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From the producer and director comes the news that the Al Purdy Was Here film will be released at the iTunes store on September 20, 2016, Bruce composed a song, The 3 Al Purdy's, for this movie. Albums have been updated.
Interview by Daniel Lumpkin for Christianity Today
FAN REPORTS FROM PAST SHOWS
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The Cockburn Project
is a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The central focus of the Project is the ongoing archiving of Cockburn's self-commentary on his songs, albums, and issues. You will also find news, tour dates, an online store, and other current information.
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3 April 2017 - Bruce Cockburn Is embarking on a tour of North America.
All of the dates from September 15, 2017 to February 17, 2018 will be "band" shows and all the dates before September will be "solo" shows.
Bruce's band shows will consist of a quartette with drummer Gary Craig, bassist John Dymond and accordionist John Aaron Cockburn.
All 3 or them are featured on Bruce's new True North album "Bone On Bone" slated for release in the fall of 2017.
And for the record, John Aaron is Bruce's nephew.
There are likely to be other dates added after February 2018. Here, you can access the Tour Dates.
from Finkelstein Management
1 April 2017 - Buffy Sainte-Marie was presented with the Alan Waters Humanitarian Award at the 2017 JUNO Awards by Bruce Cockburn.
You can watch the video of this presentation here, this is a live stream of the JUNO's, presentation starts at 3:27:28.
Colin Linden – Buffy Sainte-Marie – Bruce Cockburn – JUNO 2017 – photo – True North Records
Bruce Cockburn takes part in the Juno Songwriters’ Circle at the NAC in Ottawa on Sunday, April 2, 2017. Patrick Doyle / The Ottawa Citizen
3 April 2017 - Every song has a story.
Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn came home to Ottawa Sunday to host what’s dubbed the “jewel of the Junos” at the National Arts Centre, bringing together established stars and up-and-comers to explore what he called the “mystery” of the craft.
"Nice to have an excuse to be back in Ottawa," the capital-born Cockburn, 71, told the sold-out crowd at Southam Hall, which greeted him with a standing ovation before he’d sung a note.
With him for the 2017 Juno Songwriters’ Circle were nominees including Chantal Kreviazuk, Colin Linden and Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy plus the powerful singer-songwriter Donovan Woods, Acadian newcomer Lisa LeBlanc and 21-year-old R&B phenom Daniel Caesar.
"I don’t get here often enough," Cockburn said, adding that he’d decided to perform some "old ones."
Cockburn reached back into his catalogue to play hits like Lovers in a Dangerous Time, inspired by the "innocent and lovely" fumblings towards romance of his then pre-teen daughter, now a mother of four, amid the Cold War, AIDS crisis and environmental degradation of the 1980s.
He launched into the beautiful, menacing first bars of If I Had a Rocket Launcher after explaining its inspiration was hearing the first-hand accounts of Guatemalan refugees who’d fled savage attacks, the song’s helpless rage amplified by Linden’s haunting slide guitar.
Bruce Cockburn takes part in the Juno Songwriters’ Circle at the NAC in Ottawa on Sunday, April 2, 2017. Patrick Doyle / The Ottawa Citizen
Another classic song and Cockburn hit was born in Ottawa. It was the late 1970s and Cockburn’s cousin, then a Canadian spy, told him over a dinner in Hull that amid the skirmishes of China and Russia, they could all wake up tomorrow to the end of the world.
"This is a guy who knew what he was talking about — it kind of spoiled dessert," Cockburn said.
But the next day,"Ottawa was still here," and as he drove along the Queensway, Cockburn began Wondering Where the Lions Are, which became a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and so familiar to his fans much of the NAC crowd sang along word for word.
Bruce Cockburn & Colin Linden takes part in the Juno Songwriters’ Circle at the NAC in Ottawa on Sunday, April 2, 2017. Patrick Doyle / The Ottawa Citizen
Kreviazuk, nominated for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year, explained at the benefit for MusiCounts, which aims to make sure every kid gets music education, that she’d used songwriting to “find my joy and solace” since her childhood in Manitoba.
"Before there’s a song, there’s nothing," she said, sitting at the piano before launching into her 1997 hit Surrounded. Inspired by a friend who committed suicide when they were teenagers, she said it both helped her find her life’s work and memorializes him every time she plays it.
Another song was a complete change of pace – an acoustic version of Feel This Moment, co-written by Kreviazuk and recorded by Pitbull and Christina Aguilera.
"Don’t let people tell you what to say," was Kreviazuk’s advice to aspiring songwriters.
Lisa LeBlanc, a 26-year-old Acadian transplanted to Montreal, had clearly already taken that advice, bringing down the house with Ti-Gars, a take on her Cajun cousins’ ballads about lost love transformed into a catchy complaint about a dude stealing her car.
Then she pulled out her banjo for You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I Do Too) which turns the romantic ballad on its head.
