – God Bless The Children, Jesus Train (out of four new songs the only one currently fit for the public) and a rousing Put It In Your Heart.

The crowd called Bruce back for some encores and were unexpectedly provided with an instrumental verse of Rule Britannia followed by Pacing The Cage and Lord Of The Starfields.

The Stables had been two thirds full, however Bush Hall was, like in 2013, sold out with a number of the audience standing. The room was humming hotter and you could see Bruce was responding.

The set list was the same as Milton Keynes with the addition of If I Had A Rocket Launcher in the second set. After Night Train Bruce referred to everything being sun at the time of the first three albums, i.e. Sunwheel Dance. However, since then there has been a lot of night – in a good way! Unusually the heat put the charango out of tune. After Hills Of Morning Bruce put us off the scent by playing a blues instrumental introduction to Wondering Where The Lions Are, but that didn’t stop the whole audience singing the chorus. The encores that night were Lord Of The Starfields and Mystery.

The Cardiff show didn’t sell out, punters possibly being put off by the traffic generated from a Rugby World Cup Quarter Final down the road at The Millennium Stadium. To my surprise however, four different numbers had been substituted into the first set. The show kicked off with the sprightly instrumental Bohemian Three Step and Iris of the World, followed by a wonderful Strange Waters with great guitar solo. After the title song of his memoir we were treated to Mango with that beautiful kora style guitar. To encourage audience participation on Wondering Where The Lions Are Bruce offered “We are small but potent!” 

The breadth of Bruce’s catalogue that he can currently play was further demonstrated by a couple of sound checks I caught where he aired the new City By The River, All The Ways I Want You, Anything Can Happen, Rouler Sa Bosse and a traditional carol from his Christmas album which I won’t name here and spoil for the upcoming San Francisco shows.

Three gigs over five days, a wonderful immersion into the soul and song of Bruce Cockburn.     

Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue interviewed Bruce for Radio Scotland to coincide with the UK tour and offered some astute observations making for an interesting conversation. In the late 1980s I was back stage at a Greenbelt Festival in Northampton, England, when Ricky appeared wanting to have his photograph taken with Cockburn. They were both wearing black leather jackets. Ross enthused about Bruce and his work suggesting he was going to cover a Cockburn song one day. I have yet to find one!

And finally, although Bruce did not articulate it, he was in a way promoting the box set of CDs tied into his memoir. On the face of it the track list may look like you have most of the music already but the tracks include some remastered songs from albums not yet released in that format as well a few otherwise unreleased gems.

Photos by Richard Hoare



Posted June 30, 2015

Bruce Cockburn

Montreal Folk Festival Friday 19th June 2015
Ottawa Jazz Festival Saturday 20th June 2015 

Reviewed by Richard Hoare

When it was announced that Bruce was appearing at The Montreal Folk Festival and Ottawa Jazz Festival with Gary Craig and Roberto Occhipinti I experienced an adrenalin rush. This was followed by return to rational thought, “Leave it Richard, you live in the UK”! 

Something clicked in me that the drummer/percussionist that is Gary Craig coupled with the versatile bassist that is Roberto Occihpinti would make Cockburn’s performances incandescent. Bruce has known Roberto since the days that he lived in Toronto, once sat in with one of Roberto’s R’n’B bands in that city and has wanted to work with Roberto for some time but calendars clashed. Roberto is the brother of Michael Occhipinti who recorded a CD in 2000 of Cockburn’s songs as jazz instrumentals. The album was entitled Creation Dream and the musicians included Hugh Marsh, Jon Goldsmith and Bruce himself on one track. I reviewed this fine work for Gavin’s Woodpile when it was still a paper newsletter [Issue number 52, August 2002].    

The nagging draw continued until, on Friday 19th June, I strolled out of Monk metro station, Montreal, in the bright sunshine to walk the length of Monk Boulevard trying to find the Theatre Paradoxe where Cockburn was headlining the festival that night. At last I spotted the vertical sign on the side of the historical Church Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours, now a community centre. I had arrived. Before the sound check started Bruce introduced me to his daughter, Jenny, who lives in Montreal.

The new trio had just spent two days in a rehearsal studio in Toronto. The sound check in Montreal was largely able to be a rehearsal, as the crew had ironed out the bugs in the PA. Roberto and Gary were already subtly jamming when Bruce arrived on stage to sing a few lines of Fever over their riff! Playing a vintage double bass Roberto has drive, subtly, solos, a violin bow and diverse talent to bring it all together. Gary’s playing with Cockburn goes back to the early 1990s involving both recordings and concerts. Craig brings that magical combination of beat and percussion without drowning out Cockburn’s amplified acoustic instruments. Fresh life was being blown through a back catalogue that was not specifically tied to an album release. Bruce selected instruments for different songs from his collection of two Manzer guitars, a 12 string guitar, the metal bodied Dobro and a charango made by Linda Manzer.

This trio brought an urgency and vibrancy to the Cockburn catalogue. Bone In My Ear, with Bruce on charango and Roberto on bowed bass, was absolutely amazing. There were tears in my eyes. Occhipinti even asked to try various “chugging” numbers before the close of the sound check.

The evening concert had had a variety of start times banded around in advertising and the media so by the time the musicians walked on stage at 9pm the audience in this 700 person capacity theatre were more than ready for the show. 

The back catalogue tracks, After The Rain, Rumours Of Glory, Lovers In A Dangerous Time and Tokyo were well received. Mango, Open and Bone In My Ear all benefitted from Roberto’s bowed bass. Slow Down Fast enabled the trio to stretch out and Waiting for a Miracle brought the first half to a close. 

The interval was over when the guys returned to kick off with Comets Of Kandahar, almost more appropriate for the double bass than the recorded violin version. City Is Hungry employed some jazz chops before settling back into songs like Iris Of The World, Strange Waters, Rocket Launcher and Let The Bad Air Out. Wondering Where The Lions Are gave a boost to the proceedings and the fire of Call It Democracy and Put It In Your Heart brought the second half to a close.

Thelast new album was 2011’s Small Source of Comfort, and for the last three years Bruce has been writing his Memoir. During that time, song writing has taken a back seat but Cockburn has started to write again. When the trio came back for encores Bruce explained that he was surprised to have written a gospel song before launching into the urgent Jesus Train “heading for the city of God” and this was the first time he was playing it to a concert audience. The show concluded with the timeless God Bless The Children. The day had been very enjoyable with just a faint hint of energy loss from the trio halfway through the second half.

It was late, the merchandise line was long and the metro would close soon for the night so I headed back to my hotel without seeing the band. At the end of the sound check that day Bruce had invited me to join the tour bus for the two hour drive to Ottawa tomorrow. 

Saturday was another bright sunny day and the tour bus left midmorning from the hotel downtown that the trio and crew had stayed at on Friday night. The bus banter included films, other music projects and family. Before I knew it the bus was pulling into Ottawa up to the backstage area of the jazz festival. While the stage was being set up Gary and I took a walk passed the parliament buildings, The Rideau Canal locks and took in a couple of markets for snacks. As we wandered, Gary said to me - Today we have to avoid the “sophomore slump”.   The Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage was housed under a tall marquee tent with a reputed 500 person capacity. With two of the tent sides rolled up for an additional standing audience on the left and back, the atmosphere was expectant for the earlier start of 7.30pm.

Cockburn grew up in Ottawa and the Ottawa Sun newspaper billed this show as a homecoming gig. Bruce’s two brothers, who still live in the area, were chatting with him in the bus when Gary and I returned from our walk and we were introduced.  We were even very close to the various locations of Le Hibou where Cockburn started performing all those decades ago.

The sound check was largely that, getting interference out of the PA system. However I was entertained with three instrumental jams along the way.   

As a festival date there was no interval, the set was slightly shorter than the day before but the audience and trio interaction maintained a vibrancy throughout the set. In fact this home crowd gave several standing ovations during the set. Comets Of Kandahar and City Is Hungry nailed the trio’s jazz credentials to the stage and Bruce played some wonderful guitar solos on Rocket Launcher, Jesus Train, Put It In Your Heart and Slow Down Fast. If you think it’s just Richard raving about Bruce again check out the review in the Ottawa Sun on line  [Or see the article just below this one].

I waited at the end of the merchandise line to thank Bruce and his road manager for a great visit. “See you in October in the UK” they both said in unison!  

I really hope that any new work incorporates the talents of Gary Craig and Roberto Occhipinti. A while ago Cockburn was quoted as saying he would like to record with Sunn O))), Seattle drone metal band. Scott Walker has recently done that. What we need now is the new twist to Cockburn’s music that is Bruce, Roberto and Gary.


My thanks to Daniel Keebler, to my wife, Mary, our family and my employer for their blessings, which enabled the dream to become reality.


November 13, 2013

Bruce Cockburn
Bush Hall
London, England
November 13, 2013 


Reviewed by Richard Hoare

This was the only UK show and last date of a solo tour of Europe that had taken in gigs in Spain, Finland and Germany. The sold out Bush Hall concert was buzzing with a large crowd. Although the seats were in place, a large number of the audience were left standing. 

Bruce came on in fine humour saying “It was good to be back in the home of the language,” and pointing at the two six and twelve string Linda Manzer guitars on the stage, proffered that “He was going to play from his vast array of instruments”. 

Cockburn kicked off with the welcome return of Grim Travellers, substituting “Islamist Underground” in place of “Red Army Underground” and “The Prophet” for “Karl Marx”. Our man settled in with The Iris of The World and When You give It Away before blowing us all away with the dextrous and rhythmic guitar work of the instrumental Bohemian Three Step. Strange Waters was played in the hypnotic arrangement created for the 2011 trio tour of North America and After The Rain glistened and sparkled. 

Bruce graced us with another guitar instrumental, The End of All Rivers, played with delays, harmonics and beautiful sedate runs and closed the first set with “A song that seems just as relevant today” and an old favourite, Lovers In A Dangerous Time. 

The second set eased back in with the claustrophobic Pacing The Cage before the invitation to sing on Wondering Where The Lions Are. Cockburn took the pace up a gear for a wonderfully strident Stolen Land, another vehicle for some inspiring guitar work and continued with a brilliant loping gait for Five Fifty-One. Call It Democracy kept up the fire and pace which then cooled down for the meditative God Bless The Children, written in 1972. Cockburn ended the set with an explosive rendition of Put It In Your Heart.

For encores Bruce came back and played a beautiful All The Diamonds with the capo high on the guitar neck, followed by a raucous and physical Tie Me At The Crossroads with Bruce jumping around slashing chords from his guitar. He left the stage again but we wouldn’t let him go and he came back for a luminous and lilting Look How Far to finish. 

When I asked my wife, Mary, and 24 year old son, David, whether they wanted tickets for this show back in March this year they said “Why not?” As the date drew nearer and the logistics of getting to the venue after day jobs started to bite, Mary and David were wondering whether it was going to be worth the effort. I wasn’t much help with encouragement because I was going anyway. The last CD came out in 2011 and I wasn’t expecting any new material to be aired. 

I am pleased to report that all three of us were delighted with what a dynamic and satisfying show we experienced. We saw a world class performer who still has the technical ability to re-arrange and deliver his material in a way that brings a refreshing vibrancy and still retain the soul of the work. Bruce’s voice and his vocal range are in fine form unlike many of his contemporaries.

On a long weekend in Sweden in September this year, Mary and I took a steam ferry out into The Stockholm Archipelago on a sunny day to see where All The Diamonds was written in 1973. All the lyrics are there among the different and beautiful array of islands. We were so lucky to hear the song again tonight. 

As we left the venue our son David said to Bruce, “Thank you being so inspirational and keeping my Dad happy!!” Bruce grinned and said “That’s a noble comment; I never say that about my Dad!!”



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


February 21, 2011
Small Source of Comfort
Review by Richard Hoare
for Gavin’s Woodpile

Artist: Bruce Cockburn
Title: Small Source Of Comfort
Label: True North Records
Promotional CD: WM#232
Producer: Colin Linden Recorded and mixed by John Whynot
Recorded predominantly at The Bathouse, Bath, Ontario
Mixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California
Running Time: 53mins 40secs
Released: 8th March 2011


The last Cockburn studio album, Life Short Call Now, was released in mid 2006. Since that time the following have occurred amongst others:-

• 2006 - True North released the iTunes only track Twilight on the Champlain Sea later that year.
• 2006/2007 - Bruce toured on the back of Life Short Call Now.
• 2007 - Cockburn took another trip to Nepal.
• 2008 April - Annabelle Chvostek CD Resilence released. It includes the first version of Driving Away co-written with Bruce.
• 2008 - The Bruce Cockburn concert dates in May on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. were recorded for future release.
• 2009 January - Celia Shacklett CD, Transformateurs, released. Cockburn contributed a co-write and plays on another track.
• 2009 - Bruce contributed a cover of Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down on Things About Comin’ My Way - A Tribute to the music of The Mississippi Sheiks.
• 2009 - The first live Cockburn solo album entitled, Slice O Life, featuring material form the 2008 dates was released as a double CD. It included the new Bruce song, The City Is Hungry.
• 2009 September - Bruce visited the Canadian base in Afghanistan.
• 2010 June - Cockburn recorded Small Source of Comfort in Canada.

Cockburn has assembled the following core backing musicians for the album - Gary Craig on drums, John Dymond on bass and Jenny Schienman on violin. Augmenting those performers are Colin Linden, Annabelle Chevostek, Tim Lauer and Celia Shaklett. Schienman is best known for her work with Bill Frisell and Norah Jones. Before this album Jenny worked with Bruce on an aborted Hollywood film score. This album’s signature sound is provided to a large extent by the sound of Jenny’s violin and varied percussion played by Gary and Bruce. There are fourteen tracks comprising an unusual format for Bruce of nine songs and five instrumentals.

1. The Iris Of The World (3.23) The start of the album flies out of the traps with Bruce on ebullient acoustic guitar with the vision of the world passing through his windshield. It’s a road song about Cockburn traveling between Kingston Ontario and Brooklyn New York to see his partner. The lyrics switch between observations on the route and Bruce mulling over his feelings for his girlfriend. The driving rhythm takes musical elements from Cockburn’s song Postcards From Cambodia.

2. Call Me Rose (3.18) The song is written from the point of view of disgraced former US president Richard Nixon, who receives a chance of redemption after being reincarnated as a single mother living in a housing project with two children. This track is the first single released from the album. It’s a full band sound including the playing of Colin Linden and the harmonies of Celia Shacklett. Cockburn has commented that he woke up one morning with the song fully formed. It is an unusual lyrical stance for Bruce who usually writes in the first person. It’s a wry take on the subject of one of the Bush administration’s efforts to rehabilitate Nixon’s image. There is a photograph in a 1970 issue of Life magazine with the following caption “Alone in a wicker chair in the White House Rose Garden, President Nixon prepares his speech on Cambodia”. The Cambodian adventure was quickly tagged “Nixon’s gamble”. Nixon has provided the subject matter for songs by a variety of artist including Postcards from Richard Nixon by Elton John, The Love Of Richard Nixon by The Manic Street Preachers and Ohio (performed by CSNY) and Campaigner by Neil Young. Campaigner includes the refrain “Where even Richard Nixon has got soul”.

3. Bohemian 3-Step (4.08) This is a beautiful acoustic guitar instrumental which has a wonderful descending chord pattern. Half way through Bruce takes off on the fret board before returning to the theme. All the time Gary keeps time back in the mix with a spare snapping sound on the drums. Cockburn credits the musical influence of the piece to Jenny Scheinman.

4. Radiance (4.15) Musically the track uses the stately seductive walking gate that formed the structure of Bruce’s song The Charity Of Night. This feeling is accentuated by Jenny on violin and the Tim Lauer on accordion. Cockburn read an interview with Jungian psychologist Marion Woodman in which she made reference to the Divine Feminine representing the radiance which pervades the cosmos. Driving at sunset kick started the writing process.

5. Five Fifty-One (3.35) Musically Cockburn uses the strident elements of All Our Dark Tomorrows to propel this paean to Brooklyn’s pumping urban dawn – where Bruce has spent time. The track comprises the twin guitars of Bruce and Colin backed by Gary’s drums and rattles. An urban blues accentuated by Cockburn’s harmonica. The phrase “small source of comfort” appears in the lyrics.

6. Driving Away (4.36) Bruce wrote this with Annabelle Chvostek who had a lot of the lyrics and the music for the verses already. Annabelle plays guitar and sings on the track. Musically the song seems to employ the style of Bruce’s song Don’t Forget About Delight. The lyric embraces the traveling theme of the album.

7. Lois On The Autobahn (4.46) This instrumental comprises flowing acoustic guitar and violin with hand drum accompaniment. The main theme provides a platform for first Bruce then Jenny to solo. It was inspired by a piece of Jenny’s and is for Bruce’s late mother. Lois would have been proud, a spiritual journey to the afterlife.

8. Boundless (4.46) Written by Annabelle and Bruce but this time Cockburn had much of the verbiage in bits and pieces. Book ended by Cockburn playing chimes this is one of the best complete songs and performances on the record. Relentless vocals by Bruce and Annabelle who plays great mandolin are complemented by wonderful violin and drums. The road to eternity again.

9. Called Me Back (2.42) The violin is high in the mix on this song which takes its structure from Mystery, the list lyric style from Anything Can Happen and the overall subject from the track Life Short Call Now. The despair of the latter song is traded for humor in this one.

10. Comets of Kandahar (4.50) This is the first of two tracks that emanate from the Afghanistan trip. Bruce has described this instrumental as Django Reinhardt meets John Lee Hooker. It certainly is a great raucous drum heavy duel of guitar and violin. The comets are the glowing jet fighter exhausts at night.

11. Each One Lost (4.00) Bruce’s experience of a ramp ceremony resulted in this song for the fallen. Cockburn expands it to universal loss. A song to add to Bruce’s small but perfectly formed collection of hymns.

12. Parnassus And Fog (3.30) Parnassus is a street in San Francisco, a city where Bruce has spent time. The violin is dominant and the tune sounds like a floating oriental cloud. This sedate instrumental conjures up the stillness one finds in fog and also for me the disorientation one feels following the death of a loved one.

13. Ancestors (4.00) The pensive guitar picking, reverb and percussion evoke the title of this instrumental. The chimes and singing bowls are beautiful. In 1968 Steve Miller wrote Song For Our Ancestors on his album, Sailor. The first section of that song is the foghorns of San Francisco Bay.

14. Gifts (1.58) Bruce wrote this short piece in 1968 and he would finish shows with it around that time. BC: “Never seemed right to record it till now.” It still stands up forty odd years later.

This is Cockburn’s 31st studio album and some how once again Bruce makes a different work. There is a wonderful lightness of touch to the songs and instrumentals. Bruce is still out there on the musical edge creating new work.

Photos by D. Keebler: Recording sessions at the Bathouse in Bath, Ontario, June, 2010. Re-use of the contents of this review by permission.


March 21, 2009

Artist: Bruce Cockburn
Title: Slice O Life
Format: Double CD
Label: True North Records TND520 (Canada)
Release Date: 31 March 2009 
Reviewed by Richard Hoare


The two and a half live albums already in Cockburn’s catalogue feature a jazz trio in 1977, stick and drum wonderment in 1989, and a rock sound in 1997. The first two albums both include examples of Bruce playing solo. However, this new double CD album produced by Colin Linden is the first wholly live solo recording. The sleeve notes are by Bruce himself and the following extract assists in understanding what you hear:- 

“These performances are drawn from ten concerts recorded in May '08. We've made an effort to put them together as one show, in the hope of giving you the feeling of being present in the flesh. For the same reason, we chose not to apply too much polish. What you hear is what it was.” 