"My heart’s always traveled with me in my suitcase," she sang. "And I guess I don’t wanna see it ending up in yours."
Murphy explained that he found the band’s smash hit Amerika in the pages of a collection by 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman that echoed the themes of an otherwise “terrible” short story he’d written himself.
"It stirred something in me," Murphy said, before launching into the song, which juxtaposes a lament for a lost country with the entreaty to "fix me in your twilight eyes so we can make a moment last."
Big-voiced Woods, a Sarnia native who was nominated for Songwriter of the Year and has had his work recorded by the likes of Tim McGraw, had the crowd in silence for a beat before thunderous applause for What Kind of Love is That?
He got a standing ovation when he closed the show with the poignant Next Year, inspired by all the things in life we put off until it might be too late – like his narrator’s impromptu trip to the Grand Canyon with a dying father.
"There ain’t no next year," he sang. "Another day down, another week gone, you’re always just talking about tomorrow — you can’t beg, steal or borrow or make time."
Woods explained that he goes down to Nashville to write songs with the kind of "famous guys" who live on private islands.
"They have to bring people down to remind them what it’s like to have problems," he quipped. "I pack my problems."
~from Ottawa Citizen - by Megan Gillis - Postmedia. Photos Patrick Doyle / The Ottawa Citizen.
6 April 2017 - The JUNO Songwriters’ Circle has been recorded, and you can listen to both sets here
The Junos Songwriters’ Circle is always a lot of fun, with big-name and newer artists sharing the stage to tell the stories behind their songs before playing them.
At this year’s Junos, Bruce Cockburn hosted the Sunday afternoon event at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre in two sessions: first up was Colin Linden, Lisa LeBlanc and Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy; then Chantal Kreviazuk, Daniel Caesar and Donovan Woods took over.
The show was a delight, and if you couldn’t attend, fear not: you can listen to both sets here.
Below, read on for five things you missed at the songwriters’ circle — aside from the music.
1. Everyone’s love for Bruce Cockburn
"Many of the greatest times of my life have been standing two or three feet away, to Bruce Cockburn’s right," joked Colin Linden after Cockburn kicked off the set with "Lovers in a Dangerous Time."
By the end of the afternoon, Cockburn had made both Linden and Kreviazuk cry with his performances — "Is there a tissue?" Kreviazuk asked — and invited LeBlanc to teach his five-year-old daughter to play "You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I do Too)".
"I’ve had nightmare dreams about Bruce Cockburn singing that [‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’], Chantal Kreviazuk singing that [‘Surrounded’], and then having to go after that, it’s like literally terrifying," confessed Woods before his first song. The whole thing was just a big love fest.
To continue reading, visit this link.
~ from CBC Music.
March 2017 - Bruce will be performing in the songwriters circle at the JUNO's on April 2... here is a short interview about songwriting from the Where Ottawa magazine.
Bruce Cockburn's National Anthems
Folk Alliance People’s Voice Award Acceptance Speech
video and transcript
20 February 2017 Bruce Cockburn received the inaugural Folk Alliance International People’s Voice Award during the opening-night awards ceremony at the organization’s 29th annual conference in Kansas City, Mo. This was the first time Bruce has received an award in the United States.
Here’s the video of Bruce giving his acceptance speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Sisters and Brothers
I’m greatly honoured, and very pleased, to be the first recipient of the Folk Alliance’s “Peoples’ Voice” award. For me its a night of firsts: it’s my first Folk Alliance… this is the first such honour I’ve received in the United States, a country that has made me welcome as a visitor for decades, and in which I now dwell. Ultimately, I guess DHS got tired of issuing me work visas and just decided to give me a green card instead.
It all started, though, with a student visa allowing me to attend Berklee College of Music. I found it interesting that as a foreign student during the Vietnam years, I had to swear that I would accept being drafted, in the event the war effort ran out of young Americans.
When I started putting out records, in the ’70s, there was always a visa, as needed, letting me come here to tour. With the radio exposure of Wondering Where The Lions Are, I began to acquire an audience of measurable size. It was with the release of Stealing Fire, though, in ’84, that things really took off. That album included a number of songs that grew out of travel in Central America, much of which was at war.
Many Americans felt betrayed by their country’s complicity in those wars, but there was virtually no public voice for that very large body of dissent… some underground media, but little in the mainstream. If you didn’t approve of what the U.S. was up to, you were left feeling isolated.
When we took Stealing Fire on tour, it was amazing to see rooms-full of people encouraged and uplifted to look around and see that the lyrics spoke to so many besides themselves. “Hey–I’m not alone”. It was exciting for them and for me. I had not thought much about the effect of the political aspect of my songwriting. I had always felt, and still do, that the job is to tell the truth of the human experience as we live it. That, of course, includes the political, as well as lust, humour, family, general grumbling, and spirituality. The key word is truth, delivered directly or obliquely, as understood by the artist.