Before the paying audience ever hears Bruce play a note of a show he has often played a complete set in the sound check earlier in the day which contributes enormously to why generally he is so good in concert. The sound check here includes Bruce warming up on his twelve string guitar which evolves into part of The Trains Don't Go There Anymore which is a better performance than his studio version on the 2008 CD Dancing Alone – Songs of William Hawkins. Cockburn continues with a slow exploratory Kit Carson which ends with a flaring noise from his guitar effect, prompting a quip about its resemblance to automatic weapon fire! The bluesy Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long provides the canvas for Bruce to open up and improvise. 

All artists settle into a live performance which is a combination of a whole host of factors including the vibe from the auditorium which is now full of people. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the CD has been sequenced so that there are several tracks of Bruce settling into the gig. The re-arranged solo version of World Of Wonders has been one of my in-concert favourites since I heard him play it in Glasgow in 2002 at the end of the gig. The version here is not as ethereal as I have heard live before and See You Tomorrow suffers from strained vocals. I am also a little disconcerted by the raucous audience which seems to take away some of the gravitas from this world class performer. 

For me the set really kicks in five numbers into the CD with a fine rendition of How I Spent My Fall Vacation, which is prefaced with a completely left field reference – 25 seconds of what sounds like the melody of Silhouettes by The Diamonds, a Canadian group, which reached No.10 in Billboard in 1957. It was then a hit again for Herman’s Hermits in1965 on both sides of the Atlantic.

Bruce then hits his stride with a blistering take of Tibetan Side of Town, which is followed by an appropriately slow world weary Pacing The Cage. In fact, for me this latter track and Celestial Horses, later in the set, are better performances than their studio counterparts. End Of All Rivers is the instrumental of the set and is a fine example of what you can do with a delay effect and imagination. Disc one ends with Soul Of A Man, one of very few cover versions that made it onto one of his regular releases. He dug deep into the original Blind Willie Johnson performance and makes it his own. 

Disc two starts off flying with Wait No More with that great strident middle-eastern urgency. The only new number is City Is Hungry which is, by his own admission, tentative and comprises observations of New York where Bruce has been spending a proportion of his time recently. From this slow blues Bruce launches into the other dazzling take of the record, Put In It Your Heart. 

It is strange when there were ten performances to choose from that, to my ears, the dynamite performances are found in the less well known songs. 

A selection of the performances as snapshots are well described by the term Slice O Life but the material and the “between song” stories, which often have a playful quality, are the Body O Work viz:- 

Wondering Where The Lions Are – The breakthrough single that went to the top 40 in 1980 in the US.
Lovers In a Dangerous Time – U2 borrowed a line from this 1983 single for their song God Part II.
If I Had A Rocket Launcher – The other song from 1983 that garnered so much controversial press in the US.
World Of Wonders – A timeless universal lyric from the 1985 album of the same name.
If A Tree Falls – The ecology single from 1988 that received widespread radio play.
Tibetan Side of Town – An example of Cockburn’s well observed travels.
Put It In Your Heart – Bruce’s response to 9/11.
Child Of The Wind – An autobiographical tale of being out on the road till the end of his days.
Tie Me At The Crossroads … “when I die” sings Bruce. The blues myth is that you went to the crossroads to sell your soul to the devil! 

If you are a long term fan then you might be over familiar with some of this material, but this is a very cleverly compiled double CD which is in effect a Story of Bruce Cockburn.

Amen


Posted: March 21, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer, best known for “2001: A Space Odyssey” died on 19 March 2008. In 1953 Clarke wrote his most famous short story, “The Nine Billion Names of God.” John Clute in The Independent dated 20 March 2008 wrote that “the story rewards a triumph of science with the calm extinction of the universe. An Asian sect hires a computer expert to tabulate all the possible names of God, in the belief that the universe will end when that essential task has been accomplished. The computer makes short shrift of the task. And the stars begin to go out.”

On 22 May 1990 Bruce Cockburn wrote the song One Of The Best Ones which was released on the album, Nothing But A Burning Light (1991). The track includes the lines:

Like the nine billion names of God
Don’t bring you any closer
To anyone you can simply set eyes on

-Complied by Richard Hoare


Posted: February 8, 2007

Bruce Cockburn - Three Shows in Three Days
Reviewed by Richard Hoare

In 2006 Bruce toured North America and Canada backed by Julie Wolf and Gary Craig. For his 2007 European tour Cockburn has adapted his set for solo guitar. He had played Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin before I caught up with the tour.

The Stables, Milton Keynes, England 24th January 2007
Support act Angela Desveaux

This auditorium has a capacity of 350 and the shallow gradient seating surrounds the stage on three sides. The venue wasn’t full but it is an intimate room. The stage was set up with Cockburn’s three acoustic instruments; a six string Manzer guitar, a polished steel Dobro resonator guitar and a twelve-string Guild guitar all fitted with pickups to be played with the effects pedal set.

Bruce came out on stage dressed in black, clean shaven and looking fitter than some recent photographs have suggested. He launched into the first three tracks: Last Night Of The World, Open and Tokyo with hypnotic bass string intensity before slowing for the guitar solo virtuosity of Jerusalem Poker.

Cockburn continued with Life Short Call Now, prefaced by the billboard story that led him to write the song. Bruce then recounted that his friend Celia thought the former track was the most depressing song she had heard until she listened to the next one, Beautiful Creatures! Cockburn acquitted himself well without the studio technology to assist the swooping vocal that was recorded on the album.

Bruce changed to the Dobro for the insistent rhythm of Wait No More followed by the road song from the Inter American Highway in Nicaragua from March 1983, Dust And Diesel.

During the next sequence of political songs I marvelled at what Cockburn can play on his twelve string Guild for This Is Baghdad, Tell The Universe and the high energy Put It In Your Heart.

Bruce changed back to his six string guitar for a wonderful If A Tree Falls and concluded the set with the Zen like Mystery. The crowd brought him back for Wondering Where The Lions Are and they sang the song’s chorus. Following cries from the audience for a variety of songs we were treated to Indian Wars and Bruce concluded the evening with a rare rendition of All The Diamonds In The World. 

The Borderline, London, England 25th January 2007
Support act Angela Desveaux

When this date was first advertised it was the only London show of the tour and the smallest London venue I have known Cockburn to play. Tonight and the following night formed part of The Borderline’s Seventh Annual Singer Songwriter Festival 2007. This basement venue was full and charged with anticipation by the time Bruce took to the stage to a rapturous reception. 

Cockburn played a relatively similar set to the previous night with some notable substitutes. Two of the three opening numbers were changed to the radio and download single Different When It Comes To You and Lovers In A Dangerous Time. By the time Bruce was brought back for some encores the joint was jumping and the crowd sang every word of Wondering Where The Lions Are, Pacing The Cage and Peggy’s Kitchen Wall.

The Borderline, London, England 26th January 2007
Support act Alana Levandoski

This date was added due to extra demand. There were, however, fewer people in the audience and this created a completely different atmosphere to last night. Again the set list largely followed the previous two nights but with some more notable substitutes. Bruce started the night with Rouler Sa Bosse, an instrumental from the 1974 album Salt Sun & Time. Open followed and then we were treated to the slow jazz and surprising story that is Twilight On The Champlain Sea (only available as a digital download). Cockburn also played the exquisite Elegy from the 2005 instrumental compilation Speechless. “And now the calling of titles” murmured Bruce under his breath as he readied himself for two cracking encores, See You Tomorrow and a rollicking Night Train. 

Bruce played 47 pieces of music over these three days, 25 of which were different titles. I also heard eight out of the twelve compositions on the 2006 CD Life Short Call Now. It was the first time for some years that the tour itinerary had enabled me to see three Cockburn shows in three days and it was fascinating to see how the dynamics of performance change each night. At the age of 61 Bruce still has the guitar dexterity and song writing innovation to be ahead of the pack. There are very few musicians with skills of his calibre in the world today.

The support act for the first two shows above was Angela Desveaux backed by Mike Feuerstack on guitar and vocals, both from Montreal. Their set put me in mind of the works of Gillian Welch and Sam Phillips. The duo performed songs from Angela’s CD, Wandering Eyes, released on Thrill Jockey (2006), including Bury Me Deeper, Feel Alright and Good Intentions. They also acquitted themselves on covers of Neil Young’s Birds from After The Goldrush and Richard & Linda Thompson’s I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight from their album of the same name. Mike (who also plays on Angela’s album) is the Montreal music collective, Snailhouse, and mid set he played his own Tone Deaf Bird’s. Angela has a wonderful voice which sets up an ambience to accompany her melodious songs embellished by Mike’s tasteful and understated picking and vocals. This was the best support act I have seen perform for a UK Cockburn gig for a long while. Check out Angela Desveaux's website at www.angeladesveaux.com.


October 26, 2006

Richard Hoare investigates the possible lyrical interpretation of Bruce Cockburn’s song, Twilight on the Champlain Sea.

Artist: Bruce Cockburn
Song: Twilight on the Champlain Sea
Lyrics Written: No date available
Media: Download on iTunes Canada
Released: 18th July 2006
Duration: 5mins 23sec


Musicians:Bruce Cockburn – guitar & vocal
Jon Goldsmith - electric piano
Gary Craig – drums
David Piltch – acoustic bass
Ani DiFranco – background vocal


This is Cockburn’s first legal download only song and what a subject matter to pick. From a track sequencing, sound and lyric point of view this song would probably not sit well on the 2006 CD release Life Short Call Now. Cockburn would seem to have bared his soul in song over the loss of his relationship with fine artist Sally Sweetland, not something Bruce normally does with such apparently specific identifiable references.

The Champlain Sea was a temporary inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, created by the retreating glaciers during the close of the last ice age. The sea included lands in what are now the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as parts of the American States of New York and Vermont. In the early part of this decade Bruce lived in Quebec (Montreal) and Sally lived in Vermont. In between these two locations is modern Lake Champlain which was formed when the ice melted.

The song structure adopts a slow sparse jazz feel starting with Bruce on sedately paced acoustic guitar. “River that flows where there used to be sea” is probably the Richelieu River which flows north to drain Lake Champlain into the St Lawrence River. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to reach the mouth of the river at Sorel in 1609. “Just these shells you dig up where there used to be trees” is likely to be fossils, the modern evidence of the sea and the existence of ancient shorelines in the former coastal regions. Bruce then changes lyrical tack to lament life’s dysfunctional conversational problems with people in life that he wants to get to know.

The second verse starts with “Sun goes off the water,” a reference to twilight that appears as the sun goes below the horizon. The lines “There’s a cloud of witness in the houses, hills and passing cars, The cameras, cops and voyeurs who all want to be pop stars” may be a reference to the town of Woodstock, Vermont where in addition, Sally exhibits her work. The lyrics continue with more heavy irony. Cockburn refers to his partner as “baby” (a word he has mentioned in past interviews as not being his style), the angle of his equipment and has a dig at Sweetland referring to his love of the sky. Bruce apparently responds by sending up his being “an air sign” (Gemini) by creating floating vocals with Ani Di Franco!

Jon Goldsmith relieves the tension with a beautiful electric piano break not unlike Banana’s playing in The Youngbloods.

The third verse starts with Bruce bemoaning the depth of relationship he is seeking. The “waterlogged sponge,” “troll” and “monster” references really hit a self loathing low esteem following rejection. It is a far cry from both the synergy Sally and Bruce had in the My Beat 2001 television documentary and the final line in the song. Ani comes in again on vocals on “In the same skin.”

I assume that writing this song was a cathartic experience for Cockburn. Rarely has Bruce apparently been so direct about one of his relationships since the 1980 Humans album documented the divorce from his wife.

The music is an understated jazz triumph with a devastating lyric. Bruce has once again created a new work which does not repeat his decades of song writing.


Posted: July 29, 2006

Richard Hoare looks at Life Short Call Now

Artist: Bruce Cockburn
CD Title: Life Short Call Now
Labels: True North (Canada), Rounder (USA) & Cooking Vinyl (UK)
Produced by Jonathan Goldsmith
Released: July 2006
Running Time: 58 mins 49 secs


by Richard Hoare


What strikes me initially about this album is that Cockburn has moved the sound from the darkness of You’ve Never Seen Everything back into the light. The music is more accessible to a wider audience but the lyrical punch has never been greater or more direct.

The rhythm section comprises Gary Craig, the drummer on several recent Cockburn albums and David Piltch on bass who made such an impact on Mary Margaret O’Hara’s 1988 Miss America album. The other musician include Jon Goldsmith & Julie Wolf on a variety of keyboards and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet. Backing vocals are provided by Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman, Damhnait Doyle, Ani DiFranco and Julie Wolf. The surprise contribution is from a twenty-five plus piece orchestra arranged and conducted by Jonathan Goldsmith.

Jon Goldsmith (with Kerry Crawford) was the producer of Bruce’s highly successful albums Stealing Fire (1984) and World of Wonders (1985) and he went on to produce Big Circumstance (1989) on his own.

The link between the above albums and Life Short Call Now is the Michael Occhipinti album Creation Dream, a CD of beautiful re-interpretations of Cockburn’s songs released in 2000 on True North. That album was produced by Jonathan Goldsmith who also contributed piano and the players included Hugh Marsh and Kevin Turcotte. Bruce was sufficiently impressed with the project that he played acoustic guitar on one track.

By way of continuity with Cockburn’s last release, the instrumental compilation Speechless (2005), this new record contains three instrumentals. The last time Cockburn included three instrumentals on a non-compilation record was on Salt, Sun and Time (1974) and even then one included a synthesizer.

Cockburn has created the new album like a flower whose petals unfold as it develops and he wrote it predominantly on acoustic guitar which is what he mainly plays on the album.

1. Life Short Call Now

The album opens with acoustic guitar and evolves with drums and backing vocals. The bleak “between relationships” lyrics longing for love and the loneliness on the road is tempered by the coda, which has a beautiful sequence of backing vocals and Kevin’s trumpet.

2. See You Tomorrow

Bruce has thrown off the melancholy of the first track and has created a song that exudes optimism and expectation. The upbeat sample rhythm and Gary’s drums are blended with Hugh’s violin and the backing vocals of Ani DiFranco. Bruce seems to use the title for the double meaning of “get lost” to the gun runner he encountered in the 60s and the literal meaning for a new found love.

3. Mystery

This song starts in a children’s school folk song recitation style which is deceptive because the lyrics and music develop like a mantra. In the middle of the song Cockburn plays an acoustic guitar melody reminiscent of Ry Cooder which is taken up by keyboards played in the style of Van Dyke Parks. Strings join the mix and the finish is the same melody played by a horn section in a Tom Waits/Salvation Army Band style.

4. Beautiful Creatures

Bruce laments the loss of our fellow non-humans by our “progress” backed by the orchestra in full flow. Cockburn’s vocal swoop into a very effective falsetto has not been heard elsewhere in his oeuvre. The strings and vocals at times emulate the beauty that Van Dyke Parks and The Beach Boys created for Brian Wilson’s song Surfs Up.

5. Peace March

This is a strident and rhythmic acoustic guitar instrumental with Gary Craig keeping the military beat on low level drums. If ever there was need for a peace march, now is the time.

6. Slow Down Fast

A Night Train like rhythm kicks this song into life as Bruce spits out the political and national security lyrics in Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues mode. The song slows for the title chorus and Kevin’s trumpet recalls Michael White’s trumpet in People See Through You. Cockburn plays a wonderful fast coherent acoustic guitar solo, the antithesis of slowing down and at the end asks “CSIS won’t you tell me what you’ve got on me?” Those initials stand for Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

7. Tell The Universe

Goldsmith’s piano and clip clop horse hoove-like percussion from Craig are the backdrop to Cockburn’s recitation which develops into singing. Bruce asks Generation Two to face up to his actions. The strings join the mix and Cockburn plays some shimmering tremolo guitar. This track should be played on radio back to back with Fear Country by T Bone Burnett from his new album The True False Identity (2006) on DMZ/Columbia.

8. This Is Baghdad

The orchestra swells into life with an incessant low percussion beat and Bruce picks his charango similar to Santiago Dawn on World of Wonders. Cockburn provides a journal picture of the capital of Iraq in the verses. In the chorus’ he repeats the title of the song over and over while the beauty of the strings wash over the song. There is some fantastic clapping metallic percussion and a  horn plays an eastern call to prayer.

9. Jerusalem Poker

A creeping ground noise opens the track and hand clapping provides the beat, which may be a subliminal reference to hands of cards in poker. Percussion takes up the rhythm and Bruce and Kevin alternate their acoustic guitar and flugelhorn licks and Jon joins the mix on piano. To my ears this track is related to Bruce’s 1999 instrumentals Down to The Delta and Deep Lake. The title Jerusalem Poker was also used for a 1978 novel by Edward Whittimore (the second book of his Middle East quartet) about three men, who on 31st December 1921, sat down and played a game of poker in an antiquities shop in Jerusalem, the stakes being nothing less than the control of that city – a great fantasy dressed in truth.

10. Different When It Comes To You

Bruce performs a two and a half minute love song with a difference comprising three verses. Cockburn plays guitar backed by keyboards with Damhnait Doyle on backing vocals. It’s the single and its uncanny simplicity and brevity is its winning quality.

11. To Fit In My Heart

Ground noises and electric guitar provide the bed for Cockburn’s vocal adventures into the upper registers. The instruments including strings create a deep sea, deep space wash-over-you ambience and Kevin plays trumpet flurries. The song is slow and tense and may be the best track on the album. It puts me in mind of the Danny O’Keefe track on Global Blues (1979) with a Japanese font title about saving whales.

12. Nude Descending A Staircase

The title of the track is taken from the title of a 1911 Cubo-Futurist painting by the Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp. Radio interference open and close the track which may be a reference to political eavesdropping. The use of radio tuning as music is reminiscent of the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen. For example, part of his work Hymnen was used in the 1971 film Walkabout. Using a bossa nova percussion backbeat Bruce plays an electric jazz guitar instrumental suggesting a lounge lizard Wes Montgomery vibe, interplaying with the orchestra and vibes. Kevin’s trumpet plays out the coda as the radio interference gains in volume and the track and album end abruptly with a loud click. It could be the tape stop button, a door closing or a rifle being cocked – you decide.

Cockburn’s intention was to make this album Canadian which is what he achieved with the musicians, the recording studio in Ontario and the mixing studio in Toronto with the exception of Ani DiFranco and the mastering in New York.

The packaging is another project by A Man Called Wrycraft. Michael seems to play visually with a communication theme with the phone on the booklet cover and microwave communication links on the inside back cover. The middle of the booklet has a fine overhead photograph of Bruce and Jon in the Puck’s Farm studio. Kevin Kelly took several of the photographs at the Holiday Inn, King Street, Toronto. There is a wooden folk art rabbit under the CD tray. A rabbit is a common folklore archetype of the trickster who uses his cunning to outwit his enemies.

This is a highly listenable and immediate album with a fascinating underbelly of messages. Any one can make a worthy political record. Bruce, however, has the imagination and skill to make one that you want to play and play.


Posted: November 2, 2005

SPEECHLESS – The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn
Compilation produced by Bruce Cockburn & Colin Linden
True North Records TND 390
Rounder 11661- 3250-2
Released 27th September 2005
Single CD 68.50 minutes


Review by Richard Hoare

This is a compilation that has been waiting to happen. Cockburn started including instrumentals on his albums from his second LP High Winds White Sky (1971) through to Further Adventure Of (1978). There was then a gap of a couple of albums when Bruce started to get international recognition but they started to return on and off until in recent years there have sometimes been two on  individual CDs.

This compilation has been sequenced for our listening pleasure with tracks old and new all mixed up. My following observations and background however, are based on their chronological sequence of release.

Sunwheel Dance (1971) BC: “Touring the Carolinas in the 60s with a band of questionable musical virtue, met a young man named Fox Watson, given to rendering traditional fiddle tunes on the guitar in a graceful finger style that seemed to float like the wings of a gull. I fooled around with what I could remember of the technique and came up with the first of several guitar pieces.”(a)

Foxglove (1973) BC: “This was the second guitar piece I made up. The title, aside from being the name of the plant digitalis comes from, is a sly acknowledgement of Fox Watson’s influence.”(b)

Islands In A Black Sky (1973) This was the first of Bruce’s long solo acoustic guitar instrumentals committed to wax. It appeared on Night Vision, Cockburn’s fourth album that was an urban exploration after a trilogy that had focussed on purity in nature.(c) I like to think that the title to this piece was inspired by Bruce lying on his back at night on the edge of the city looking up at the stars, like the photograph in the World Of Wonders tour programme.

Salt Sun And Time (1974) BC: “Sea travel, hanging out on the coasts of Northern Europe. The title came from a phrase in Loren Eiseley’s book, The Immense.” (d) The tune on solo acoustic guitar sounds like a reflective moment on a clear day.

Rouler Sa Bosse (1974) The title is French for “to knock about.” BC: “When we listened to the playback right after recording this, Jack Zaza, the clarinettist, observed that we sounded just like two guys outside a whore house.” (e) Bruce’s acoustic guitar work is influenced by Django Reinhardt, who he credited as an influence on the sleeve of Night Vision.

Water Into Wine (1976) In my view this is the apex of Bruce’s acoustic instrumental guitar in the studio in the 70s. Columbia in the USA must have thought so as well because for the marketing of Nothing But A Burning Light (1991) they included the track on a promotional only compilation CD, The Bruce Cockburn Primer, in a double digipack with the subject CD.

Speechless then jumps 15 years during a fairly fallow period for instrumentals to:

When It’s Gone, It’s Gone (1991) Cockburn plays an instrumental with five other players. The title may be related to lyrics in the track, Mighty Trucks Of Midnight, on the same CD, in which Bruce sings “Everything that exists in time runs out of time some day.” This track sounds brighter than the original album version and the playing ends a few seconds earlier – possibly a different take.

Train In The Rain and Sunrise On The Mississippi (1993) - After a gap of 16 years, Bruce returned to releasing solo acoustic tunes on Dart To The Heart. Both of these pieces were delivered on a resonator guitar, an instrument Cockburn had started using on the previous album, Nothing But A Burning Light.

Mistress Of Storms (1996) - This piece is an instrumental duet by Bruce and Gary Burton on vibes. In a press release for the album, The Charity Of Night, Bruce commented – “Gary and I really connected. It was a positive no-ego kind of relationship. We just responded to one another. One of the real highlights for me is how complex and appropriate Gary’s playing is behind my guitar.” (f)

Deep Lake (1999) - An acoustic guitar instrumental with opening notes momentarily suggesting A Song For The Tour Of Stars before the pace settles into a Cala Luna-like lilt. Percussion and bass accompany Bruce’s picking joined by George Koller on dilruba, an Indian instrument with four main bowed strings and a rack of sympathetic strings that sustain with a swaying drone. Rise And Fall (1999) - The original Japanese sleeve note included Rick Lazar on percussion but here the bells are credited to Bruce. This long jazzy instrumental is a delight. These two pieces plus Down To The Delta really showed Cockburn hitting his stride with instrumentals that year in a band context.

The final three tracks were recorded for this compilation in 2005 at Chapel Of Shadows.

End Of All Rivers - This piece started to appear in concert some time ago. In 2000 Bruce introduced it on stage in Vermont with the line “ I don’t know what this is called yet so I can’t tell you!” At that point it was a more raucous instrumental played with the bass and drums he was touring with that year. This recording credits Bruce with two guitars, Tibetan bowl and Navajo flute. Cockburn makes use of an echo effect that allows him to harmonize with the melody as it progresses.

King Kong Goes To Tallahassee – Colin Linden suggested more blues on the album. Bruce recalled a piece that had its origins in a performance in New York’s Central Park, where he’d played guitar with a reading that Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler gave called “Three Ways to Die in the 50s.” That evolved into this tune. The title is partly a reference to Butler, who lives not far from Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle, and to Ottawa poet Bill Hawkins, who was mentor to Cockburn in the 1960s when he started writing songs. Says Cockburn: “Bill wrote a series of poems that featured King Kong going to various places and always getting into trouble, so the title is also something of a tribute to him.” (g)

Elegy – Bruce comes up with an instrumental that captures the definition of the word - a sorrowful or serious poem. Although it works in its entirety as an original piece I have found myself hearing echoes of The Beatles You Never Give Me Your Money in the melody and the resonator guitar flashing the notes from Kit Carson in the middle. Despite these comments this tune is fast becoming my favourite solo instrumental piece by Bruce since Water Into Wine.

To go with the music the Rounder release comes in a clear jewel case with a photograph of part of a resonator guitar on the inlay card – a larger version of that reproduced on the disc. The True North release is in a very fine digipak. The CD booklet cover is a close up of part of the guitar on the digipak cover including Bruce’s thumb with the Speechless logo in the centre. The inside of the digipack gatefold is a photograph of dappled light, probably from Chapel of Shadows. The disc is decorated with a close-up of part of Cockburn’s resonator guitar devoid of wording – speechless! Note the rectangular burnished area on the guitar where Bruce rests the little finger of his right hand while picking. The CD booklet is beautiful. Michael Wrycraft has once again produced a work of art which includes photographs of a rack of guitars, wooden floors, reflected light, a knife from Bruce’s collection and an angel with an accordion that I can almost hear playing Bone In My Ear. I like to think these shots are inside Chapel of Shadows. We may be in the era of downloading but for me the packaging still puts releases in context.

The public at large may think of Bruce as primarily a song-smith but there are at least another ten instrumentals in his catalogue before counting the ones that have recently surfaced on Deluxe Editions.

Speechless – definition: silent, unable to speak because of great emotion. That’s me after hearing this album.

Footnotes(a), (b), (d) & (e) BC quotes form songbook: All The Diamonds, Vol. One, 969 – 1979, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada. (c) From The World OF Wonders Tour Programme (f) From a Rykodisc press release for The Charity Of Night. (g) From a True North press release for Speechless.


Posted: October 17, 2005

Observations & Background
by Richard Hoare


CIRCLES IN THE STREAM
BRUCE COCKBURN
Deluxe Edition
True North - TND 346
Rounder – 11661 - 3207 - 2
Released: 2005


Musicians: Bruce Cockburn: acoustic and electric guitars, dulcimer & vocals; Pat Godfrey:electric piano, marimbas & vocals; Robert Boucher: bass and Bill Usher: percussion & voice.Recorded in concert at Massey Hall Toronto April 8+9 1977.Remote recording: Fedco.Mixed at Eastern Sound, Toronto-engineer Ken Friesen.Produced by Eugene MartynecRestoration + Re-mastering: Peter J Moore at the E Room.Single CD: 79.27 minutes.

“The rediscovery of jazz at the time of the Joy album went on here. First time I had the nerve to involve musicians who were conspicuously superior to myself as players. Started thinking in terms of group performance in this period, too. Circles is a record of the first Bruce Cockburn band.” - Bruce Cockburn from the World Of Wonders tour programme.

Circles In The Stream first appeared as a double LP in 1977. It was first released on CD in an edited, limited edition in Japan before technology enabled the whole album to fit on one silver disc. In 1997 the original, unedited double album was restored and digitally re-mastered by Peter Moore on to one CD for True North release in Canada only. This Deluxe Edition has now been released around the world with an expanded booklet.

The recording comprises 17 tracks, which combines unreleased material with a collection of many of his best songs from the previous six albums. In my experience few double live albums stand up to repeated listening, they are just often a souvenir of a few excessive moments but this is a well sequenced and clear recording of terrific performances both solo & with the band. On vinyl the spaces in the music and atmosphere played as much a part of the sound as the instruments however the restoration & re-mastering puts you right there in Massey Hall.

Bruce assembled three musicians for the tour. Pat Godfrey had worked with Cockburn on David Wiffen’s Coast To Coast Fever and Paul Stoddart’s Day Coach Rider as well as playing keyboards on Night Vision and Joy Will Find A Way. Bill Usher had also worked on the same David Wiffen album and subsequently played on In The Falling Dark. Robert Boucher had played bass on the first two Jesse Winchester albums and also with Dan Hill who had employed a number of the same musicians that Cockburn played with on Ronney Abramson’s Stowaway.

1. The Pipes. The Pipes(1.32)
Pipe Major Mike Mackay from the 48th Highlanders heralds the start of the concert by playing a traditional Scottish tune on bagpipes that segues into....


2. Starwheel
Song first released on: Joy Will Find A Way 1975
Bruce Cockburn: Looking at big skies out of small eyes in ice-clear rural winter night.(a) All the instruments combine to set the standard for the album - listen to the percussion.


3. Never So Free
Song first released on: Salt Sun and Time 1974
BC: ...the rugged witch-misted coasts of Devon and Cornwall ...July days in Britain where the sun actually shone.(b)


4. Deer Dancing Round A Broken Mirror
Previously unreleased
Cockburn has played this instrumental solo on acoustic guitar from time to time in concert over the years, however this is the only place it can be found on CD.


5. Homme Brulant
This is the only place this song can be found on CD. An object lesson in bass and percussion interplay and possibly Bruce’s best jazz guitar solo of the record. The title is French for Burning Man and Bruce sings the song in that language. The same performance of this song also appeared in 1977 on the B side of a 7 inch vinyl single on True North. The A side was a studio cut of Free To Be. In the late 70’s Cockburn included songs sung in French on each of four consecutive albums starting with In The Falling Dark.


6. Free To Be (2.29)
Subtle marimba underpins this performance. A studio cut of this song (2.35) appeared on a 7 inch vinyl single on True North in 1977. The studio recording included an electric keyboard rather than a marimba. When True North compiled Waiting For A Miracle (Singles 1970 - 1987) they chose to include the live non-single version of this song.


7. Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long
Song first released on: Night Vision 1973
This is a solo acoustic rendition of a great blues based song. Bruce wrote this number soaking up the frustration surrounding the producing of David Wiffen’s Coast to Coast Fever album. This performance of the song subsequently appeared on the US-only LP compilation. Resume, released by Island in 1981.


8. Cader Idris
Previously unreleased
This is the only place this solo acoustic guitar instrumental can be found on CD. The title is named after a Welsh mountain that translates as Chair Of Arthur. It may have been inspired by a visit there during a visit to the UK. On Salt Sun and Time (1974) there is a song entitled Don’t Have To Tell You Why, written in Toronto which includes the line “...Just want to stand on some hillside in Wales with you...” Two other songs on that album were written in England.


9. Arrows Of Light
Song first released on: Joy Will Find A Way 1975
Bruce gives his dulcimer a rare outing backed with conga drum and bass joined by keyboards later in the song.


10. One Day I Walk
Song first released on: High Winds White Sky 1971
BC: I don’t remember much about the writing of this one. Kim Semenik, whose father made my dulcimer, told me that she sang it to an old derelict gentleman she happened to be sharing an abandoned house with while hitchhiking. She said it cheered him up, and how come I don’t write more stuff with this kind of universality? (c)


11. Love Song
Song first released on: High Winds White Sky 1971
This version of the song is preceded by BC on acoustic guitar playing an instrumental piece from 15th century composed by Gilles Binchois. (d)


12. Red Brother Red Sister (3.54)
Previously unreleased
BC: In the early 70’s, I met Native Canadians for the first time. I began to understand their situation and the history that led to it. There was this cab driver in Regina, an older guy, with a white ducktail gone yellow at the edges. We must have been getting the truck fixed or something, but he was taking us somewhere and recommending racially “correct ”establishments. (e)A studio cut of this track (4.11) subsequently appeared on the True North Mummy Dust (1981) compilation with credits that located it as an outtake from the 1976 sessions for In The Falling Dark.


13. Lord Of The Starfields
Song first appeared on: In The Falling Dark 1976
BC: I was trying to write something like a psalm. (f) Bass, guitar, keyboard and percussion spar in a confounding introduction to this familiar song where all these instruments create more than the sum of the parts including a neat solo by Cockburn.


14. All The Diamonds
Song first appeared on: Salt Sun and Time 1974
BC: A boat trip through the Stockholm archipelago - barren islands, sun on waves - the balance tipping toward a commitment to Christ. The words seemed to want a church-like music, so I used more chords than usual. It must have worked. My friend, Paul Stoddart, the Vancouver poet, would-be rounder and confirmed agnostic exclaimed on first hearing it, “It sounds like a hymn!” (g) (h)


15. Dialogue With The Devil (8.37)
Song first appeared on: Sunwheel Dance 1972 (6.20)
On this version Bruce uses a subtle effect on the guitar sound, injects more soul into the performance and plays a great solo. This performance of the song subsequently appeared on the US-only LP compilation, Resume, released on Island in 1981.


16. Joy Will Find A Way
Song first appeared on: Joy Will Find A Way 1975
BC: With a few minor changes, I ripped off an Ethiopian thumb harp piece to make the guitar part for this. I was thinking about death, and what a big part of life it is. (i) Bass, marimba, percussion and guitar lay down a hypnotic rhythm. The marimba solo is beautiful.


17. God Bless The Children
Song first appeared on: Night Vision 1973
BC: C S Lewis meets the surrealists! (j) Magnificent understated keyboard and percussion.


Bart Schoales was credited with art direction for the original LP sleeve. (l) In 1977 True North released the double LP in a gatefold sleeve in Canada with the wonderful Bart Schoales photo of circles in the stream on the front cover and the photo of Bruce by Skip Dean on the inside of the gatefold. The inner sleeves carried the lyrics in English & French. For the US release however Island reversed the concept with Cockburn on the front cover & the circles in the gatefold.

This latest release retains the same orientation of the cover photographs as the original True North LP. In addition to the hand written lyrics in English and French and the original inner gatefold photo reproduced in colour there are four un-credited photographs from the tour – three of Bruce and one of the whole band – all on stage. These photographs, whilst not of the clearest quality, do provide a visual flavour of the shows and I have not seen them in other publications. One page has the track listing in a modern font rather than the lettering from 1977 used in the 1997 release.

Unfortunately unlike the first two batches of the Deluxe Edition CDs this release does not include a clear jewel case or cardboard slipcase but it does have sleeve notes by Nicholas Jennings. In my view this release is the third LP in a jazz trilogy that included Joy Will Find Away (1975) and In The Falling Dark (1976). At that time Bruce was married to Kitty and together with their year old daughter, Jenny, they lived in a modest rural maison in the Ottawa valley.

Bill Usher: Listening back to the show it’s amazing to hear how tight we are together. There’s almost a baroque quality to some of the playing. We’re all hitting the same accents at the same time and in harness with each other. (k)

This release is an excellent live album and serves as a best of collection of Cockburn’s early work.

The title of this album appears as a phrase in the song Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand that includes the lyric:

Young men see visions and old men dream dreams
see them pluck bright pebbles out of circles in the stream


The song was subsequently released on the album that followed Circles In The Stream, Further Adventures Of (1978).


Footnotes.

(a),(b),(c),(f),(g),(i),(j) BC quotes from songbook: All The Diamonds, Vol.One, 1969-1979, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.(d) During the 15th century there was considerable musical activity at the court and chapel of Phillip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Gilles Binchois from Flanders spent the latter half of his life as a musician to the Burgundian court where he was the leading composer of chansons, which was the name given to polyphonic settings of French secular poetry - from Art & Music by Cleaver & Eddins 1977 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.(e) BC quote from songbook: Rumours Of Glory, 1980-1990, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.(h) BC played on & produced Paul Stoddart’s album Day Coach Rider (1974) released on True North.(k) Quote from an interview with Bill Usher by Daniel Keebler in Gavin’s Woodpile Issue Number 22, August 1997.(l) Bart Schoales was credited with art direction for three earlier BC albums.

This article is an updated version of the review that was published in Cala Luna No5 1999.


Posted: May 13, 2005

Bob Hunter: The Canadian journalist who helped found Greenpeace and became its first president in 1973 died of cancer on 2nd May 2005.

Former Greenpeace director Rex Weyler told BBC's World Today programme - "I felt like the first time I met him I had seen a genius. He seemed to see things other people missed. I remember him saying things like "Ecology is going to be the biggest revolution in human history. It's going to change everything. It's not just a matter of cleaning up rivers and oil spills, but it's going to change science, politics and philosophy." He saw this environmental movement in the 1970s when no such thing existed."

There were tributes from the current leadership of Greenpeace." Bob was a storyteller, a shaman, a word-magician, a Machiavellian mystic, and he dared to inject humour into the the often shrill and sanctimonious job of changing the world."

Bob attended meetings in the early 70s on how to put pressure on the United States to end its nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Hunter christened the group "Don't Make A Wave Committee" - a name that denoted the disturbance a nuclear blast would make in the oceans. They agreed the best place to protest against the tests was where they were happening. On 15 September 1971 Hunter and 11 of his idealistic colleagues rented a rusting fishing vessel named the Phyllis Cormack and sailed it to waters just off Amchitka Island, Alaska where the testing was based. They gave the boat a new name -the Greenpeace - and thus was born an organisation that since become a byword for environmental activism, with 2.5 million members in 40 countries.

Bob will also be remembered for inventing another term: the labelling of the organisation's fast growing band of activists as "rainbow warriors." The name was inspired by a Canadian Indian book of native myths.

This is summarised and mercilessly ripped off from The Original Rainbow Warrior by David Usborne and an obituary by Fred Pearce both published in The Independent newspaper Wednesday 4 May 2005 in the UK. Check out both pieces for more details.

Bruce Cockburn wrote Actions Speak Louder as the theme for the documentary film "The Greenpeace Years." Bruce included it on his 1991 album Nothing But A Burning Light. Now go and play Gavin's Woodpile on the 1976 album In The Falling Dark...



Beggar with a withered knee ignites his guitar at the delta

Bruce Cockburn - solo
City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds, England
Saturday 29th May 2004
by Richard Hoare

Richard Hoare tripped off to see Bruce on a fine evening this past May. The following is an exclusive review of the show for Gavin's Woodpile.


This intimate 500-seater Victorian theatre was the location for Cockburn’s fourth gig out of five shows in the UK before he flew to Spain for his first ever gigs in that country.

Bruce opened with an uplifting Lord of the Starfields and settled into the evening with Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Open and Pacing the Cage. He started to flex his fingers with an extended introduction to Wait No More that culminated in a tour de force Down to the Delta that was a workout seemingly across the entire fretboard including a long new middle section. As his hands recovered Cockburn recounted a wonderful anecdote about a canoe trip he had been taken on in Northwest Canada down the Mackenzie River to the delta with the Beaufort Sea bordering the Arctic Ocean.

Bruce took us to the intermission with a dignified All The Ways I Want You before re-gearing for Tried and Tested and Trickle Down. The last song has been reworked for solo performance since I saw Cockburn play with Julie Wolf on his last tour.

The second set started with a quartet of songs played on the Guild 12 string – the great My Beat, the hypnotic All Our Dark Tomorrows, Let The Bad Air Out and the erotic Mango. There then followed the absinthe fuelled Night Train, The Last Night Of The World and the optimistic World of Wonders.

The audience brought Bruce back twice. Firstly for After The Rain, a classic from 1979, and Tie Me At The Crossroads. When he came back a second time, despite the usual barrage of requests he offered, "You won’t know this one – and it may yet be ephemeral – it’s called Mystery." Cockburn proceed to deliver topical lyrics with repeats in a sedate nursery rhyme fashion. Apparently bowing to requests he played out with the single Wondering Where The Lions Are.

At the end of the first set Bruce said he’d be back but countered that the Japanese cannot say that in their language, they say "I may be back" and by way of comparison Muslims say "I’ll be back, God willing."

Cockburn was in good humour but mainly communicated through his playing and lyrics rather than stage patter. There was no reference of his trip to Iraq and only a brief reference to Bush and Bin Laden before Tomorrows. Bruce was clothed in grey on a black stage with minimal lighting apart from during a few numbers in the second set when a back drop behind Cockburn lit up with an array of star lights.

What does it take for the heart to explode into stars?