In the mid-’80s, the Reagan administration’s official truth was that there was no war in Central America, therefore there were no refugees… all those Latinos and Latinas coming north across the border were just dying to be cooks and chambermaids and gardeners. People were dying in Guatemala, in El Salvador, in Nicaragua, slain by weapons and training provided by the U.S. Murderous as that was though, and I don’t know the stats on this, it wouldn’t surprise me if the death toll in the current gang culture, to which the wars of the ’70s and ’80s gave birth, is not even greater, especially in Honduras.
With the attention paid to that album, and the song If I Had A Rocket Launcher in particular, I acquired the reputation of being a “political” singer. Before that the music business pigeon-holers were prone to calling me a “Christian” singer, or things like “the Canadian John Denver”, on account of my round glasses.
The fact is though, the writing I did started from the premise that I’m supposed to distill what I encounter of the human experience into something that can be communicated, shared. I’ve never been interested in protest for its own sake, or in ideological polemicizing. Just f***ing tell it like you see it and feel it. If you don’t see it and feel it, write about something else. Songs need to come from the heart or they don’t count for much.
That isolation and silencing of dissent as practiced in the Reagan era has, with the growth of social media, kind of swung 180 degrees, to where the cacophony of mostly anonymous personal voices, each attached to its own conspiracy theory, tends to shatter truth into kaleidoscopic fragments, reality buried in the resulting avalanche. My truth. Your truth. Alternate facts…what a fertile medium in which to grow a public tolerance for totalitarianism!
This is not lost on those whose narcissism and maybe testosterone level give them the notion that it’s their right and duty to tell the rest of us how to live. Ok… all politicians, all human beings, operate from mixed motives. It’s always tempting to think that what’s good for me is good for you too. That’s why we need to have dialogue, debate, respect for each others’ opinions and feelings. Especially if you want to run a democracy, you must value the expression of these things. Based on that, it seems evident that the current administration is not much interested in democracy. I don’t know, maybe their supporters are tired of the responsibility… but somewhere in the steaming ocean of bullshit they’re creating is a place for, a definite need for, truth.
They are trying to stifle opposition across the board by a range of means. Looks to me like they’re just getting started. Who will end up being the last line in the defense of truth? Maybe you and me…
Doesn’t mean we can’t sing love songs, but if you think you can keep your head down and ignore the political side of things, it’s liable to be waiting for you with a blackjack in the alley, when you come out the stage door.
And what truth are we best in a position to encourage? Obviously communication: community. The specific content of a given song is of less consequence than the way in which that song can be a focal point for collective energy. This is an antidote to the echo chambers, the isolation, the false friendships that characterize the online landscape.
We could be in for a rough couple of years. We may get tired, but we have to keep singing! Keep sharing!
Thank you Folk Alliance for noticing my work. Thank you USA, for the hospitality!
Thank you all for listening !
20 February 2017 Folk singer Bruce Cockburn is encouraging U.S. musicians to keep pushing for free speech under the Donald Trump administration.
While accepting an honour at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo. on Wednesday night he took a moment to address the volatile political climate.
"It seems evident that the current administration is not much interested in democracy," he said in prepared remarks.
"They are trying to stifle opposition across the board by a range of means. Looks to me like they're just getting started."
The Canadian singer, who lives in San Francisco, then urged musicians to be a catalyst for dialogue and debate.
"We may get tired, but we have to keep singing," he said.
Country singer Kris Kristofferson presented Cockburn with the People's Voice Award in recognition of his role in social and political commentary. His 1984 track "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" is widely considered a staple of activist music.
Cockburn reflected on his experiences as a young performer during the Vietnam War, and on later years when he found his voice during the U.S. presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
He then turned to the current U.S. political climate and told songwriters to consider their music as more than just words, but a "focal point for collective energy" of the community.
"Doesn't mean we can't sing love songs," Cockburn reasoned.
"But if you think you can keep your head down and ignore the political side of things, it's liable to be waiting for you with a blackjack in the alley when you come out the stage door."
~ from TheMontrealGazetta.com, by David Friend.
Photo Credit: Bruce Cockburn, left, accepts his People's Voice Award for his role in social and political commentary from country singer Kris Kristofferson at the Folk Alliance International awards show, in Kansas City, Mo., on February 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Brian Hetherman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
15 February 2017 - Bruce will start touring in the eastern US in November 2017, in support of his yet to be released new album Bone On Bone. Released date is set for 8 September 2017. He will tour in Canada in September 2017 and in the U.S. and Canada in January/February 2018. This tour will be a band tour, and details of that will be coming along shortly.
11 January 2017 - As part of a permanent commitment to honoring the socially-conscious roots of folk music, Folk Alliance International (FAI) will launch two new awards during the 2016 International Folk Music Awards show.The People’s Voice Award will be presented annually to an individual who has unabashedly embraced and committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career. The Clearwater Award will be presented annually to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in education and sustainable event production. Additional awards include Lifetime Achievement, Spirit of Folk, and Album, Song, and Artist of the Year presented on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Folk Alliance International Awards Show
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 6 pm
Westin Crown Center Hotel, Century C Ballroom
Kansas City, Missouri USA
Open to FAI conference delegates and registered members of the press.