All of the following reviews, interviews and articles by Richard were published in the paper version of Gavin’s Woodpile, which was in print from 1994 through 2003 (Sixty issues).


paris-2003-by-richard-hoare

Issue Number 59
October 2003

Catching up with Cockburn- From the Delta of Venus to Stained Glass

Midday, Tuesday 16th September 2003 - An interview with Bruce Cockburn by Richard Hoare sitting outside a cafe on a bustling street in Place De La Republique, Paris, in the sunshine.


Richard Hoare (RH): On Breakfast In New Orleans (BINO) (Rykodisc 1999) you, Ben Riley, Rick Lazar & George Koller played three instrumentals - Down to The Delta, Deep Lake & Rise and Fall (the last being on the Japanese release only). You really seemed to find a rich vein with those tunes. Were they enjoyable instrumentals to play?

Bruce Cockburn (BC): It was lovely doing those, although we didn’t do them all at once. They are pretty fresh and they weren’t played many times before recording. 

RH: Did you have a visual idea for the title Down To The Delta? 

BC: Not really, it could be about going down a river or to the delta of Venus or any delta you want.

RH: The CD graphics for BINO are a real work of art.

BC: Michael Wrycraft came up with the idea and Sally Sweetland took a lot of the photographs. I thought it was a brilliant piece of work. Michael has done a good job on all the stuff he’s done with us. He’s well known in Toronto and he’s become the happening guy for CD art. He’s done work for a lot of US artists too because in the age of the internet a graphic artist can work anywhere.

RH: What was your involvement in the Michael Occhipinti CD Creation Dream (True North 2000)?

BC: I only did my part on Pacing The Cage. It was like being a session player. Michael had his own idea how he wanted it to be. I love the album and he was so adventuresome with the stuff and yet the way he kept the elements of my writing are sufficient that it is respectful to the original material. It is extremely well arranged and I thought it was incredibly inventive but I had nothing to do with it other than that one track.

RH: You contributed Avalon, My Home Town on Avalon Blues, a tribute to the music of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard 2001). Was he an influence on your playing?

BC: He was. There are two styles of blues playing that really influenced my right hand technique and his was one of them. The other was more characterised by Bill Broonzy/Brownie McGhee, that sort of thumping single note bass that I do, but the alternating bass with the melody over the top is characteristic of Mississippi John Hurt and he’s the guy I tried to emulate without success and I still haven’t learned to play like him.

RH: What did you think about the TV show, The Life & Times of Bruce Cockburn - My Beat (CBC TV 2001)?

BC: Well, (laughing) it covered my life apart from the nineties and left out two major relationships and a lot of other experiences!

RH: It must be difficult to condense your life into one show.

BC: (chuckling) I thought it should have been a six part mini series!! 

RH: Were you pleased with the result or would you rather have got on with the now?

BC: I was happy about the way it came out but it was time consuming and not something I want to do a lot.

RH: On the Anything, Anytime, Anywhere compilation (Rounder 2002) was the track My Beat influenced by Avalon, My Home Town?

BC: No, that was a piece that came about getting to know Montreal as a new town and a place to live. In particular it was about riding my bike around. On the surface it’s that and it’s also a celebration of being in the moment because when you’re riding your bike in an urban setting you very much need to be in the moment or you won’t be around very long! - So it’s both those things. 

RH: Did you hook up with Patty Griffin for My Beat through the Landmine Free World  (Vanguard 2003) CD that you were both on?

BC: I knew Patty from doing the landmine shows. They are the concerts for a landmine free world that Emmylou Harris initiated that we’ve done for 5 years running in late November /early December around the date of the signing of the 1999 Treaty in Ottawa. The shows were to commemorate the signing of the treaty and primarily to draw the attention of Americans to the fact that their government had not signed the treaty.

RH: On My Beat Hugh Marsh seemed to really open up the possibilities of electronic effects that he employs while he is playing his violin.

BC: Yes, that was kind of a test for what happened with You’ve Never Seen Everything. By the time I wrote My Beat I was listening to a lot of electronica and I intended to bring some of that in to the track because it so happens that the rhythmic inevitabilities of that type of finger style guitar almost duplicate what a lot of the electronic guys do with samples. It was an obvious connection to make and I brought in Hughie because he is well versed in that whole musical spectrum.

RH: How did you come to record the track Anything, Anytime, Anywhere which you had played live many years ago?

BC: Colin Linden had recently recorded it on his album Raised By Wolves (Compass Point 2000). He revitalised the song for me because we had tried to record it for Dart To The Heart and not made it work. When that happens I tend to drop things for a while.

RH: Was it Colin’s idea to use The Fairfield Four?

BC: Yes, it was. He knew them from Nashville, which is where he lives now. I was there when they did their contribution. They are amazing although we didn’t ask much of them for that song. I just love that low voice.

RH: I really liked the version of A Dream Like Mine on the same CD. It seemed to have a dirtier sound and be fractionally slower all for the better.

BC: Really, I don’t think we did anything to that except remaster it. We did remix Waiting For A Miracle and left some parts out which made it a little funkier.

RH: There was some fascinating extra material on the first batch of Deluxe Edition reissues (True North 2002). On In The Falling Dark one of the extra tracks is Shepherds. Did you perform it live at the time?

BC: If I did it wasn’t much. There was too much to fit on the record so it got left off. It’s a seasonal song so it disappeared. Then when I was doing the Christmas (True North 1993) album I rewrote it although I quite like the original version.

RH: On Dancing In The Dragons Jaws were the two instrumentals, Dawn Music and Bye Bye Idi intended for the beginning and end of the original album?

BC: It wasn’t envisioned that way when we recorded, they were just pieces. It has often happened over the years that it is the instrumental pieces that get left off the records because there are so many words that want to be on there and I don’t like to leave them off.

RH: On Inner City Front you have included The Light Goes On Forever. Have you ever thought of adding that to the set list as the lyrics are relevant again?

BC: Yes they are. I’ve thought about it although not hard enough to learn it again and play it. It was in an unusual tuning I recall. So many songs, so little time.

RH: On The Trouble With Normal you have included I Wanna Dance With You. Had you plundered that song to use “Languid mandala of the ceiling fan moving/teases the air like a slow stroking hand” for When You Give It Away before it was considered for the reissue?

BC: We didn’t put it on the album because I didn’t like it at the time, I felt like it was missing something and so I threw it all back in the pot. Then when I went back to listen to it again for the reissue it did actually seem to hold up pretty well so I let it go out. As a piece of archival material it’s interesting. Plus a live version had been released on a bootleg German videodisc taken from one of my TV appearances. That disc was a glossy production. It’s not a very good mix because it’s off TV but it was a full-scale production with packaging and everything but who ever did it had no right whatever to do it.

RH: Moving on to the latest album, You’ve Never Seen Everything (YNSE)(Rounder 2003) did Michael Wrycraft come up with that packaging idea?

BC: Yes, he came up with that.

RH: It seems to cleverly illustrate the light seeping through all the darkness leading to hope.

BC: Yes, I thought it was really perfect. He had a bunch of different ideas and Bernie and I both went for that one without prior knowledge of the others preference. Rounder Records had a problem with the booklet cover, so in the US the cover is different.

RH: The sequencing of this album seems to have a real continuity which, for me, was not the case with BINO.  I like the individual tracks on BINO but I had a problem with some of the juxtaposition of numbers.

BC: Yes, I was pleased with YNSE and it’s what you hope for but sometimes it doesn’t always work that way. The songs on BINO were not as cohesive a group of songs. Why, I don’t know. The Charity Of Night sequenced together really well.

RH: Was it a conscious decision not to put any instrumentals on YNSE.

BC: I had a couple of half formed instrumentals, but they didn’t seem necessary.

RH: Have you heard the Tom Waits album, Mule Variations that includes the track What’s He Building? I thought that might have been an influence on you for the track, You’ve Never Seen Everything.

BC: Yes, I love that album. I wouldn’t say it was a conscious influence but it is certainly an album I have listened to.

RH: In the song Open, to what do the lyrics “Kundalini sunrise” refer? 

BC: Kundalini is the energy that is formed in the Hindu world-view as encountered by yoga. Kundalini is the energy formed in the lower chakkras, in the genital area, which the exercise of yoga is intended to move through your system until it becomes a connection with the divine. On one level it’s sexual energy but it’s also spiritual energy. Sally was watching a sunset at one point and called it a Kundalini sunset because it was such a florid colour. The thumping in the stairwell is the suggestion that people are having sex and therefore it is a Kundalini sunrise followed by a clamouring of church bells which moves it to the spiritual. The point of view of the song is that I woke up one morning and wrote down what was there to write and I was by myself. I was in Montreal and Sally was in Vermont. So it’s waking up by yourself with your lover somewhere else and looking at your lover’s picture. The rest of it is the soundtrack of that moment.

RH: Had you written everything before you went into the studio?

BC: Everything was pretty much done but there was a lot of spontaneity involved in performing in the studio. Gary Craig’s parts were particularly off the top of his head. The stuff with Andy Milne and Gregoire Maret, for instance, was improvised on the spot. Andy’s keyboard part on Trickle Down was an overdub but what you hear on the CD is him playing the first time he heard it but he didn’t have the right mix in his headphones. He couldn’t hear the piano properly but it is so dead on with the track so it sounds like he was there.

It’s interesting to play the Dapp Theory album, Ya’ll Just Don’t Know (Concord Records (2003) to hear what Trickle Down and Everywhere Dance were originally conceived to be. My versions of the two songs were recorded a year after we recorded Andy’s album and he had lived with it much more than I had because he had been playing the songs with his band. Trickle Down was new to him because I had changed it so much, with his blessing, because I had to simplify it to pull it off. I wanted a version that I could play solo. Everywhere Dance is very close but he has got a samba rhythm going through it.

RH: The harmonica provides some fine sound colours.

BC: That’s Greg Maret. He’s an avant garde Toots Thielemans, a brilliant player. That was one of the exciting discoveries that came along with Andy’s band. He complements the violin really well; like in Don’t Forget About Delight.

RH: What prompted you to dust off It’s Going Down Slow for Peace Songs - War Child Canada ( Sony Music Canada 2003)?

BC: I thought of relearning it because of the times and it seemed like an appropriate thing for that album.

In the US and Canadian gigs we have been doing Burn which we have a nice version of with the band. Europeans don’t need to hear it as badly as North Americans! That was suggested by a young kid in Vancouver with a debilitating disease which confines him to a wheelchair. He is disabled but a very alert well-spoken kid; his mum brought him to the shows over time. He kept pestering me to do the song but the sad thing was that we did it when we played Vancouver and he couldn’t come to the show.

RH: How did you meet Julie Wolf?

BC:  She had worked with Ani Di Franco for about five years and I had seen her play with Ani a number of times and met her. Originally I had intended the touring band to be the rhythm section plus Hugh Marsh. That was in my mind when we were doing the album. I thought, fantastic, for once I can take the album sound on the road. But Hugh got an offer from Hollywood for a film score, which he couldn’t refuse so he was tied up. The first thought I had for finding a fourth person for the band was Julie and luckily she was available. Her musicianship is extremely good but it is also her personal chemistry that she brings into it. She has a great ear and it’s a treat for me to have that quality of singing. She has an uncanny gift for mimicry, when she sang with Ani she sounded like Ani, when she sings with me it blends very well.

RH: Is that an intuitive thing with minimal rehearsal?

BC: We rehearsed it quite thoroughly but she’s a quick learner; all the people I work with are, so it doesn’t take very long. We learned 40 songs in a week to go on the road.

RH: Is the sound we are hearing with the duo in Europe subtler than the band sound in the States?

BC: It’s different. When Julie plays her solo in Trickle Down it is really a duet between her and Ben, while Steve and I keep time. Whereas, as a duo I was going back and forth and keeping time. With the band she does less low left hand stuff because of the bass player.

RH: Did you write a liner note for the Don Ross album Robot Monster (Narada/Virgin 2003)?

BC: Yes I did a testimonial; I thought it was a really nice album. I have a great respect for his guitar playing. 

RH: The Bambi & The Deer Hunters gigs, are they just annual?

BC: It has tended to be a one off annual event although that was not the intention at the outset. Some years it hasn’t happened and one year I think we did two gigs. It’s a fun thing to do. The basic mandate is new songs of mine or Colin’s that we want to try plus anything else that we feel like doing. When Blackie and The Rodeo Kings are around it expands to a bigger thing because they have some great songs as well.

RH: Have you ever thought of playing your French songs live again?

BC: I thought about Homme Brulant but I didn’t get it together for this tour. That would be the only one I think. Vagabondage is doable but I don’t relate to it at this point and the others are not that great. 

One thing that Julie and I are in the process of bringing back is Stained Glass from Salt Sun and Time (True North 1974) that we are treating as a jazz standard. It works really well and we are almost ready to play it. On the record it’s done in the style of Django Reinhardt but we are doing it in a slightly more modern style.

RH: Bruce, thanks for your time.

espace-jemmapes-paris-by-september-2003-by-richard-hoare




© Richard Hoare/Cala Luna 2003


Issue Number 58
August 2003

You’ve Never Seen Everything
Bruce Cockburn
CD Rounder  - (116 613 322-2)
Released - June 2003
Produced by Bruce Cockburn & Colin Linden
Recorded and mixed by John Whynot
Recorded between 7 October 2002 and 16 December 2002
Running Time 67 mins 10 secs

Reviewed by
Richard Hoare


Remarkably after Cockburn’s 32 years of recording, this, his 27th album, is an original work - new song structures, words, music and sounds. Something has happened since 1999s Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu. Bruce has relocated to Montreal, sanctioned and participated in a television documentary of his life entitled My Beat, performed Justice at a post 9/11 concert for Afghan refugees and experienced the rejuvenating influence of jazz pianist Andy Milne. This has blown an influence through Cockburn’s work so that he is not afraid to embrace more overt jazz and rap/hiphop lyric delivery. Andy Milne appeared and suggested working together at a time when Bruce had not written for a long time and Cockburn thought it may be a way out of dry a spell.

In August 2001 Bruce hooked up with recent collaborators Linden, Lucas & Riley plus Hugh Marsh to record My Beat and Anything Anytime Anywhere for Cockburn’s singles compilation CD 1979 - 2002. Marsh previously made his biggest contribution to Cockburn’s work in the 80s. Hugh has brought a further decade of violin experience and technology to these two tracks. The new album starts off where the track My Beat fades out - infectious rhythm, drums and electronic ambient heartbeat.

There is a large coterie of musicians and singers on the new record, which Bruce uses for different moods and styles. Many of them have been on previous Cockburn records and tours supplemented by players from Andy Mine’s group Dapp Theory and musicians from Tom Waits camp - Larry Taylor and Stephen Hodges.      

1. Tried And Tested
........ late night insect buzz electronics and a groove treated with Hugh’s loops. Bruce  drives the electric guitar rhythm while he sings stream of consciousness lyrics. This was the last song written for the album. The back beat and bass are held down by Gary Craig and John Dymond from the early 90s records. A smeared guitar solo leads into the “I’m still here” middle eight. Hugh’s violin enters the mix before Bruce picks a solo to fade.

2. Open
Driving acoustic guitar from Cockburn with Hugh’s violin over the rhythm. Bruce delivers a clear lyric about the ups and downs of human interaction. An ambient fade out  is picked up by the next track.......

3. All Our Dark Tomorrows
..........the frogs of Zambia and loops give way to a driving 12 string guitar groove itself an extension of Bruce’s rendition of Avalon, My Home Town from the Mississippi John Hurt tribute album. The opening lyric is a reference from Nostrodamus and the song deals with the poison of power and the negative effects of capitalism. The song careens along giving way to a CSN&Y- like chorus with Emmylou Harris, decorated with Hugh’s  violin. Wonderful drums. Violin and trickle down water fade out the track......

4. Trickle Down
.........percussion picks up with free flow vocal delivery. This is the first of two tracks, which were co-written with Andy Milne. The lyrics embrace the concept that the trickle down theory of economics so often leads to a torrent of bloodshed. Bruce delivers a great long jazz solo in the midst of bass, drums & percussion which gives way to Andy Milne on piano solo plus Gary’s percussion overdrive fading to wind chimes and frogs.........

5. Everywhere Dance
.........leading into floating piano and acoustic guitar embroidered by the chromatic harmonica of Gregoire Maret from Dapp Theory - a Stevie Wonder harp sound. An elegant beautiful stately jazz ballad reminiscent of the atmosphere on Joni Mitchell’s album Court and Spark. Through every facet of life, the ups and downs, joy and sorrow there is a thread - the dance - it is everywhere and it is the truth.   

6. Put It In Your Heart
Back to the group rhythm... drum clatter and the bass and guitar lunge in to this building riff. This is Cockburn’s response to September 11th... try inclusion not exclusion. Great guitars from Bruce playing 12 string, electric and baritone. As Cockburn has said from the stage when introducing this song “If you want a war, have a war against fundamentalism of every belief system.” The ideas for the song were inspired by a combination of Bruce’s own meditation and the misguided comments from US evangelist Jerry Falwell.

7. Postcards From Cambodia
Bruce visited Cambodia in June 1999 with The Vietnam Veterans of America to support the international campaign to ban land mines. In the My Beat film he reads from his diary… light moving with us on the surface of the flooded rice paddies… and reveals that at first he couldn’t find music to fit the words. A couple of years later as the writing block eased he wrote a new chorus which he plays on the documentary and that appears here on the finished CD.

Bruce’s acoustic guitar and Hugh’s gamelan percussion rhythm set the groove for Cockburn’s verbal postcard of the Cambodian landscape which flows into the most amazing hymn-like chorus with the close harmonies of Sarah Harmer. The glowing mirage sunset bleeds into the land and the countryside is pockmarked with the vestiges of war. The horror is still in the ground - a minescape.

8. Wait No More
Cockburn’s dobro plucks an eastern  prayer call, which gives way to a percussion groove and violin. Bruce delivers an urgent vocal delivery over the acoustic bass of Larry Taylor, drums of Stephen Hodges and the percussion of Gary Craig . Marsh’s Turkish inflected violin cuts through the rhythm and Bruce and Jonell Mosser sing the chorus. The lyrical sense is blurred between coiled spring sexual tension and the quest for the divine. The song fades to frogs and water......

9. Celestial Horses
.......frog, water and evening ambience. A song inspired by a visit to an uncommercialized hot spring in the side of a mountain in the Rockies in the late 70s. Bruce visited it alone one evening and watched the moon come up on the other side of the valley. Amongst all the other world weary observations Bruce allows himself reflection with the one of the princes of LA reflection, Jackson Browne. Cockburn plays muted slow sustained electric guitar reminiscent of Anything Anytime Anywhere backed by Hugh’s reverbed violin, Gary’s percussion and Larry’s bass. The feel is of steam twisting off the surface of the water as the “Light comes pounding through.” Fade to electronic violin and gong......

10. You’ve Never Seen Everything
........switch to electronic loop of film noir atmosphere with muted harmonica setting for Bruce to deliver his insomniac state, trying to cope with sleep after Italian gig travel  laced with the horror of recalled news stories. The song structure is a distant cousin of Cockburn’s own The Charity Of Night and Tom Waits’ What’s He Building. Another wonderful close harmony chorus with Emmylou. The ambient sound is built around  Larry Taylor’s upright bass, Stephen Hodges’ percussion and Hugh’s violin. There are overtones here that the trouble with normal concept has been updated twenty years later. In a nutshell Bruce is saying if the West colonise the world with global capitalism and destroy local trade you’d better watch out for revenge when the affected wake up. Cockburn tries to park his rage without recourse to stimulants. Watch out - you’ve never seen everything........

11. Don’t Forget About Delight
.........but keep a perspective - don’t forget about pleasure. A slow shuffle with tour de force violin, uncredited harmonica and the close harmonies of Sarah Harmer.

12. Messenger Wind
Bruce has kept the best acoustic guitar picking for the last song with the brilliant violin of Hugh Marsh and the subtle marimba of Stephen Hodges. Cockburn is not ready to leave the earth yet.