The inaugural People’s Voice award will be presented to multi-platinum recording artist Bruce Cockburn, whose 40-year career has consistently highlighted environmental, social, and indigenous issues globally.
Bruce Cockburn has been all over the world to Mozambique, Nepal, Vietnam, Baghdad, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to protest refugee camps, landmines, and Third World debt. He has been tirelessly vocal in support of native rights, the environment, the promotion of peace, and has highlighted the work of Oxfam, the UN Summit for Climate Control, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth.
His songs "Mines of Mozambique" from album The Charity of Night, "Stolen Land" (Waiting for a Miracle), and "If a Tree Falls" (Big Circumstance) have traveled the globe providing context for some of the world’s biggest issues of the day, while exhorting to all who listen for engagement with our shared humanity.
In over 300 songs on 30 albums that range from folk to jazz-influenced rock, he has sold more than seven million records worldwide and prolifically captured the story of the human experience through protest, romance, spiritual searching, and politics. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1985, after observing the horrors of refugee camps along the Guatemalan-Mexican border he shared that he went back to his hotel room, cried, and wrote in his notebook, "I understand now why people want to kill." The experience led him to write "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" from the album Stealing Fire.
Cockburn is the recipient of 13 Juno Awards, the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, nine honorary doctorates, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Pacing the Cage, a documentary film about his life, music, and politics was released in 2013. His memoir, Rumours of Glory, was published by Harper Collins in 2014.
“We can’t settle for things as they are,” Cockburn has warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”
Bruce Cockburn Book Signing
The Day after the Awards, he will be available for a Booksigning for those who have made Advance Purchases of his Memoir Rumours of Glory from Rainy Day Books.
When: Thursday, February 16, 2017, 12 pm - 1:00 pm
Where: Westin Crown Center Hotel, 1 Pershing Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64108
Open to FAI conference delegates and registered members of the press.
Pre-Ordered Books will be available for Pick-Up at the Booksigning in the Ballroom Foyer of the Hotel between 11:00 AM and 12:30 PM on the Day of the Booksigning.
The Booksigning is OPEN to the Public, while all other conference activity is restricted to Conference Badge Holders.
The Public are welcome to attend Public Concerts in the evening, a 3 Day Music Camp, and the Sunday, February 19, 2017, Kansas City Folk Festival by visiting the -- Tickets Webpage at www.Folk.org
Clearwater Festival to Receive Eponymous Award
The inaugural Clearwater Award will be presented to its namesake organization, the Clearwater Festival now in its 50th year and recognized as one the world’s largest and most proactive environmentally focused cultural events.
Held along the banks of the Hudson River in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, the Clearwater Festival (also known as the Great Hudson River Revival) has roots based in the environmental movement.
Founded in 1966 by Pete and Toshi Seeger, the Festival began as a fundraising initiative in order to build a one-masted sloop called the Clearwater. The ship has been used for research, education, and advocacy to help preserve and protect the Hudson river, surrounding wetlands, tributaries, and waterways as well as communities in the river valley. To date, over half a million visitors have learned about the river while aboard.
Fifty years after the first event, the Clearwater Festival has become a steadfast defender, supporter, and advocate for the Hudson River. Through music, dance, storytelling, education, and activism it has helped over 250,000 people experience the wonders of its shores and has featured such luminary artists as Janis Ian, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Michelle Shocked, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dar Williams, Taj Mahal, Christine Lavin, and Buckwheat Zydeco, among many others.
The event strives towards zero festival waste, and the goals of sustainability and social responsibility inform all decisions and programs. Use of carpooling, bicycling, and public transportation are encouraged, and the entire festival is wheelchair-accessible and staffed with American Sign Language interpreters. There are many elements to the festival, including seven sustainable bio-diesel-powered stages, environmental education exhibits, Handcrafters’ Village, Green Living Expo, Working Waterfront, Artisanal Food & Farm Market, and Circle of Song. All proceeds go to support research, education, and advocacy to help preserve and protect the river.
The festival is produced by the nonprofit, member-supported, environmental organization the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. The organization has received global recognition for advocacy, leadership, and its role in helping to pass landmark environmental laws including the federal Clean Water Act. Most recently, Clearwater, Inc. played a key role in the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to remove manufactured organic chemicals (PCBs) from the Hudson River.
23 January 2017 - Kensington has produced 3 one-hour documentaries over the years with Bruce.
For his hard-work, dedication and creativity over the past 40 years, Bruce will be receiving the People’s Voice award at the February 2017 Folk Alliance International Awards Show. The Folk Alliance organization presents the award to individuals who have unabashedly embraced and committed to social and political commentary in their creative work and folk music career.
To celebrate Bruce’s accomplishments, we’re offering ‘My Beat: The Life and Times of Bruce Cockburn’ for the first time to stream on VIMEO for FREE. You can stream the documentary for free until February 14th, 2017.
free stream - MY Beat
~ from http://kensingtontv.com/blog/2017/01/23/bruce-cockburn-peoples-voice-award/
2 February 2017 - TORONTO — Folk singer-songwriter Lindy Vopnfjord climbed into bed stunned on the night Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, but he awoke the next morning feeling activated.
Bristling with an urge to speak out, the Icelandic-Canadian musician wrote a series of lyrics that might've seemed alarmist at the time.
And even two weeks ago, when he finally released "Darkness is the Day" to coincide with Trump's inauguration, some of the words didn't resonate quite as much as they do now.
"Opinion is king, one-plus-one is three. The loudest truth is the truest, so repeat after me," Vopnfjord sings. "It takes a little time to get the spin to unwind. It takes a little time."
Vopnfjord is stunned by the evolution of his song's significance.
"There's so much that keeps feeding into the lyrics," he says. "There was more to it than maybe even I realized."
He's just one of countless musicians using their voice to push against what they see as an alarming political climate. Over the past month, prominent artists have contributed a chorus of anti-Trump anthems, which started flowing out ahead of the election last November.
Tracks by Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples ("I Give You Power"), Fiona Apple ("Tiny Hands") and the Gorillaz ("Hallelujah Money") have stood out as recent highlights.
Before that, artists like Franz Ferdinand ("Demagogue"), Jimmy Eat World ("My Enemy") and Amy Mann ("Can't You Tell?") collaborated for "30 Days, 30 Songs," a project that counted down to election day in the hopes of drawing attention to Trump's potential power. The campaign recently expanded to 1,000 songs that will be revealed throughout Trump's presidency.
Listeners appear eager to hear more protest songs too.
Several anti-Trump anthems became viral hits last year, including Ledinsky's "Donald Trump Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack" and YG & Nipsey Hussle's "FDT," a rousing rap track which pairs an expletive with the president's initials.
All of this newfound inspiration has longtime social-activist musician Buffy Sainte-Marie a bit suspicious. She questions why some artists only decided to write protest songs when there's "going to be money" in it.
But she's also not against more people speaking out.
"The art of the two-and-a-half minute song — it's such a powerful tool," she says.
"If you can say something in three minutes that somebody else had to write a 400-page book about, the book is going to be shelved. The song can live forever."
Sainte-Marie says she writes her songs with the mindset of a photographer capturing snapshots of history.
Her 1964 protest anthem "Universal Soldier" was a portrait of the Vietnam War era while "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" tackled the centuries-old plight of indigenous communities that still continues today.
She wrote "Universal Soldier" as if she was a student crafting an essay for a hypothetical professor who didn't see eye-to-eye with her perspective.
"I was determined to get an 'A-plus' out of this guy," she says.
"(I was) deliberately trying to give people a different point of view than they may have come across before."
Fellow activist songwriter Bruce Cockburn is cautious when it comes to deciding how to express his opinions through music.
With a career spanning nearly 40 years, he's found himself inspired by causes like the environment ("If a Tree Falls") and the devastation of war ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher"). But so far, the U.S. election hasn't motivated him to write anything pointed, and he says it might not.
He says he doesn't want to veer into territory where he's just spouting his political views against a backdrop of bad music.
"It's not always obvious to put it in a song that (doesn't simply become) a propaganda diatribe," says Cockburn, who will receive the People's Voice Award at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo., this month in recognition of his social and political commentary.
So many political songs just capitalize on anger, he argues, but don't have any artistic merit. He points to 1965's "Eve of Destruction," a song recorded by Barry McGuire that topped the Billboard charts, as one example of a misfire.
"It was a huge hit, but a terrible song," he says.
Cockburn suggests the track was too literal and sounds especially dated now. Many protest songs that attack their subject head-on suffer the same fate of becoming irrelevant, he adds.
Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" stands as a far superior example, he suggests, or "We Shall Overcome," which began as a hymn in the early 1900s and evolved into an anthem of the civil rights movement.
"It had tremendous application over the years to any number of causes," he says of the latter.
"It's absolutely timeless."
~ from Cape Breton Post - Canadian Press by David Friend
31 December 2016 - "The wood doesn’t lie."
At her Cabbagetown studio, the luthier Linda Manzer talks about the organic nature of her trade. Holding a guitar of her invention, she says you can’t make wood what it is not, that you have to co-operate with it, that you have to be honest with yourself. “You can’t fake it,” is how she puts it.
Of course, the honesty Manzer speaks of doesn’t refer solely to the craft of guitar making. A novelist or a ceramist would agree with her; even a cocktail mixologist – the booze doesn’t lie? – would find common ground here.