“Messenger wind swoops out of the sky
lights each tiny speck in the human kaleidoscope
With hope.”


To my ears this is a more cohesive album along the Cockburn road of life, than Breakfast… although this one does take one or two tracks before hitting its stride and returns to the dark quality of The Charity Of Night. The many moon references remind me of The Trouble With Normal album released in 1983.

Cockburn and Linden stretch themselves still further on the production front. Rumour has it that Daniel Lanois was invited to produce this album but declined on a retirement ticket. 

For the first time in five albums Bruce has not included any purely instrumental tracks. In 2000 Bruce was playing an instrumental with his touring band entitled The End Of All Rivers which has not made it to this CD.

Another fascinating element to the jigsaw is the Dapp Theory CD, Ya’ll Just Don’t Know on Concord Records. It has also been released this year with its own different versions of Trickle Down and Everywhere Dance plus a cover of Cockburn’s Bad Air all with contributions from Bruce. These versions were recorded before the You’ve Never Seen Everything sessions and are looser than the takes reviewed here.

The CD artwork is another work by A Man Called Wrycraft based in Toronto. The generic background seems to be photographs of the discharge from a Van Der Graaf generator plus items from the lyrics like the heart in the centre gatefold and several Eastern images like the naga from Cambodia overlaid with the credits and lyrics. For reasons too delicate to mention here the Rounder release has page 2 of the booklet as the CD front cover. The True North and other territories is the reverse of this. The whole package is more interesting than most releases but perhaps not quite in the same league as Breakfast and Charity.

The message I get from this album is that we all live on this blue green ball and we had better get used to accepting our differences or we will live in hatred and revenge. The Western/Northern powers need to understand the effect of globalisation and rein in their activities or these currently civilised countries will be full of fear and terror.


Richard Hoare lives in the United Kingdom and has been following Bruce’s work since the 1970s. He has contributed much to the newsletter in the last six years, and for that I send Big Thanks.    -Daniel K


Issue Number 55
February 2003

The Bruce Cockburn back catalogue - The Deluxe Editions
In The Falling Dark

Observations by Richard Hoare

The first batch of six CDs were released in late 2002:
Canada - True North – 19th November 2002.
USA - Rounder/True North - 19th November 2002.
UK - True North via Revolver - 16th December 2002.

All these CDs have been digitally remastered by Peter J Moore @ The E Room, Toronto, 2002. The original analogue masters have been digitally transferred using a proprietary state of the art Ampex ATR 102 at 24 bits / 96Khz resolution and processed using Sonic Solutions NoNoise technology.

The deluxe editions are distinguished externally from the previous CD releases by the inclusion of O card slipcases. Each CD booklet attempts to reproduce the artwork and information from the relevant original LP release plus additional photography and an essay.          

In 1997 Nicholas Jenning’s book Before The Goldrush was released in Canada. It documents the musical breeding ground that was Yorkville, Toronto in the 1960s. The equivalent of Greenwich Village, New York or Haight Ashbury, San Francisco it fostered such talents as Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Kensington Market, Murray McLauchlan and Bruce Cockburn. Although currently out of print, it is essential reading. Nicholas has put together a wonderful jigsaw, which illustrates how each of the artists fitted into the scene. The text is also supplemented by a wealth of great photographs, album sleeves, posters, flyers etc. My favourite is the photo of Bernie Finkelstein outside El Patio with Kensington Market, the band he launched with the payout from Albert Grossman for The Paupers. In late 1969, former Kensington Market guitarist Gene Martynec suggested that Bernie catch Bruce at a coffeehouse he was playing on the Ryerson campus. The rest is history....

When True North and Rounder were working up the reissue programme they invited Nicholas Jennings to write 600 word essays for each deluxe edition to put them into context. The essays describe the music and lyrical content of the songs very eloquently although I have different views on some of the trilogy groupings.  

In October 2002 ICE newsletter asked Bernie why the series eschews chronological order - "We picked them based on what bonus tracks were available and also so that each (batch) can have a big record.”


In The Falling Dark 
True North TND 285
Produced by Eugene Martynec
Recorded Eastern Sound, Toronto
The original vinyl album was released in 1976.

This was True North’s seventh Cockburn release and the first to have a full-face photograph of the artist staring out of the front cover. Bruce had stopped hiding. Earlier albums had sported everything from smaller obscure shots of the artist to exotic artwork without the artist’s name or album title on the front cover. At this time Bruce was based in Burritt’s Rapids, Ontario with his wife Kitty who was expecting their child. Cockburn had undergone a lot of transcontinental travel and had reached the point in Canada where he could play most places and he did every year. 

Bruce has often produced trilogies, whether intentionally or not, before changing direction. This process has enabled Cockburn to maintain artistic vitality and stave off stagnation. Bruce studied jazz composition in the 60s at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. In the World of Wonders Tour Programme, Cockburn comments on the rediscovery of jazz at the time of the Joy album. It was the first time he had had the nerve to involve musicians who were conspicuously superior to him as players. From my perspective In The Falling Dark is the middle album of a trilogy. The first record being Joy Will Find A Way (1975) with such delights as the extraordinary vocals of Beverley Glenn-Copeland and Cockburn’s jazz guitar on A Life Story.  The third album was the live double album Circles In The Stream (1977) - a record of the first Cockburn band, which includes many new songs.

The deluxe edition of In The Falling Dark adds four bonus tracks taking the new total running time to 73.53 minutes. Cockburn was in a very creative period at the time. Finkelstein quipped to ICE - “We were originally thinking of putting out this LP as a double-album, but were having trouble selling one record, never mind a double.” Red Brother Red Sister first appeared as a live track on Circles. The studio version of this song was previously released on the Mummy Dust compilation in 1981 along with Dweller By A Dark Stream. Untitled Guitar is a wonderful trio piece, which seems to evoke a dancing spirit and it segues so well into a 1976 version of Shepherds (the song would appear re-recorded on the 1993 Christmas CD). The original LP was a strident positive album; the one that should have broken Cockburn in the US had Island got behind the release.

The CD booklet looks very stylish and reproduces Cockburn’s hand written lyrics although the musician credits are now typeset. The photograph of Bruce reproduced in the booklet looks suspiciously like the promotional shot from the Salt, Sun and Time press kit. The lyrics to In The Falling Dark are Bruce’s observations while sitting on a roof watching the night come down. The title of the album is reflected in the original gatefold sleeve background reproduced here as the double page shot of sundown without overlaid credits and the rear cover (now the inlay card) of a highway at dusk. The original LP had the track list on the rear sleeve in the same font as the front cover. This font appeared on the Columbia CD release only to disappear this time around. The circular artist/title motif on the original LP dust sleeve has also been omitted. Slavish copying of the handwriting from the original sleeve has resulted in  “O/A Jenny” rather than “to Jenny” in the credits to Little Seahorse!             

Musically there are broadly three types of performance on this expanded album - the group with Michael Donato on bass, the aggregation with Dennis Pendrith on bass and pieces played by Bruce on solo guitar. On the numbers where there is a drummer Bob DiSalle is in the seat providing constant drive. Overlaying the group numbers are Kathryn Moses on flutes and piccolo and Fred Stone on flugelhorn and trumpet. Cockburn was listening to jazz, medieval and ethnic musics from other continents at this time virtually ignoring mainstream rock/pop of the era. These influences infuse much of the material on this record.

The muscular bass of Donato and Bill Usher’s percussion dominate Lord Of the Starfields, Vagabondage, Silver Wheels, Giftbearer, Untitled Guitar and Shepherds climaxing to a bass solo on In the Falling Dark. Little Seahorse evokes a tropical sea with the ducking and diving of Bill’s percussion and Kathryn’s flute. Giftbearer creates a hypnotic drone overlaid with wonderful percussion, flute and trumpet while Shepherds with the same group of musicians highlights the unusual combination of walking bass, finger cymbals and voice plus flugelhorn solo.

There are original ideas all over this record - who else would have thought of putting together three lines of lyrics, four voices, a flugelhorn and a piccolo to come up with four minutes of I’m Gonna Fly Someday!

Despite all these exotic instrument combinations Bruce can still be relied on to create an original solo guitar instrumental (Water into Wine) that blows fresh air through the record. The lyrics encompass the spiritual dimension (Lord of the Starfields - Bruce’s psalm, Gavin’s Woodpile, I’m Gonna Fly Someday and Dweller By A Dark Stream), birth (Little Seahorse - his daughter as a foetus and Shepherds - the nativity), death (Festival of Friends - sudden infant death syndrome) and the influence of poets such as Ginsberg and Cendrars. The shame of religion used against race is articulated in Red Brother Red Sister.

Vagabondage (the French language providing subtle nuances) is influenced by the French poet Blaise Cendrars from the 1918 Paris scene while Silver Wheels is influenced by Alan Ginsberg’s The Fall of America, who was probably influenced himself by Cendrars’ own mythic globe spanning poems. Gavin’s Woodpile played on solo acoustic guitar is Cockburn’s take on the failure of human responsibility, destruction and encroachment of our habitat and the resultant claustrophobia in our world.

If you don’t have the original album you’ll need this CD, if you already own the album you’ll need this deluxe edition for the 16 minutes of Untitled Guitar and Shepherds. Keeping Shepherds in the tape vault until now is like Dylan leaving Blind Willie McTell off  Infidels.

richard hoare  © cala luna 2003


Issue Number 53
October 2002

Burritt’s Rapids, Ontario

The following was compiled by Richard Hoare

As Rounder are about to embark on a series of expanded CD re-issues of Bruce Cockburn’s earlier work, I flipped through the original LP sleeves again and thought it was time to put together a few word’s about that magical place name - Burritt’s Rapids.

When Cockburn writes a song he often uses poetic convention by annotating the lyrics on album sleeves with the location and date that the words were written. Bruce has credited the following lyrics as having been written at Burritt’s Rapids:

One Day I Walk - June 1970
Festival of Friends - 5/4/75
Gavin’s Woodpile - 17/11/75
Lord of the Starfields - 12/5/76 
Silver Wheels - 21/7/76
Red Brother Red Sister - 26/7/76
Can I Go With You - Dec 9/76 
Free to Be - 30/1/77
Feast of Fools - Nov 6/77
Rumours Of Glory - December 31/79

Bruce Cockburn: “Went to England and Scandinavia for some months (mid 1973), came back and had a house built on some land my father gave me not far from Ottawa. This was the first time I’d actually lived in rural surroundings in a stationary way, as opposed to camper travel” (From World Of Wonders 1986 Tour Programme).

When Bart Testa reviewed Joy Will Find A Way in Crawdaddy in June 1976 he described Cockburn as a songwriter who seems to emerge once a year from his modest rural maison in the Ottawa valley with a packet of exquisitely crafted, poetically rich songs.

In Maclean’s in 1981 Ian Pearson described Cockburn’s career in the mid seventies as successful enough to allow for extensive travel and plenty of time to retreat to their country house near the Rideau River, South of Ottawa.   

In 1998 I rented a tiny cottage near the southern tip of Cornwall, England for a family holiday. In the lounge were half a dozen novels plus Rideau Waterway by Robert Legget published by University of Toronto Press 1972. The following description is from that book:

Burritt’s Rapids is a tiny community between Kingston and Ottawa on the Rideau Waterway where there is a single canal lock. The Burritt family in North America goes back more than 350 years. Colonel Stephen Burritt served 7 years in the famous Roger’s Rangers. Towards the end of the 18th century Stephen Burritt came up from the St Lawrence to the Rideau settlements, made a raft in Cox’s Bay and floated down the Rideau until he saw a location that appealed to him for his home. This was near the rapids that would henceforth bear his name. He built himself a log house and there the first white child in the district was born on 8th December 1793.

However Burritt’s Rapids as a community almost didn’t get started. Soon after Stephen settled in the log house he and his wife suffered an attack of ague and fever. Both were so ill neither one could help the other, and for 3 days they lay helpless in bed without fire or food. On the third day a band of Indians arrived at the rapids and disembarked for the portage. They sensed from the unnatural quiet that something was wrong. Entering the cabin they found the white couple in their critical state. The Indians prepared medicine and food and found fuel to warm up the cabin. The Indians waited until the couple recovered sufficiently to look after themselves. From that day on their house was always open to any Indian traveller. Burritt’s Rapids was soon outstripped by its neighbouring settlement of Merrickville to some extent because of the coming of the railway. Burritt’s Rapids remained a little centre in a backwater for the surrounding farms.

Bruce would move to Toronto in 1980.


Issue Number 52
August 2001

Fields Of Motion Surging Outward

Creation Dream - the songs of bruce cockburn
Michael Occhipinti
True North TND 216/Rounder TNOR216
Single CD 71.48 mins
First released: September 2000

Review by Richard Hoare


There have been many cover versions of Cockburn’s song catalogue but few artists have produced more than watered down copies which do not bear repeated listening. This project is different on several levels. Michael Occhipinti is a respected jazz guitarist who has assembled a group of musicians who do justice to the material. Bruce was sufficiently impressed with the project to provide acoustic guitar to one track. Cockburn connections include Hugh Marsh on violin who has played with Bruce on and off since the late 70s. Additionally Jon Goldsmith is the producer and contributes piano. Goldsmith (together with Kerry Crawford) took Bruce’s record production to a new level in the 80s starting with Stealing Fire and became Cockburn’s studio keyboard player for several albums. This is Occhipinti’s third album and he worked this material up at his regular appearances at Toronto’s Rex Jazz Bar. Michael is also the co-founder of NOJO, the Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra, a group of 16 improving musicians who have albums out in their own right.

Occhipinti anchors the sound with the bass of Andrew Downing and switches between drummers Barry Romberg and Jean Martin (dispensing with drums altogether on two tracks). The sound is augmented with the clarinet of Don Byron and the trumpet of Kevin Turcotte, sounding to me in places like Dave Douglas, a huge Cockburn favourite.

Michael has chosen to make an instrumental album and deconstruct the music with amazing and radical results. He still retains Cockburn’s musical figures, which re-appear in a number of unexpected guises. The songs Occhipinti has chosen to interpret cover the twenty-year period from In The Falling Dark (1976) up to The Charity Of Night (1996).

1. Lovers In A Dangerous Time

The floating arrangement feels its way with the trumpet of Kevin Turcotte and Occhipinti’s acoustic guitar. Kevin develops a solo, which gives way to light drums, and a solo from Michael. Trumpet and drums step up a gear and canter to a bass fade.

2. Mistress Of Storms

Originally an instrumental workout between Bruce on acoustic guitar and Gary Burton on vibes. This arrangement takes off at a faster pace and provides a vehicle for Kevin’s trumpet and Don Byron who runs with his clarinet, twisting and turning at full tilt. Later Kevin and Don duel it out with short bursts before the music slows. Bass and drums float up and down in the mix.

3. Live On My Mind

The original languid feel is maintained with brushes, drums, and guitar harmonics before Kevin’s beautiful trumpet floats in over a walking bass. Turcotte opens out the melody over subtle drums and ducks and dives sedately, exploring the figure. Some six minutes in Michael takes up the melody on electric guitar and he and Kevin play the tune out.

4.Wondering Where The Lions Are (Giftbearer)

This workout combines Bruce’s Top 40 hit and his instrumental from In the Falling Dark, which always reminds me of the Codona band on ECM. This arrangement with an exquisite bed of percussive drumming is a wonderful landscape for Hugh Marsh’s violin exploration. Half way through Michael takes up the theme on electric guitar and loops for his first real extended workout on this disc. Hugh comes back in and picks up the tune before faint tendrils of violin and guitar harmonics fade out on a bed of drums.

5. Pacing The Cage

Bruce provides the bedrock of acoustic guitar while Michael’s electric guitar through a chorus surveys the bleached-out land with a delicate re-interpretation. The only other instrument on this track, Andrew’s bass is also given solo reign to great effect. Bruce stretches out on acoustic before Occhipinti comes back in on electric. This is a very intimate arrangement.

6.Creation Dream

This tune is turned on its head trading Cockburn’s acoustic guitar for a power trio arrangement.  Michael’s electric guitar with a controlled Hendrix-like tone circa ‘67 bursts forth. Bass and drums canter along as Occhipinti rings out a solo. Andrew’s bass takes the lead and Michael provides harmonic fills.

7. One Of The Best Ones

Goldsmith plays sparse piano figures while Michael picks the melody on guitar backed with Romberg’s light drumming & brushes. Jon develops the part with tumbling notes and Occhipinti opens up the electric guitar improvisation. A beautiful piece.

8. Rumours Of Glory

The wonderful bass clarinet of Don Byron provides a rasping beauty while Occhipinti’s electric guitar takes on that Hendrix sound again. The familiar melody fades to a free- form jam on both instruments returning to the melody before taking another left turn. The clarinet gains momentum and spars with the flanged guitar never losing the theme.

9. Homme Brulant

Only ever released as a live track by Bruce with the best jazz guitar solo of Circles In The Stream, this tune seemed an obvious one for Michael to tackle. Occhipinti takes this tune apart and reconstructs a piece for guitar and violin. This in one of the album’s more abstract pieces but with many of Hugh’s familiar sounds. Five minutes in the original tune floats off the violin strings.

10. If  I Had A Rocket Launcher

Rattling percussion wakes the tune, which gives way to Don Byron’s beautiful soulful bass clarinet moving around the melody, which develops into a squawking delight. This is matched by the combination of tuned percussion from Michael Occhipinti and Jon Goldsmith.

11. Lord Of The Starfields

Deep space is conjured up with the slowly expanding licks of guitar, violin and the tenor saxophone of Mike Murley, his only appearance. The melody is stretched out to almost unrecognisable lengths with these three instruments providing a delicate weaving interplay, which fades to silence.


I can return to this CD to time and again and discover nuances that I haven’t heard before. 

The package is a delight. A Man Called Wrycraft has fashioned a tip of the hat tribute to the German jazz label ECM with the artwork for the booklet, inlay card and disc - the cover seemingly the sea from the lyrics to Creation Dream. The sleeve notes by Ross Porter, who contributes to a variety of Canadian music media, set the scene and he makes two comments, which particularly resonate with me. Ross writes “Bruce has had a long career and there are not many artists with so many CD’s who are still growing.” I listen to a wide variety of music and this is exactly why, in my opinion, Cockburn stands head and shoulders above many other artists. Porter continues, “Bruce’s sensitivity to jazz can be traced back to the 60’s when he studied jazz composition at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.” Cockburn rediscovered jazz at the time of the album Joy Will Find A Way (1975) and it has and continues to inform his composition and playing for the better in so many ways.

If you have passed this by because other Cockburn covers haven’t been very exciting or you don’t think you can handle jazz, put your prejudices to one side and check this out. I am sure most of you will find this a wonderful addition to the Bruce Cockburn dimension.

Richard Hoare
©cala luna 2002


Number 50
April 2002

It’s electric - I can feel it crackling in my nails and hair
Bruce Cockburn at Celtic Connections 2002
31st January, Fruit Market, Glasgow, Scotland
by Richard Hoare

Richard excitedly hopped a plane from London and winged his way to Glasgow to catch Bruce in concert. He brought back this account for Gavin’s Woodpile...


This was Cockburn’s only UK gig this winter before playing a series of dates in North America from late February and his first full length concert in over a year anywhere in the world. Bruce had intended to take 2001 off to recharge his songwriting batteries. However he moved from living in Toronto to Montreal, compiled the singles compilation Anything Anytime Anywhere including recording two songs for that project, was involved in his CBC TV Life & Times show  and made sporadic short set live appearances. It also transpired that he has been paying special attention to his guitar playing.