As would a painter. The guitar Manzer cradles is a salute to the Canadian landscape rock star and Group of Seven ringleader Lawren Harris. It’s a doozy, untraditional with its grooved ridges on the bottom, icy-blue splashes of colour on the top, big mechanical drawing on the back and a second neck thrusting outward from the body like a Harris-y mountain peak.
The acoustic instrument is part of The Group of Seven Guitar Project, an exhibit commissioned by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and set to open on May 6, in time for the country’s sesquicentennial summer.
Seven masterwork guitars were made by seven of the country’s top luthiers – each instrument an homage to a particular Group of Seven member. An eighth instrument (a baritone guitar that honours the rough-cut woodland enthusiast Tom Thomson) was a creation by committee.
While the project will be seen as a unique commemoration of Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, et al, what it really represents is a party thrown for the Canadian guitar makers themselves, a group that has carved out an impressive standing in the luthier world. Seven guitar-makers, then, as a loose-knit, supportive collective – a group, for lack of a better word.
Manzer, well known for the four-necked Pikasso Guitar she designed and built for the jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, refers to the project as an “amazing journey of discovery.”
That discovery began with her visit to the National Gallery of Canada, where she saw a collection of Group of Seven sketches in a back room. Thinking about the support the artists had for one another, she began to draw a comparison to her own experiences in the 1970s, when she was one of the first six apprentices to work with the master guitar-maker Jean Larrivée.
Doing the math wasn’t difficult: Group of Seven, seven luthiers, hmmm. And neither was it very hard to get the other luthiers – Sergei de Jonge, Tony Duggan-Smith, David Wren, George Gray, Grit Laskin and the guitar-making godfather Larrivée – on board.
Matching a luthier with a Group of Seven artist was an organic process – no drawing of straws involved. Duggan-Smith had lived in a house once lived in by Arthur Lismer, so that was an easy pairing. Laskin was attracted to the landscapes of F.H. Varley, and so on. Manzer was drawn in particular to the 1930 oil on canvas Mt. Lefroy, a snow-capped quintessential Harris depiction. “If Lawren Harris made a guitar, what would it look like?” she thought to herself. “And if one of his paintings morphed into a guitar, how would that look?”
The result, which won’t be unveiled until closer to the exhibit’s opening, is an exotic six-string acoustic model with an extra neck that holds an eight-string harp-like offshoot. “Technically, it was quite hard to do,” Manzer says. “But I think the result is a little controversial, and I had fun doing it.”
The next step was an audition. The folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn, a friend and customer of Manzer’s, would give the guitar a playing. Reached in San Francisco, Cockburn described the guitar as a “pretty spectacular piece of sculpture, which manages to sound decent as well.”
Cockburn, who has sung about trees in forests but has never made paintings of them, wrote a song specifically for the guitar that will be featured in documentary film on the Group of Seven Guitar Project. The Mount Lefroy Waltz is a solo instrumental in F minor, played by Cockburn with the strings capoed at the third fret, with the strings tuned D-A-D-G-A-D.
“I tried to come up with something icy sounding,” Cockburn says. “The guitar favours the higher frequencies, and I tried to write that into the piece. It played very well. I was even able to use the ‘harp’ strings that are part of its architecture.”
The process of making the guitar was a lengthy one. Manzer spent more than two years just researching Harris. The turning point in her study was reading his letters to his confidante and fellow artist, Emily Carr. “He was a cheerleader for her, and the things he wrote to her about being brave became my inspiration from him,” Manzer says. “I took those words to heart.”
Each of the luthiers worked on their individual guitars on their own, but in talking to them all, Manzer believes their processes were similar to hers. “I was going to do what was best for my journey of discovery of Lawren Harris,” she says. “I think we all did that.”
As Manzer says, the wood doesn’t lie. And neither does the muse.
~ from Globe and Mail
Special thanks to Brad Wheeler – Twitter: @BWheelerglobe
30 November 2016 - TORONTO - Folk singer Bruce Cockburn didn't think he'd ever write another song.
After four years dedicated to penning his 2015 memoir "Rumours of Glory," he found he had sopped up most of his words.
"There was no songwriting because it was all about prose," he said in a recent interview.
"Any ideas I had — or creative juices flowing — went in that direction."
But Cockburn did start laying the foundation for his forthcoming 25th studio album earlier this year. Sifting through ideas took some time but eventually rough concepts were shaped and the lyrical drought began to subside.
"Songs started to come," he said. "And they've been coming up pretty steadily ever since."
Cockburn, a 12-time Juno winner and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, is now in the early stages of recording his still-untitled album, which he hopes to release next year.
He'll be in the spotlight on Saturday when he takes the stage at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Toronto for the first time ever. It's a warm up of sorts for the inevitable tour dates tied to his next album.
Cockburn, whose career is defined by folk favourites like "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" and "Pacing the Cage," is a three-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner. But he says this year his schedule finally allowed him to perform.
He's not "overly thrilled" with the idea of handing out trophies to musicians.