On stage Cockburn’s tech tuned two Manzer 6 string guitars and a Guild 12 string - not an instrument I had seen Bruce play before in over 20 years of attending his gigs. The atmosphere in this lofty old timber and cast iron market was charged with an enthusiastic crowd as a clean shaven Cockburn took to the stage and strapped on the older of the two Manzer 6 strings. He launched into a wonderful  flurry of delayed feather-light notes up and down the scales which resolved into A Dream Like Mine. The sound was clear and cut the air like cheesewire. Lovers In A Dangerous Time followed and in both songs Cockburn’s delivery seemed to be lighter and more airy than normal. He settled into the gig with Anything Anytime Anywhere followed by a reinvigorated The Trouble With Normal. After Cockburn finished the chunky chords of When You Give It Away he revealed he almost lost it while thinking of Elvis! He ran off stage to collect his notebook and read a funny Presley impersonators anecdote!

Back to the performance and Bruce played an air carving performance of Tibetan Side Of Town - phenomenal guitar work. The gig continued with Tokyo, Pacing The Cage and Wondering Where The Lions Are.

Halfway through the gig Bruce selected the 12 string guitar and fine tuned due to “the variable weather conditions in here”. He explained he was given the instrument by his girlfriend (fine artist, Sally Sweetland) who had owned it since the 70s. Cockburn played this guitar for the next three numbers starting with My Beat, the bicycle trip through his new patch in Montreal. The song is a magical combination of a host of  influences from Bruce’s back catalogue but also sounds as fresh as a daisy. Cockburn then made some highly relevant references to September 11th for this European audience which I doubt he’ll repeat at the North American shows and treated us to a wonderful new number inspired by that terror, Put It In Your Heart. Bruce increased the volume of his vocal as he sang from the beginning to the end of each verse. This turned out to be the start of a run of “where the world is now” songs including Let The Bad Air Out, Justice- dusted off from 1981’s Inner City Front with a lyric already made for post 9/11 and Call It Democracy. These four tracks had a powerful affect on the concert. Cockburn then lifted the whole ambience with a judicious selection of songs to raise optimism reflecting the cherishing of life and marvelling at the good things. This atmosphere built from Waiting For A Miracle, through Rumours Of Glory where the rearrangement included layering the sound with delays, through Last Night Of The World to the climax of World Of Wonders where I felt as though I was riding on air - a magnificent adaption similar to the 1989 trio rendition.

I felt awash with oxygen as Bruce came back for encores of All The Ways I Want You and Peggy’s Kitchen Wall, topped off with a final visit to the stage for the instrumental, Down To The Delta, “as I’ve lost my voice.”

As I walked out into the Glasgow night I kept thinking ...it’s electric, I can feel it in my nails and hair. In case you think this is just another solo Cockburn tour let me assure you that he has raised his game yet again both in terms of playing and delivery. Not many people on this planet who started solo over 30 years ago are capable of achieving such a subtle and effective rejuvenation.


Issue Number 48
December 2001

Anything, Anytime, Anywhere (Singles 1979-2002)
Bruce Cockburn
True North/Rounder
Rounder 11661-3180-2A
Single CD 71.49 mins 
Released: 15th January 2002
Review by Richard Hoare


This is the first Bruce Cockburn release following the new deal that True North signed with Rounder. Here is a collection of Cockburn’s best-known songs, all digitally remastered using 24 bit technology.

1. My Beat (4.34 )
New Track
Written: Montreal—18/7/01

To bookend this collection Bruce went into Reaction Studios in Toronto in August 2001 to record this and the last track on the CD. He used his recent touring duo, drummer Ben Riley and Steve Lucas on bass, fleshing out the sound with the violin of Hugh Marsh and assistance from Colin Linden. Beautiful light drumming and bass give way to Cockburn’s rippling acoustic picking and the wonderful eerie wail of distorted violin. Vocals are shared  with Patty Griffin. My beat is the twin themes of Bruce observing his neighbourhood in his new home town of Montreal and his heart pumping.

This track sounds new while capturing the essence of Cockburn stretching back two decades. It was recorded by John Whynot who did a great job on The Charity Of Night in 1996. A triumph.

2. Wondering Where The Lions Are (3.42)
Song first released on Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws September 1979 (3.42)
Written: Ottawa—12/1/79

This was the first Bruce Cockburn single to receive airplay on an international scale. How did he get there? Well, this song was on his 10th album. Signed to True North in Canada, he was represented by separate labels in markets such as Japan, Australia, Italy and previously on release in the US through Island. “I heard about eight bars of Lions and I said, I’ll take it,” recalled Jimmy Ienner, president of New York’s Millennium Records, the company that licensed this record in the US and the UK.(a) With the advent of punk and new wave Bruce had checked out a number of contemporary sounds including reggae. For this track only he employed the rhythm section from the Ishan Band, a new wave reggae act. Ben Bow on drums and Larry “Sticky Fingers” Silvera on bass provide the backbone to Cockburn’s hypnotic acoustic guitar and Pat Godfrey’s marimba. Cockburn’s long time producer Eugene Martynec captured the sound with engineer Gary Gray. The unusual lyrics require some explanation from Bruce: “ There was nearly a war on the Sino-Russian frontier. I had dinner with someone who worked in defense research at one of those jobs about which he could say nothing. He and his colleagues were really scared because at the time, while the Soviets and Americans had an “understanding” by which they would avoid surprising each other, China was the wild card in the deck. That night I experienced a rerun of a dream I’d had some years before in which lions roamed the streets in terrifying fashion, only this time they weren’t threatening at all. When I woke up in the morning some things had connected and I wrote the beginning of this song while driving out of town along the Queensway.”(b) This single was top ten in Canada and top thirty in the US. Bernie Finkelstein, Cockburn’s manager: “Although Cockburn’s escalating success came late the very fact that he succeeded in emerging with a hit was something quite astonishing!”(c)

3.Tokyo  (3.29)
Song first released on Humans October 1980 (3.25)
Written: Tokyo—September 15/79

Bruce Cockburn: “I wrote these words on the plane home from the second tour of Japan.”(d) The first time Bruce used his new Fender Stratocaster was when he borrowed it for this track.(e) A pumping riff conveys bouncing around in the car as Bruce travels between gigs in this action packed chaotic modern city. The musicians are old cohorts Dennis Pendrith on bass and Bob DiSalle on drums with Jon Goldsmith making his first outing for Cockburn on keyboards.

4. The Coldest Night Of The Year (4.24) (re-mix)
Song first released on Mummy Dust April 1981 (3.58)
Written: Toronto—January 1981

A full band provide an optimistic backing to Cockburn’s story of keeping depression at bay. The musicians that played Tokyo are supplemented with John Davis on organ, Hugh Marsh with violin fills and Kathryn Moses on wonderful sax. The remix has tightened up the rhythm and blues feel. Bruce wrote this in January 1981 so by the time it was out Spring had arrived! Maybe the January release for this compilation will result in some airplay for this timeless track. It should have taken Bruce to the next level 20 years ago.

5. The Trouble With Normal (3.35)
Song first released on The Trouble With Normal August 1983 (3.35)
Written: Toronto—30/6/81

This is original album cut (not the 1985 re-recording) and the remastering accentuates the real bite of the song. Powerful drumming from Bob Disalle and Jon Goldsmith’s keyboards drives it along. The lyrics ring as true today as they did nearly 20 years ago. This song is overtly laced with clear socio/political statements. The politics had always been there, i.e. Gavin’s Woodpile eight years earlier, but the songs started to have more social weight and were becoming more specific.

6. Lovers In A Dangerous Time (4.06)
Song first released on Stealing Fire September 1984 (4.06)
Written: Toronto—September 1983

Cockburn put together a new band for Stealing Fire to create a looser sound and one that gave the guitar more room. He got together with Hugh Marsh’s brother, Fergus who was the only person around playing the Chapman stick that used the whole instrument.  Miche Pouliot from a couple of local Ottawa bands came in on drums and Chi Sharpe provided an array of percussion. The production on this album by Jon Goldsmith and Kerry Crawford was a new level for Cockburn’s work.  BC: “I wanted to say that there’s room; no matter how bad things look, if you don’t have love you’ve got nothing.”(k) It is one of Bruce’s great songs of the tensions of passion and emotion. This track opens the album with terrific throbbing stick combined with chiming guitar and percussion.  Bono was obviously sufficiently impressed as he sings “I heard a singer on the radio late last night says he’s gonna kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight” in the song God Part II released on U2’s album Rattle and Hum.

7. If I Had A Rocket Launcher  (4.57)
Song first released on Stealing Fire September 1984 (4.59)
Written: Chiapas, Mexico and Toronto—February and April 1983

Intertwining guitar and percussion set the scene. The stick and the drums kicks in while Goldsmith’s keyboards expand the sound as Cockburn’s guitar builds. Bruce creates controlled venom. The lyrics caused a storm of controversy which Cockburn rode out despite media interrogation. I defy any of you not to be affected by this track. BC: “I visited two of the Guatemalan refugee camps in southern Mexico. The refugees were the survivors of terrible atrocities perpetrated by a vicious military government in their homeland. In the fragile shelter of the camps, they were starved, denied medical care, and were subjected to attacks by the Guatemalan army. The notes for this song were written over tears and a bottle of Bell’s in a tiny room in San Cristobel de las Casa, the nearest town to these camps.”(f)

8. Call It Democracy (3.51)
Song first released on World Of Wonders February 1986 (3.50)
Written: Toronto—11/85

A shot rings out. A heavier sound churns out with new drummer, Michael Sloski and Cockburn’s vicious guitar solo matches the sentiment of the lyrics. BC: “The way in which our financial institutions, which we the public like to think are in place for altruistic reasons, are really agents of domination. The IMF is not the only guilty party. I use it in the song as representative, a proxy, of everything of its kind of the whole system that gave rise to institutions like that.”(l) BC: “Through a growing familiarity with Nicaraguan revolution, a recognition of North-South relations began to take shape. Nicaragua, The Philippines, Chile, virtually all of Latin America really, Indonesia, emerging African countries...Wherever you look you find the same financial interests at work. Working to get rich without controls, at the expense of the poor. When the poor complain, out come the troops, and then the arms companies get rich too.”(g)

9. Waiting For A Miracle (4.50) (re-mix)
Song first released on Waiting For A Miracle March 1987 (4.48)
Written: Managua—January 86

BC: “The second trip to Nicaragua produced this song. Three years of low intensity conflict since my first visit - the revolution was getting tired, not over all, not hopeless, but tired.”(h) A year after the album World of Wonders was recorded the same musicians went in the studio to produce this track for the compilation of the same name. Cockburn pulls off lyrics and melody which conveys that waiting feeling without the music dragging. The remastering heightens the instruments, producing a bright optimism.

10. If A Tree Falls (5.43) 
Song first released on Big Circumstance January 1989 (5.43)
Written: Toronto—April 7, 1988

Cockburn returns with a leaner band; the rhythm section of Fergus Marsh on stick and Michael Sloski on drums with Jon Goldsmith both playing keyboards and in the producer’s chair. Cockburn emulates a chainsaw on guitar and delivers the story of deforestation. BC: “Give a guy an echo machine and a whammy bar -- he’s likely to use them!(i) Goldsmith works up tumbling notes of cascading timber while Bruce duels on guitar.” BC: “I also drew from an e. e. cummings poem, the one that starts “pity this busy monster, manunkind, not” which describes the encroachment of industrial society on the human soul.” (j)

 11. A Dream Like Mine (4.55)
Song first released on Nothing But A Burning Light October 1991 (3.53)
Written: Dawson (Yukon Territories)—August 17, 1990

Outside of Canada Bruce was now signed to Columbia/Sony. T Bone Burnett and Joe Henry produced this album with a distinctly different sound. There were some changes afoot - US musicians instead of the familiar Canadians, a studio in Los Angeles instead of Toronto  and a Columbia budget. This track includes  big name musicians such as Booker T Jones on organ, Larry Klein on bass and Michael Blair on percussion. This is also a re-mixed masterpiece. The twangy rock and roll roots guitar has a dirtier sound and the whole ambience is slightly slower. BC: “The song grew from the book of the title by M. T. Kelly and what attracted me most was the central image of the dream of the warrior coming back in the context of justice for Indian people. At the same time I became aware of that, the confrontation between the Mohawks and the Canadian army at Oka (in Quebec, concerning land disputed since 1717), was going on in the summer of ‘90. I was imagining myself over a period of time in that situation trying to picture what I would feel like were I at the treatment centre facing that military might with the determination to right what to me was an obvious wrong.”(m)

12. Listen For The Laugh (4.05)
Song first released on Dart To The Heart  February 1994 (4.06)
Written: Charlottesville, Virginia—October 27, 1992

The lead track from the above album, the second to be produced by T Bone Burnett. A full tilt rocker with three piece brass section and Colin Linden on slide guitar. BC: “I believe Love with a capital L is the glue that holds the universe together. It’s a force like gravity or light, an essential element.”(n) On the Burning Light tour prior to this album Neil Young’s album Ragged Glory would be played over the sound system before Cockburn and his band appeared on stage. This track has overtones of the free, cut loose spirit of that album down to the extended coda.

13. Night Train (6.11)
Song first released on The Charity Of Night  February 1997 (6.14)
Written: Halton Hills—6/2/96

Cockburn was now signed to Rykodisc outside Canada. The first thing that hits you as this track starts up is the live unprocessed drum sound played by Gary Craig and the elastic, talking, warping bass of Rob Wasserman. The trio including Cockburn on guitar play an iron horse cavorting down the rails. As the locomotive hurtles into the blackness where “the rhythm of the night train becomes a mantra” Bruce lets rip with a searing guitar solo. In 1997 Cockburn revealed that he conjured up the whole song in one fell swoop with a large quantity of absinthe! 

14. Pacing The Cage (4.37)
Song first released on The Charity Of Night  February 1997 (4.38)
Written: Philadelphia—24/6/95

Bruce picks an acoustic guitar, Rob Wasserman solos on bass and Janice Powers provides subtle keyboards. Cockburn catches himself on the treadmill of life creating a universal lyric. Played at many a radio station by Bruce during the promotion of the album and also covered by Jimmy Buffett. 

15. Last Night Of The World (4.50)
Song first released on Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu September 1999  (4.51)

Acoustic guitar driven song with Janice Powers’ deft keyboards. BC: “For years I carried a knapsack and in answer to a query from Sam Phillips about the contents, I said  ‘What I might need for the apocalypse.’ Sam’s response was, ‘You’d only need champagne and glasses!’ “(o) Cockburn also reflects on the biggest heartbreak of all - the flame of hope among the hopeless - the refugee camp victims.

16. Anything Anytime Anywhere (3.34)
New Track
Written: Halton Hills—1/3/92

I first heard Bruce play this song  in London, England in May 1992. More recently Colin Linden recorded it on his 2000 CD Raised By Wolves on Compass Records. Bruce finally commits it to disc with a slow smouldering shuffle and the gravelly bass vocals of The Fairfield Four. Cockburn’s shimmering electric guitar lays down the groove assisted by Hugh on treated violin. Bruce wraps up this collection of songs with a lyric about the strength of love: “...the power to burn like a torch through the darkest hour...”


Long term listeners will want the remastering, remixes and new tracks. It would be great if Rounder’s well-known artistic integrity and distribution skills could turn newcomers on to the amazing diverse musical and lyrical qualities of Bruce Cockburn’s work.

by Richard Hoare  ©cala luna 2001 where not already credited.

Footnotes

(a), (c) Quote from Dancing In The Jaws of Change by Ian Pearson, Macleans, 7 September 1981.
(b) Quote from songbook: All The Diamonds, Vol One, 1969-1979, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.
(d), (f), (g), (h), (i) Quote from songbook: Rumours Of Glory, 1980-1990, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.
(e) Quote from Canadian Musician August 1981.
(j)  Quote from Womad Festival press conference Cornwall, England 26 August 1989.   
(k), (l) Quote from The World of Bruce Cockburn, His Words And Music 1985 True North/Columbia.
(m) Quote from The Nothing But A Burning Light Radio Special interview disc True North Records/Sony Music Canada 1991.
(n) From an interview with Roy Trakin - Impact magazine, Canada March 1994.
(o) From The Basement stage Sydney Australia April 1998.

My thanks go out to Richard Hoare for writing this review for Gavin’s Woodpile and to Bernie Finkelstein and Jim Horan for the advance information. The photo on page one was taken by Kevin Kelly. It is from the cover of Anything , Anytime , Anywhere. My thanks to Michelle Murphy.

!!! Rounder Records has made a special arrangement with Borders Books: buy the CD at Borders and get a bonus CD of Bruce’s performance on The World Café from 2001. It will contain six songs plus interview segments. One of the songs is previously unrecorded and may appear on the next studio album later in 2002.    -DK


Issue Number 38
April 2000

When our correspondent in England was told that Bruce Cockburn included Feast Of Fools in the set list for the current “Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu” tour, he decided to revisit the album on which it was released.


OBSERVATIONS AND BACKGROUND TO

FURTHER ADVENTURES OF
BRUCE COCKBURN 
TRUE NORTH TN 33
Released 1978 
Produced by Eugene Martynec
Engineered by Ken Friesen
Recorded at Eastern Sound April - May 1978
All songs written by Bruce Cockburn

(Currently only available on CD in Canada- TRUE NORTH TNBD 0033)

This was Bruce’s ninth album and it is a wonderful diverse mix of music and artwork released after three predominantly jazz influenced records. Cockburn does not usually follow a particular theme for more than three records and this is a transitional album before re-orientating himself on a new path. This time Bruce writes in a wide variety of styles, employs many background vocals from a range of singers he has worked with in the past, and uses influences from his first tours outside Canada. He also includes a couple of  blues/rock songs with wailing electric guitars tipping the hat to the changed musical landscape of the mid-Seventies by such exponents as Television.

Bruce Cockburn: Expanded horizons — first tours outside of Canada — Japan, small club circuit in Northeastern U.S.. Was told I must be the reincarnation of Kenji Miyazawa, a fine Japanese poet. Sounds good from my end, but what bad things did he do to deserve me?(a) (b)

The nucleus of the band comprised Robert Boucher, the bassist from Cockburn’s first live band who recorded Circles In The Stream and Bob Di Salle, the drummer who played on In The Falling Dark. Producer Eugene Martynec, one time lead guitarist with Kensington Market, plays electric guitar.

Face 1

1. Rainfall
Bright, clear acoustic guitar picking opens the album joined by drums, bass, the flute of Kathryn Moses(m) and the voice of Beverley Glenn-Copeland(c). The lyrics centre on Cockburn’s observations of precipitation on the landscape and the truck while out on the highway. The iridescence referred to in the lyrics is reflected in the album title lettering on the front cover, in the rainbow on the rear sleeve, and multicoloured pages of the log in the gatefold sleeve.

2. A Montreal Song
Acoustic guitar and warping bass play while Cockburn escapes the hotel TV to enjoy the company of fellow citizens in the city. Kathryn plays beautiful flute and Shingoose(d) provides the backing vocals.

3. Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand
Deep electric guitar and cymbals surprise the ears as a rock four piece of drums, bass and two electric guitars weave blues meets Television. A rock song - unusual to date in the Cockburn songwriting canon. In 1978 Ken Emerson interviewed Cockburn for Rolling Stone(e) and asked Bruce which songwriters he admired: “Tom Verlaine, I don’t like what he is saying particularly — I don’t see things the same way — but I think he’s a terrific writer.” Ken went onto to write “the luminous intensity of Cockburn’s best songs shines through. In this song the coins remind Bruce first of stars then of stigmata.”    

The title to Bruce’s previous album, Circles In The Stream, can be found in the lyrics to this song.

4. Prenons La Mer
The title is French for Let Us Set Sail. Cockburn sings two verses in English, and the chorus and final verse in French. On this buoyant, rhythmic performance Bruce is playing stunning acoustic guitar backed by drums, bass and Ronney Abramson(f) on backing vocals. The wonderful lyrics combine visions of spirituality and light as it breezes along with a  brightness and optimism topped off with a beautiful guitar solo. “Let us set sail on the solar waves you and I among the spirits of light.”