"Getting awards, to me, is pretty meaningless," he says.
"But the idea of celebrating what you do is not."
Cockburn prefers to focus on how awards shows draw attention to artists overlooked by the mainstream.
"There's a place for that in the scheme of things," he adds, "Especially when stuff doesn't get on the radio."
Other performers at this year's awards show include the Ennis Sisters, Sultans Of String and Colin Linden, a longtime producer on Cockburn's albums.
After the show, the two musicians plan to jet off to Nashville where they'll smooth out parts of the new album. Cockburn is pushing to finish the project by mid-January.
"It's kind of a hodge-podge in the way most of my albums are," he says.
"It ranges from social observation to personal, spiritual stuff."
Don't expect any rants about Donald Trump and the outcome of the U.S. election, even though Cockburn has waded into conversations about social and environmental issues through his past songs.
"I haven't written anything about it," he says of Trump's presidency.
"It might take a while for whatever potential material there ... to sort of percolate through. But it's not always obvious to (write a) song that isn't just a propaganda diatribe."
~from WinnipegFreepress - by David Friend Follow @dfriend on Twitter.
26 November 2016 - Bruce was in the studio last week with Colin Linden, Gary Craig, John Dymond and Ron Miles. Daniel Keebler was on site and provided photos for BruceCockburn.com on the five days of the recording session. Daniel has also put up commentary and more photos at, www.brucecockburn.org - In The Studio with Bruce.
9 November 2016 - For the first time since 2010’s “Small Source of Comfort”, Bruce Cockburn is back in the studio recording album number 33. [ You can view NEW photos from Prairie Sun Recording Studio sessions on brucecockburn.com ]
True North is aiming to release the album in 2017 but exactly when, is not yet known. The album will be produced by Colin Linden and be recorded in several studios throughout North America.
The album will contain all new songs written by Bruce.
“Small Source of Comfort” won the 2011 Juno for Best Roots Album as well as two awards from the Canadian Folk Awards and was well received world-wide.
Bruce has written more than 300 songs on 32 albums over a career spanning 45 years. Twenty-four Cockburn records have received a Canadian gold or platinum certification as of 2013, including most recently 6 times platinum for his Christmas album.
Bruce was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Officer in 2002. In 1998, he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts.
He has received thirteen Juno Awards, and in 2001, during the 30th Annual Juno Awards ceremony, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Bruce received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and that same year, Bruce received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN.
For further information please contact:
613-967-7717 or 416-402-9937
~from: True North Records
Photo: Daniel Keebler
27 October 2016 - The Canadian Folk Music Awards, now in its 12th year, are coming to Toronto, Ontario from December 2-3, 2016. The 72 talented artist nominees for the 2016 CFMA were recently announced at Toronto City Hall and hail from Canadian provinces and territories from coast-to-coast-to-coast. This year’s gala event is taking place at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St West in downtown Toronto on Saturday, December 3, 2016.
The gala is hosted, in both official languages, by award-winning musicians Jean Hewson and Benoit Bourque (La Bottine Souriante) and is open to the public. Tickets for the gala are $45 (plus a $2 processing fee) and are available here. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the event.
The Canadian Folk Music Awards are pleased to announce the 2016 gala line-up, which includes prolific Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His achievements and decorations include being an Officer of the Order of Canada, an inductee of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, 13 Juno Awards, 24 Gold and Platinum records, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, numerous honorary doctorates, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Award-winning guitarist, producer and singer Colin Linden also graces the CFMA performer line-up. The founding member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has had an exceptional career, releasing numerous albums with the band, as well as several solo albums. He has also produced and shepherded many upcoming musical talents. Since 2012, the iconic man in the black hat has been the Music Director on the hit TV show Nashville.
Juno Award-winning trio and CCMA nominated sisters from Newfoundland, The Ennis Sisters, bring their beautiful vocal harmonies to the line-up. Past CFMA winners and 2016 nominees The Sultans of String join the gala line-up, adding a view of worldly folk; their music merges Celtic and Cuban, flamenco and Gypsy-jazz, Arabic and South Asian in one delirious musical swell. Winnipeg folk trio Red Moon Road return from a rigorous European tour to join the gala line-up, adding some forward-thinking folk live performance to the proceedings. Quebec folk multi-instrumentalist Klô Pelgag adds some quirky excitement to the gala line-up (and possibly large scale fruit costumes.)
Along with the gala awards event, the weekend features two open-to-the-public musical showcase concerts. On Friday, December 2, 2016 from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto) the evening features CFMA 2016 nominees Jocelyn Pettit, The Small Glories, Hillsburn, Beppe Gambetta & Tony McManus, Old Man Luedecke and Élage Diouf. A brunch showcase concert happens Saturday, December 3, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto) and features 2016 CFMA nominees Rosie & the Riveters, The Andrew Collins Trio, Keltie Monaghan, William Prince, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. Both showcases at Hugh’s Room are $29 in advance via hughsroom.com and $32.50 at the door.