5. Red Ships Take Off In The Distance
Bruce Cockburn: I don’t know why it’s called that, except that’s what it suggested to me. It’s a duet with bass player Bob Boucher.(g)

This 5:15 instrumental with Cockburn on acoustic guitar and Bob on talking bass is longer than most of the songs on the album. For me this tune conjures up the freighters on the nod on the surface of the bay from the next album!

Face 2 

6. Laughter
Bruce Cockburn: It covers a lot of things in fairly short time.(g)

Stream of consciousness lyrics revolving around the song title. The song canters along with a  small choir singing the “ha ha” refrain interwoven with Kathryn’s skipping flute. The backing vocals are provided by Beverley, Marty Nagler(l), Tommy Graham(n), Brent Titcomb(h) and Shingoose. Laughter/Prenons La Mer was issued as a 7 inch vinyl single on True North TN4 -142.

7. Bright Sky
Bruce Cockburn: I wrote these words on the way south from Faro, Yukon after my one experience of the Farrago festival — lots of communal spirit (and spirits). The guitar part was inspired by a record I heard of traditional Swedish fiddle duets.(i)

Bruce’s nimble acoustic guitar picking and Martha Nagler’s bodhran(j) are illuminated on this call and response by the backing vocal choir from Laughter singing the refrain of the song title.

8. Feast Of Fools
More liquid, snaking electric guitar in the style of Tom Verlaine for another rock song similar in composition to Phone Booth. In the album acknowledgements Bruce thanks author Harvey Cox for inspiration. Cox wrote Feast of Fools — a theological essay on festivity and fantasy and The Secular City — secularization and urbanisation in theological perspective. Bruce fashions a wonderful “it all adds up to nothing” lyric with Shingoose on backing vocals. At 6:42 this is the longest track on the album.

9. Can I Go With You
Bruce asks to go with his maker when the time is right. Bruce’s acoustic guitar and Eugene’s electric guitar duck and dive, interspersed with flute and Beverley on backing vocals. Sublime.

10. Nanzen Ji
Bruce Cockburn: The song title is the name of a Zen temple in Kyoto, Japan. The song is basically a description of things, almost in chronological order, seen at the temple in fairly abstract terms.(g) (k)

A calm, sparse plaintive song of guitar harmonics and voice conjuring a Zen-like atmosphere closes the album. Bruce’s dog, Aroo, barks on the fade out.

This is one of Cockburn’s more eclectic albums musically with lyrics rooted in faith, god and spirituality. Bruce expresses this through observations of the world around him — nature, light, water, etc.

Bruce Cockburn: I’m a Christian and for me it’s the most important thing in my life and the area around which everything else has to revolve. Because it determines really how I see everything else that I go through, it ends up in the songs a lot. The songs are reflections of whatever I happen to go through during the period that the songs are being written.(g)

The bright sound has been captured by Ken Friesen, the engineer of the previous three albums and the trusty Eugene Martynec who produced all Cockburn’s previous eight records.

The original gatefold record sleeve is a wonder to behold — one of those weird and wonderful covers from the Seventies. Designed by Bart Schoales the sleeve resembles a leather bound travellers log. I’ve always thought that the cotton wool clouds swirling round the Northern Hemisphere of a globe on the front cover let down the concept slightly. However this is more than made up for with a great rear sleeve including a compass and a black and white photo of Bruce in a hotel lobby (he told me in ‘81) with rainbow tiling in the window. The rear cover was re-mixed as a giant promotional poster.

The inner gatefold is a photograph of the opened log with pen and rainbow coloured pages similar to John Sinclair’s 1972 book Guitar Army: Street Writings/Prison Writings.  All the lyrics and credits are hand written plus pen and ink graphics to illustrate each song. These include rain on a windshield for Rainfall, satellite and dolphin for Prenons La Mer, Bruce & Aroo for Laughter, and a Japanese garden for Nanzen Ji. As if that wasn’t enough the dust jacket reproduces the whole inner gatefold in French reversed white on black. So much to read, so much to take in and so much more meaning to the music and lyrics.

In the US, Island Records contemporaneously released this LP in the gatefold format minus the French dust jacket and in 1988 East Side Digital released the album on CD for a limited time.

This is the last album where Bruce Cockburn was Canada’s best-kept secret. The next album, Dancing In The Dragons Jaws, included the single Wondering Where The Lions Are which received radio play in several different parts of the world.

by Richard Hoare
(copyright Cala Luna 2000 where not already stated)

Footnotes:

(a) Quote from 1986 World Of Wonders tour programme.
(b) For more on Cockburn’s involvement with the work of  Kenji Miyazawa refer to Cala Luna No 4.  
(c) Beverley previously sang on the album Joy Will Find A Way.
(d) Shingoose is a Canadian Indian who spent 10 years playing everybody’s music but his own. Then in 1970 he discovered the roots of his Native tradition. Cockburn played on and produced his 1975 four track EP entitled Native Country released by the Native Council Of Canada.
(e) Rolling Stone 16th November 1978 - Mystic From The North.
(f) Bruce played guitars and dulcimers on Ronney Abramson’s 1977 True North album Stowaway TN 27.
(g) From an interview with Cockburn on WBAI, New York 5th May 1978 by Edward Haber who produced and engineered the show which included Bruce playing three live numbers solo from the then unreleased Further Adventures Of.
(h) Brent Titcomb was in 3’s A Crowd with Bruce.
(i) Quote from songbook: All The Diamonds, Vol. One, 1969-1979,OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.
( j ) Martha is the wife of Eric Nagler who played on High Winds White Sky and Sunwheel Dance.
(k) Tom’s Cabin people referred to in the albums acknowledgements  promoted  the 1977 Japanese dates with Murray McLauchlan.
(l) Marty Nagler sang on Sunwheel Dance.
(m) Kathryn Moses played flute on In The Falling Dark.
(n) Tommy Graham played tambura on Joy Will Find A Way.


Issue Number 35
October 1999

You Don’t Have To Play The Horses

Cockburn Plays Cheltenham Racecourse
Greenbelt ‘99 - Saturday 31st July - England
by Richard Hoare

Bruce Cockburn removed his glasses and wiped his face with a towel. Perspiring from the combined effect of the stage lights and the summer heat in the enclosed “big top” tent, he reflected on global warming. Cockburn described having recently visited Cambodia, near the equator, where the temperature was the same as Toronto but in Cambodia the humidity was the same number as the temperature! He had visited the beautiful southeast Asian country with its soft light and 12th century ruins of Angkor Wat riddled with 20th century bullet holes, in connection with landmines. He went on to explain how the Cambodian population has suffered the loss of life and limb through these horrific discs. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this stuff,” Bruce adds, “other than to get you into a morose state of mind for this song.” He proceeded to deliver a sublime Pacing The Cage on resonator guitar.

Bruce made a solo appearance at Greenbelt, his first since 1995, with a new Manzer acoustic guitar. The first of the new songs off Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu, still six weeks away from being released, was a strident When You Give It Away.  Other new numbers included a beautiful Look How Far (my  favourite song  from the new album) and the ventilating street rap of Let The Bad Air Out with Bruce’s voice in place of the trombone and harmonica on the record.

The set included some trusty stalwarts such as Creation Dream with a stinging guitar solo, Night Train with a scat vocal ending, a vehement Call It Democracy and also The Whole Night Sky and Soul Of A Man on resonator guitar. There were also two welcome surprises. The first was Understanding Nothing which Bruce says he hasn’t revisited before because of the hassle of relearning the lyrics from his singing on the CD, which are different from those on the sleeve of Big Circumstance. Then there was a stupendous Dialogue With The Devil from his 1972 album Sunwheel Dance (and live on Circles In The Stream) with Cockburn hitting those high vocal notes and wringing the guitar notes out of the new Manzer. Cockburn introduced the latter with...”Every now and again I get people coming up to me saying I liked the set but you don’t play any of the old stuff. This hasn’t been played for a while but perhaps it is relevant again now!”

Bruce closed with the first single off the new album, Last Night Of The World, inspired by Sam Phillips’ retort to her enquiry as to what was in Bruce’s backpack. The audience brought him back for Love Loves You Too with the heavy electric chords from Dart To The Heart traded for subtle acoustic guitar.  

I don’t normally hanker after Cockburn playing old numbers and the new album has a wealth of strong material (by the time Bruce had played the two Dublin dates later in the week he had played the whole album live apart from Blueberry Hill and Deep Lake) but my abiding memory of that sultry night was Bruce playing and singing the 28 year old Dialogue With The Devil.    


Issue Number 25
Februay 1998

You Pay Your Money… Visited by Richard Hoare

Musicians:- Bruce Cockburn: guitars & vocals, Steve Lucas: bass & b/v, Ben Riley: drums & b/v. Recorded at The Barrymore Theater, Madison, Wisconsin, USA on May 3, 1997.

1. Call It Democracy (5.43)
Song first released on: World Of Wonders 1985 (3.50)
Bruce Cockburn: Through a growing familiarity with the Nicaraguan revolution, a recognition of North-South relations began to take shape. Nicaragua, The Philippines, Chile, virtually all of Latin America really, Indonesia, emerging African countries...Wherever you look you find the same financial interests at work. Working to get rich without controls, at the expense of the poor. When the poor complain, out come the troops, and then the arms companies get rich too.(a)

2. Stolen Land (7.06)
Song first released on: Waiting For A Miracle 1987 (5.23)
BC: We were about to do a benefit in Vancouver in support of the Haida land claims in the Queen Charlottes [islands off the coast of British Columbia] or Haida Gwaii, as the islands should be known. I had wanted a dramatic song which touched on Native issues. I had  partial lyrics & a pretty good head of steam built up about the Haida situation, and that in Arizona at Big Mountain, where government industrial hanky panky was forcing people off traditional lands. I had no musical ideas, but got together with Hugh Marsh to work on it & we managed to cook this up.(b)

On the studio cut the funk part is Hugh Marsh’s influence. During this song on the 1986 septet band tour Cockburn let rip on his guitar like a cross between Carlos Santana & Jerry Garcia. Subsequently,  Bruce  played this song solo live with a Bo Diddley beat on the bohdran, an Irish drum - this arrangement was captured on Bruce’s 1990 album Live. During the 1992 & 1994 quintet band tours the song was re-arranged again to a more chugging rock beat with Bruce whisking up a different guitar storm. This ep version is more primal being adapted this time for a trio.

3. Strange Waters (6.30)
Song first released on: The Charity Of Night 1997 (5.49)
BC uses psalm like metaphors to ask his god when he will experience release from the surrounding turbulence. Bruce plays distorted electric guitar with Hendrix-like tones on this elemental drum stomp mantra.

4. Fascist Architecture (2.46)
Song first released on: Humans 1980 (2.37)
BC: That was when my marriage broke up & that fact broke a lot of things in me. The image “fascist architecture” came from Italy. It was stuff that was built during Mussolini’s period that was a particular style where the buildings are really larger than life & what is supposed to celebrate the greatness of humanity actually dwarfs humanity. It makes you feel tiny & helpless next to it & everybody hates this stuff. It seems to me a suitable image for the things in ourselves, the structures we build that are built on false expectations or pretenses. The things that we pretend to ourselves. And when some catastrophe comes our way those things crack & you get glimpses through them, the light comes through them. It’s not a comfortable thing.(c)

Cockburn went into Manta Sound, in Toronto in November - December 1986 with the World Of Wonders band  to record Stolen Land & Waiting For A Miracle. He also re-recorded Fascist Architecture (4.04), which was released on the Waiting For A Miracle singles compilation instead of the take from Humans.  

5. You Pay Your Money And You Take Your Chance (4.31)
Song first released on: Inner City Front 1981 (4.19)
BC: A small crawl through a newly discovered urban landscape of love, lust and speakeasies. I was living next door to a chicken slaughterhouse near Kensington Market in Toronto at the time.(d)

This re-arrangement incorporating an Eastern acoustic guitar introduction & mid song solo blows a breath of fresh air through the song.     

6. Birmingham Shadows (10.46)
Song first released on: The Charity Of Night 1997 (9.39)
Stephen Hubbard: I get the strong sense from the liner notes to the album thanking Ani DiFranco & the song Birmingham Shadows which I’m told is about an evening you spent with Ani after a gig , hanging out talking, that she had a big effect on you.... BC: You got that off the Internet? SH: Yeah, is that not true? BC: Well, let me put it this way: I never told anybody that...That is interpretation which I won’t comment on the veracity of. I mean the song is about somebody & I’d just as soon not be the one who says who it is, so you can take that where you want.(e)

Footnotes.

(a),(b) & (d) BC quotes from songbook:  Rumours Of Glory,1980-1990, OFC Publications, A Division of The Ottawa Folklore Centre Ltd, 1111 Bank St. South, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1S 3X4.

(c) BC quote from Song Talk Vol 4 Issue 2 1994 in an interview with Paul Zollo entitled Closer To The Light with Bruce Cockburn. (US magazine).

(e) BC quote from Network Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 1997 in The Network Interview: Bruce Cockburn with Stephen Hubbard. (Canadian magazine).


Issue Number 24
December 1997

Christmas/Nöel: A Cockburn Christmas Chronology
compiled by Richard Hoare

Bruce Cockburn: I’ve loved Christmas music, at least the spiritually inspired kind, for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, my father gave me a little book of carols. (1)

1973Bruce wrote “Christmas Song” in Cumberland, Ontario on Christmas Day 1973 which was subsequently released on the 1974 record, Salt, Sun and Time.

1990Cockburn wrote “Cry Of A Tiny Babe” on March 1 in Toronto which was subsequently released on the 1991 album Nothing But a Burning Light.

Bruce Cockburn: To me, the song is a kind of spaghetti western retelling of the Christmas story. It’s got all the elements which we associate with those kinds of stories – the drama, the desert, the escape across the border, etc. We have tended to lose sight of the reality and of the immediacy of that story because it’s so tied up in historical baggage and Mary is always the (old) Madonna with the blue veil, etc. However, in the story, Mary is a woman who finds herself pregnant and can’t explain it to anyone, especially Joseph who is kind enough not to want to see her executed but is trying to extricate himself from the situation. I tried to figure out what was going through their heads and hearts at the time. Every element of the story has that quality to it, the personalities of the people involved, and so on. I wanted to try to put that story in terms that drew attention to that fact, to the humanity of the people involved. (2)

1991The first Christmas With Cockburn show was broadcast live by satellite on December 15 at the Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock, New York.

Bruce Cockburn: We were on tour playing Woodstock at the right time of year, so we put together this Christmas show. It worked out very well, people were very happy with it and it was carried by a lot of stations around North America and a few in Europe. Everybody liked it so it became a regular thing. The musicians involved were John Dymond, Miche Pouliot, Richard Bell, Colin Linden, Sam Phillips, T-Bone Burnett and David Mansfield.

The set broadcast was: Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Silent Night, A Dream Like Mine, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - features David Mansfield’s fiddle, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - a haunting rendition by Phillips, Burnett and Mansfield, If A Tree Falls

Cry Of A Tiny Babe, Waiting For A Miracle. The same year, Cry Of A Tiny Babe appeared on ‘Tis The Sampler, a sixteen track Various Artists Christmas CD on Columbia.

1992The second Christmas With Cockburn was recorded at The Howard Schwartz Recording Studio in New York on December 20.

The musicians involved were Lou Reed, Rob Wasserman and Rosanne Cash.

The set broadcast was: Lord Of The Starfields, Lovers In A Dangerous Time, Early On One Christmas Morn - unreleased at the time, From The Ashes - with Roseanne Cash, Burden of the Angel/Beast - unreleased at the time, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - extraordinary Wasserman bass solo, We Three Kings - which included Lou Reed narrating the poem Journey of the Magi by TS Eliot, Christmas in February - Lou Reed song from his New York album, All The Diamonds, Cry Of A Tiny Babe - included Lou Reed on unique vocal delivery!

1993In October Columbia/Sony released the Bruce Cockburn album, Christmas, and an eight track promo cd entitled Selections from Christmas.

“I went for the songs that felt organically related to me,” says Bruce about his special Columbia Records release, Christmas, a collection of 15 traditional carols and rare Yuletide songs from various cultures around the world. “We didn’t do ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ because, for me, Christmas means something else.” Produced by Cockburn, Christmas was a labour of love, a project he wanted to do since the early 70s. The record was the outgrowth of his syndicated Christmas With Cockburn radio special on the Columbia Radio Hour, which has been broadcast throughout the US, Canada and Europe the past two years and will take place again this winter.

“These are some of the most beautiful songs ever written,” says Cockburn of the selections on Christmas, framed by sparkling acoustic guitar instrumentals of Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World. The disc offers a veritable travelogue of cultures and musical styles in its hymns, from the jaunty 20s ragtime/gospel strains of Early On One Christmas Morn and the call-and-response spiritual Mary Had A Baby to the English-folk pastoral I Saw Three Ships, the old Spanish villancio Riu Riu Chiu and the renaissance French carol Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes.

“I didn’t want to do just the obvious, familiar songs,” says Cockburn of choosing material for the album. “So I started looking around and I came across some pretty obscure things which didn’t exactly express the obvious Christmas sentiments.”

Cockburn’s continuing interest in native North American issues is evident on The Huron Carol (‘Iesus Ahatonnia’), which he describes as ‘the first Canadian Christmas hymn,’ written originally in the 1600s by a Jesuit priest in the now virtually vanished native Huron tongue. “We found the Huron words in the National Archives, then went to John Steckley, a professor at the University of Sudbury in Northern Ontario, one of the very few who speak the language, for help on the pronunciation,” says Cockburn, who has been an outspoken activist for Aboriginal rights as well as Central American issues and the preservation of the environment. Cockburn goes on to say, “It seems there’s a political aspect to including anything in a native American language on a record today. I hope, by doing something like The Huron Carol, we can help further the process among traditional cultures that are trying to reassert themselves in the world.”

This theme of concern is carried on in the depiction of Christ found in such other songs on the album as Early One Christmas Morn and Mary Had A Baby. “It’s no accident Jesus was born in the manger with the animals and spends all his time hanging out with workers, not the rich and powerful. If we accept the idea that we’re supposed to like each other and treat each other with respect, that obviously has an extremely significant political element to it …and that’s reflected in Christmas music.”

Cockburn accompanies himself on guitar, dulcimer, harmonica and percussion on the album, and is joined by such players as violinist Hugh Marsh, keyboardist Richard Bell, guitarist Colin Linden, bassist John Dymond, drummer Gary Craig and cameo appearances by T-Bone Burnett and Sam Phillips. Certain songs like the French Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes and the South Carolina sing-song rhymes of Mary Had a Baby take off from their original style to achieve a kind of ‘pan-ethnic’ feel.

“The whole experience was liberating in a way doing my own album is not,” explains Cockburn. “I wasn’t responsible for the song writing, so I could approach it from a more objective point of view. And because the songs are familiar, it wasn’t a case of making sure every word was understood exactly how it was meant to be. Because I only know what I think they meant. I wanted my own sense of the meaning of these songs to come through. And I wanted them to be heard as songs, not well-worn clichés.”

The CD includes extensive liner notes as to the origins of the various selections. On the activist hymn Go Tell It On the Mountain, for instance, Cockburn went back to the Swan Silvertones’ gospel versions, while he used Sam Phillips’ haunting minor key take on It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (and Phillips herself as a vocalist) from the film A Midnight Clear as a guide. There is even a Cockburn original, Shepherds, a song he’s had for years waiting for the right opportunity to record.

Overall, Christmas, is Cockburn’s tribute to a time of the year “even people who don’t think about spiritual matters find themselves speculating along those lines.” (3)

The third Christmas With Cockburn was recorded in New York on December 12 with Jackson Browne, T Bone Burnett and Sam Phillips were prevented from reaching the studio by a snow storm.

The set broadcast was: Wondering Where The Lions Are, I Saw Three Ships, Lament For The Last Days, Crystal Ball, All I Want For Christmas is World Peace - written by Pat McDonald of Timbuk 3, In Excelsis Deo, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Incandescent Blue, The Rebel Jesus - written by Browne for a Chieftains Christmas record, Away In A Manger.

A Canadian Christmas show was also recorded that year on December 19 in The Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto with Hugh Marsh and Colin Linden.

The set broadcast was: Mary Had A Baby, I Saw Three Ships, I Dreamt That I Was Santa Claus - Colin Linden, Cry Of A Tiny Babe, Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes, Amazing Grace - amazing Marsh violin solo, Southland Of The Heart - unreleased at the time, Iesus Ahatonnia, Lament For The Last Days.

Finally, that year, Cockburn appeared on BBC Radio One in England on December 24 via satellite from Toronto on the show The Big Holy One. He played 6 tracks solo that appear on the Christmas album.

1994Various Artists album; Columbia Radio Hour Volume 1 includes three tracks from 1992 Christmas With Cockburn: Lord Of The Starfields and Lovers In A Dangerous Time with Rob Wasserman, and Cry Of A Tiny Babe with Wasserman, Roseanne Cash and Lou Reed.

1994 Bruce Cockburn Christmas Sampler was released with 4 tracks off Christmas and Lord Of The Starfields off the above CD.

The fourth Christmas With Cockburn was recorded live at Sony Studios in New York City on December 11 with Nanci Griffith and her musicians.

The set broadcast was: Shepherds, The Wexford Carol, Brave Companion Of The Road-from N Griffith album Stories, Deer Dancing Round A Broken Mirror, I’m Gonna Fly Someday, On Grafton Street-from N. Griffith album, Flyer, Going Back To Georgia- also from Flyer, One Day I Walk, Iesus Ahatonnia, Mary Had A Baby.

1995The fifth Christmas With Cockburn was recorded on December 17 at Sony Studios, Manhattan, New York City with Patty Larkin, Jonatha Brooke and Peter Stuart.

The set broadcast was: Joy Will Find A Way, The Coming Rains - first public performance, The First Noel, Tango- Patty Larkin song, Small Wonders- Peter Stuart song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Open Arms-Patty Larkin song from her Strangers World album, Is This All?- Jonatha Brooke song from her Plumb album, War- also from Plumb, Joy Will Find A Way.

1996Various Artists album release; Columbia Records Radio Hour Volume 2 includes Bruce backing up Nanci Griffith and her band on Going Back to Georgia, from December 1994’s Christmas With Cockburn.

When Bruce and Columbia parted ways Christmas With Cockburn ceased. Is This All?  to quote Jonatha Brooke.

1997A Happy & Peaceful Holiday Season to all Woodpile readers and their families.


Footnotes:

(1)  From the sleeve notes to Christmas
(2) 
From the Nothing But A Burning Light Radio Special interview disc.
(3) 
Cockburn’s description of the background to the Christmas album is from a Sony Music Biography issued as promotional material for the release of that record.

While this is not a complete chronology, it’s a good place to start.

Compilation assistance by Daniel Keebler.


Issue Number 20
April 1997

Bruce Cockburn
Royal Festival Hall
London, England
Tuesday, March 18, 1997
attended by Richard Hoare


To promote The Charity Of Night album, Bruce is touring with two young Canadian musicians; Steve Lucas on five- and six-string electric bass guitars and Ben Riley on drums and mallet kat (electronic vibes). This was only the eighth night of the tour, the band’s first concert hall date and also the first time Cockburn has played London’s prestigious South Bank Centre.

The air was primed and expectant on the back of Bruce’s new found energy and stunning new album. He opened the show solo in a single spotlight with his acoustic guitar performing the instrumental Mistress of Storms coloured with wind chimes. This instantly illuminated his dexterous, sensuous expertise to the uninitiated and validated the initiated’s anticipation. Steve and Ben then joined him for a rousing, joyous Wondering Where The Lions Are, one of less than a handful of Cockburn singles that have ever received radioplay in the UK.

Pacing The Cage introduced the mallet kat and Steve’s bass playing started to shine;however, it was  with Birmingham Shadows that the concert hall setting really came into its own. Discreet lighting created giant silhouettes and a web of light sprawled across the back of the stage as a backdrop to the trio’s stately interplay and Cockburn’s acoustic jazz solo.

The prologue to The Mines Of Mozambique centred on the management of the hall refusing to allow a charitable organisation to set up a table in the lobby to provide some information on the subject of landmines on the grounds that it was far too political. Bruce went on to say that mines are a humanitarian and public health issue like AIDS, they are only political in the context of somebody making a buck. He explained that he’d seen first-hand what they can do and launched into a powerful rendition of the song. Trading his solid blue resophonic guitar for the gleaming metal resonator, he then performed the other song written in Mozambique, The Coming Rains.

Bone In My Ear was played beautifully on the diminutive charango, an instrument which always prompts a chuckle from the audience due to its size.

Waiting For A Miracle commenced a run of numbers on electric guitar with Bruce alternating between an orange Danelectro shaped Jerry Jones and his trusty black and white Cherval Surfcaster. Cockburn pulled off a great version of Rocket Launcher with a nimble intro of harmonics and a stinging, ringing, creative solo followed by If A Tree Falls with green lighting, tumbling notes and whammy bar chainsaw sound. Bruce delivered Stolen Land with vocal aggression to match his lyrical message combined with a guitar solo of such volume and range that you imagined player and instrument were about to spontaneously combust! Within moments of the end of that song, Cockburn had strapped on his acoustic and was delivering the haunting melody of The Charity Of Night without missing a beat.

The  last number of  the set was the 20+ year old Joy Will Find A Way, a song Bruce developed  from an Ethiopian thumb harp piece. The arrangement was a brilliant combination of acoustic guitar, bass and mallet kat, each played in percussive styles in a beautiful invocation of the original piece.

The crowd managed to woo the band back for a warm and mesmeric Live On My Mind, complete with wonderful talking bass solo and great drumming before the super-charged Tie Me At The Crossroads, a humorous and fitting closer.

Thankfully, the audience managed to call Bruce back one more time. Taking his electric Surfcaster, he picked out an instrumental part of We Three Kings (as played at the 1992 Christmas With Cockburn show) and as the carol would have reached “guide us to thy perfect light,” Lucas and Riley reappeared and the band closed with a stunning and spine tingling To Raise The Morning Star.

If you’re taking in a date on the tour shortly, don’t go expecting this set. At the next night in Cambridge, half the songs were different, including  new arrangements. I have just attended the four UK dates – you won’t be disappointed!


Issue Number 19
February 1997

The following interview was conducted in London with Bruce Cockburn on December 10, 1996,  by Richard Hoare, for the release of The Charity of Night album.


Richard Hoare (RH): In order to set the scene for the new album, please can you briefly describe your move to a new record label.

Bruce Cockburn (BC): Outside of Canada, when we parted with Columbia/Sony, there were several candidates under consideration. Ryko seduced me the best.  It’s off to a really good start and the whole experience so far is very positive. It feels a lot more comfortable to be with a label that understands what to do with artists that don’t get radio play. The big liability with Columbia was that although they had all the muscle which in the States worked well for us, they still didn’t know what to do if you were not on the radio. Anyway, there’s been a change and we’re moving forward.

RH: Has there been a positive decision to reintegrate jazz into your work with this album because I recall a quote of yours at about the time of Nothing But a Burning Light to the effect that there was a conscious decision at that point to omit jazz from the material.

BC: It was more a case that in that period, and to a lesser degree with Dart to The Heart, that I made a conscious decision to keep it (jazz) out but as soon as I took down that little iron curtain, it came back in. Actually, it came back in in a different way. I’m letting myself do more of it than I used to do. There was always the jazz stuff that would show up as colours in the albums at various points but it was always by bringing in somebody else to add that, more than me actually doing the playing. This album went further than I planned. I anticipated Gary Burton(1) doing much more of that work than he did. The only thing I’m a little bit sorry about in respect to the album is that we didn’t get more of that from him. He was so professional and tasteful about things that he didn’t want to put himself forward too much. I kept asking him to play out more but because he knew he wasn’t doing a jazz album, per se, he was being real safe.

RH: But it works really well. I think this record is the ECM(2) album you never made plus the best influences from your political trilogy from The Trouble With Normal to World Of Wonders, together with some of your great personal passionate songs.

BC: Well good for you – tell everybody that! It’s really nice to hear that. It’s interesting because I’d forgotten about the ECM thing and it’s true it’s probably a lot like it would have been had we done it now.

RH: This album sounds like a real shot in the arm. I didn’t dislike the last 2 or 3 records but this new record seems to have real energy and the lyrical content includes some wonderful poetry. Were you consciously re-energised because I see in the CD credits there are thank you references for “lighting-a-fire-under-the-ass” and “Ani for reminding me what energy is for.” Have you recently rediscovered some kind of energy?

BC: I think so. I’m not prone to analysis of these things to know where it went in the first place. A contributory turning point was starting to do festivals in the summer of ‘95 (the only festival I did for years was Greenbelt). At two others, Ani DiFranco(3) was on the bill and the first one was in Colorado. I’d read her name in the papers. Shawn Colvin, who I knew slightly, was also on the bill, plus  a couple of other people. It was kind of social and I’m not used to carrying out musical tasks in a social situation. That was part of the stimulation itself and all of a sudden I was in contact with the flow of things a little bit. Then when I heard Ani, I felt I was hearing Bob Dylan for the first time. I was sitting there thinking on the one hand, that I was completely blown away and I was as excited as can be because I was hearing this incredible stuff coming off the stage, but on the other hand I was feeling more and more like I should just die and get out of the way because this was so good. Then Ani came out for an encore and she sang “Mama Just Wants to  Barrelhouse All Night Long.” She knew I was there but it was such a nice gesture and she sang it really well, too. So I was rescued from this maudlin of despair! In an internal way below the level of consciousness it turned things around for me in some way from wherever they’d been going that I wasn’t really aware. Afterwards I thanked Ani for doing the song because that’s what I was thinking. She basically pooh-poohed it and said if you’re still alive, you should still be doing stuff. I don’t know where it’ll go. I think you’ve got to take these things one step at a time but I feel kind of revitalised4.

RH: Turning now to the musicians on the record, what was the initial contact with Rob Wasserman (bass)?

BC: The original contact was the Weir(5) -Wasserman tour when Michelle Shocked and I were the opening acts. Then Rob Wasserman played on the second Christmas With Cockburn (1992) and he was instrumental in getting Lou Reed involved in that show. Shortly after that Bob Weir wanted to co-write some things. He had this idea that we might be able to do something together. Actually, years later, it may be the case because I left some stuff with him that may actually end up being a song. Bob flew us all down to Hawaii to spend a week with him and write songs. It turned into a really nice week but not productive of any songs except Live on My Mind which I wrote on my own, independent of any collaboration. Rob and I did a lot of playing together that week because Bob was incapacitated with a terrible tooth abscess. We (Rob and I) established a good musical relationship and Rob got me involved in the Inaugural(6) occasion so there’s a bit of history there. From early on when not more than half the songs were written for the album, I started really thinking Rob would be the ideal bass player for this stuff.

RH: Wasserman seems to have a breadth.

BC: He has the freedom of the jazzy aspect of things with the aggression of a rock player and he’s such an aggressive player in such a musical way. I think it was the right move.

RH: Gary Craig (drums) played on your Christmas album.

BC: Yes, Gary had to stretch a little bit for this album but he’s always had the chops.

RH: I really like the drum sound that Gary makes that’s like he’s hitting packing cases.

BC: It’s a pretty unprocessed drum sound other than the use of echoes to create space. Also, the whole band sound owes itself to a lot of the room mike in the mix; everything’s got a pretty organic sound to it. The drum’s leak into everything else, including the vocals.

RH: I’m aware of you playing and singing on Plumb by Jonatha Brooke (GRP Records/Blue Thumb 1995) and singing on Stranger’s World by Patty Larkin (High Street Records/Windham Hill Records 1995). Are those appearances the reason Jonatha and Patty came to perform on this record?

BC: Yes, more or less. It seemed like good manners although that wasn’t the only reason. (Also I still owe Roseanne Cash one which I haven’t forgotten about in case she reads this!) I’ve gotten to know all these people and originally I was going to ask Shawn Colvin to do something too but in the end we didn’t have room for any more. I wanted Jonatha to get heavily involved. I told her early on that I was going to put her in charge of vocals because she’s such a good singer and has such an ear for arrangements. It turned out, although I didn’t know this about her, that Patty has a similarly deep sense of what you can do with vocal harmonies which you wouldn’t hear on Patty’s own records. The two of them sang together these incredible harmonic things. Colin and I sat there and egged them on and they came up with all this stuff.

RH: What was the original connection with Patty Larkin before her album that you sang on?

BC: She opened some shows for me on part of a tour and I had heard her on the radio. Murray McLauchlan(7) had a song writer radio show on CBC in Canada for a while and one day he featured Patty. We were gearing up for a tour and looking for an opening act and she was so good, a really strong guitar player. I ended up singing on her record which I think was about the first time that had come up for me if I’m not mistaken. You probably know better than I do about that.

RH: There’s your singing on the Rough Trade album Shaking The Foundation (True North 1982).

BC: That’s true but that was a different context. I had never done anything like that with a singer/ songwriter and it was a different feel in the studio than what I’d experienced before.

RH: How did you decide to produce yourself on the new record?

BC: It just felt like the right time. I was feeling a little cocky because I got away with the Christmas album OK.

RH: The last album you produced before that was Inner City Front, wasn’t it?

BC: Yes, but I didn’t like the production on that which is why I didn’t do it again after that. Although with hindsight it’s not as bad as I remember thinking it was. Sue (that I live with) put it on the other day and I was thinking that there is a lot in common with the new album. There were no particular plans for T Bone (Burnett) and I to work together at this point. We thought about a couple of other producers but I had it in mind that I wanted to do it myself. When we were still talking to Columbia about this album, they weren’t enthusiastic about that idea because they wanted a ‘name’ producer. In the end we considered a couple of names and when Columbia was no longer in the picture there was no further impediment to me doing it myself. We brought Colin Linden in because I don’t have the studio expertise that he does. Also, we worked closely with John Whynot who engineered the album and who is a producer in his own right, and a good keyboard player. He turned out to be great and a lot of the sound of the album has to do with what he brought to it.

RH: Did choosing to mix the album at Kingsway in New Orleans (Daniel Lanois’(8) studio) have anything to do with the environment down there?

BC: It was a welcome aspect of it. We didn’t want to mix in Canada because at least in Toronto there is not a good mixing facility for an album. There are good studios but not what we were after. So we called around to see who was available and what the rates were at various famous studios in the States. We thought of going to Woodstock and The Record Plant and checked them all out and Kingsway came up with the most timely availability and the best rate. Colin and I looked at each other with that “It would be really heartbreaking to have to spend a couple of weeks in New Orleans” expression on our faces!

RH: I heard the new CD several times before I had access to the credits and it was only when I read them that it occurred to me that Kingsway was probably an influence to the sound of the record.

BC: It’s actually very true. Kingsway is an extremely idiosyncratic place to work if you can use a word like that; it’s kind of anthropomorphic. It took us a few days to actually get a handle on what we were hearing in there. It would be a more logical place to do tracking than to do mixing. It’s basically a huge house, two halves of a semi-detached structure that has been made into one. Both were enormous to begin with so its a sprawling mansion three floors high. It’s wide open with a big central staircase and a huge central hallway that goes up the three floors. The sound echoes around and there’s the possibility of closing doors and changing the sound. It’s really a very flexible place but a very peculiar place. Daniel Lanois has all this fantastic equipment like the speakers from Abbey Road Studios that the Beatles used. Once we got a handle on the effect of being in that building that also contributed a lot to the songs. We’d put a guitar amp in the upstairs hallway at one end and a mike at the other end. Then we’d run something through the amp and use that for the reverb!

RH: It sounds like a great couple of weeks?

BC: It was really good, not to mention being in the French Quarter of New Orleans and having access to all those wonderful restaurants!

RH: Have you chosen the band to go out with on tour yet? 

BC: Yes, I’ve got a couple of younger guys from Toronto that I haven’t worked with before except briefly on a TV show that we did a month ago where we had to learn three songs. It was an experiment to see whether a tour would work with these guys. The drummer is a 20 year old son of a classical violinist and a terrific jazz organist that are both highly regarded musicians in the Toronto area. His name is Ben Riley and he comes from a mainly jazz background but he has also been playing in a heavy metal band. The bass player is Steve Lucas and he has toured with Loreena McKennitt at one point and also comes from a jazz background. Steve has also played hip-hop, played with singer/songwriters and done a variety of things so it’ll be a pretty eclectic mix of things.

© Cala Luna 1997 Used by permission


Footnotes

1. Gary Burton: Is a vibes player born in 1943 in Indiana and developed a phenomenal technique using three and four mallets at once. 1964-6 saw the virtuoso working with tenorman Stan Getz before forming his own group which included Larry Coryell. During the height of the psychedelic  `60s, Burton appeared on the same bill as rock bands incorporating rock influences like Coryell’s feedback. Some of his best work results from challenging company such as with Carla Bley. As with pianists Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, with both of whom he dueted, Burton’s career benefited from collaboration with German record producer Manfred Eicher. He made a number of albums for Eicher’s record label, ECM. In the mid 80s, Burton had a quartet which included Steve Swallow. In 1993, GRP released a Burton album entitled Six Pack with six guitar players including  B.B. King and Ralph Towner. (Taken from The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Jazz: Salamander.)

2. ECM album: “Bernie Finkelstein and I went over to Munich and spent a couple of days with Manfred Eicher and his A&R guy, and had a lot of inconclusive talks. They got turned on to me through the In The Falling Dark album. They liked the words and it was close enough to their combination of acoustic music and jazz that makes up most of the material on their label. However, I couldn’t tell at that point which of the new songs were suitable for their album and which would go on Humans. It was also going to be difficult to get a release from Millennium and RCA, particularly as ‘Lions’ was still fresh and it was still a hit. So that fact, combined with my indecision regarding the songs, led me to putting the best songs on Humans with one serious exception –  ‘Hoop Dancer’.” (From an interview with Cockburn in Canadian Musician August 1981.)

3. Ani DiFranco: Ani comes from Buffalo, New York and has produced eight solo albums of personal, political and poetic songs, all released in the USA on her own indie label. Cooking Vinyl is releasing Dilate, Ani’s eighth and most adventurous album to date. The entire back catalogue will follow soon.

4. Revitalised:  This writer suggests that the effects of this encounter are captured by Bruce in the song “Birminghham Shadows,” which itself relates the events of the evening of June 18, 1995, in Birmingham, Alabama,  when he went for a walk with Ani after playing the City Stages Festival. Bruce wrote the song a few weeks later at home. “Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long” is a song that has a very resilient life for Bruce. He  wrote it soaking  up the frustration of the difficulties surrounding the producing of David Wiffen’s Coast To Coast Fever album. The song   was first released  by Cockburn on Night Vision (1973), then in a live format on Circles InThe Stream   (1977). Bruce recorded it again    on the Rumours Of Glory film . That rendition , with the wonderful Kathryn Moses, was released on Waiting For A Miracle (1987). The song has been coverd on record  by Mary Coughlan and it has now played a part in re-energising Bruce via Ani DiFranco.

5. Bob Weir: The Grateful Dead covered Cockburn’s Waiting For A Miracle in concert and The Jerry Garcia Band recorded the same song on their Arista first live electric double album (1991).

6. The Inaugural: At the invitation of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Cockburn performed solo at US President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Later he was joined onstage by such luminaries as Paul Simon, Lou Reed and Bob Weir.

7. Murray McLauchlan: Fellow True North recording artist, Cockburn appeared on his 1974 album Sweeping The Spotlight Away (Epic) and Storm Warning (Asylum 1981).

8. Daniel Lanois: Fellow Canadian, Lanois has produced albums by, amongst others, Bob Dylan, U2, The Neville Brothers, and Emmylou Harris.

© Daniel Keebler 1993-2020