The CFMA will hand out twenty awards throughout the gala evening. Nominations for the CFMA were announced this September at Toronto City Hall during the second annual #NationalStrum, celebrating folk music across Canada. Born from a pool of volunteers deeply invested in the wealth and breadth of folk talent in Canada, the CFMA celebrate all genres of folk music from across Canada. Well known for having a vibrant culture of folk festivals, folk traditions and folk values, the country comes together for a weekend of celebration.
Canadian artists and groups whose albums were released in Canada between June 15, 2015 to June 14, 2016 were eligible to submit their work. The CFMA currently boast 19 categories and one special achievement award. For the category awards, five nominees are chosen for each category. A two stage jury process by 95 jurors located across Canada, representing all official provinces, territories and languages determine the official winners in each category. Complete eligibility requirements are listed here: http://folkawards.ca/eligibility/
~from That Eric Alper.
13 October 2016 - Bruce Cockburn spent close to 10 years as a recording artist before his name began to be known outside his native Canada. Up to that time, his music was mostly folk and rock, with occasional ventures into jazzier territory. So it was a surprise to all involved when "Wondering Where the Lions Are", an out of character foray into reggae, broke through internationally at the tail end of the 70s.
Part of the success of that recording, and what made it so appealing and authentic sounding was the involvement of Jamaican/Canadian singer-bassist Leroy Sibbles and his rhythm section, Ben Bow and Larry "Sticky Fingers" Silvera. As Cockburn writes in his autobiography, Rumours of Glory, he brought them into the recording because he "didn't want to be just another white guy watering down someone else's culture."
"Lions", however, wasn't the end of Sibbles' and Cockburn's musical collaboration. The reggae ace sang on a pair of songs each on the later's Humans and Stealing Fire albums. Yet, it was Sibbles' 1982 release Evidence, a unique album all but forgotten now, which gave Cockburn and the entirety of his band the opportunity to delve into reggae much more extensively.
Evidence was recorded when Sibbles was 32 years old and already a well-regarded veteran of the reggae world, having been an integral member of the Heptones, a pioneering and influential band out of Kingston, Jamaica. The Heptones were part of the 1960s R&B and ska "bluebeat" music scene, a forerunner of what eventually came to be called reggae. In fact, Cockburn has mentioned that drummer Bow regarded the rhythm of "Lions" as bluebeat. There was a thriving cross-pollination of music between Jamaica and Toronto's West Indian population (explored on Light in the Attic's Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974) and Sibbles became a part of this cultural and musical exchange when he moved to the city in 1973. He became firmly entrenched in Toronto's music scene, and issued a series of singles throughout the rest of the decade. Even so, he had lost some of the career momentum he had acquired in his homeland. His profile was increased when "Lions" became a hit and it must have felt good to hear himself on the radio, even if it was in a supporting role. It was a logical idea to work with Cockburn on one of his own albums, especially since he and the Canadian had gotten along well in the studio.
By 1981, Sibbles was affiliated with YYZ Productions and A&M Records, but had maintained enough of a connection with Cockburn's label, True North, to bring him on to the new album as well as Cockburn's current band, which included Bob Disalle on drums, Dennis Pendrith on bass, Jon Goldsmith on keyboards, Kathryn Moses on flute and sax, and Hugh Marsh on violin and mandolin. Stuart Raven-Hill, who had been responsible for getting Cockburn and Sibbles together in the first place, would produce. Raven-Hill had co-run Island Records' Canadian office and recently worked as tour manager for Cockburn (thanked in Cockburn's Humans liner notes for "Invaluable Assistance and General Bad Influence"). True North art director Bart Schoales would do the album cover design - one more personality that helped make it a True North album in many regards except in name.
Further illustrating the interconnectedness of the Toronto music scene, Raven-Hill had recently broken up with Judy Cade, now girlfriend of and backup singer for Cockburn. There were apparently no hard feelings, as the two continued to work together - on Evidence and later when Raven-Hill put together the Cockburn tribute album Kick at the Darkness, issued on his own Intrepid label.
Toronto's Manta Sound was booked for late June 1981 to start the Sibbles sessions. This made it an easy segue for Cockburn and band, who had just finished recording Inner City Front the same month there. Manta was a familiar home, as Cockburn's previous few albums had also been tracked at Manta, so the band basically just kept on going for the Evidence songs.
The resulting album is an upbeat collection of pop and soul-flavored reggae. The sound is very "of a type" with Cockburn's albums Inner City Front and The Trouble with Normal (recorded at Manta the following year). While his basic band appears on all tracks, Cockburn appears on four: "I'm Thankful", "Let Music", "Talk to Me", and "I Love You", where he delivers an especially lyrical guitar solo. Elsewhere, Hugh Marsh's electric violin adds a texture not commonly heard in reggae, pushing the music into new waters.
I Love You - https://youtu.be/xKmechYj38E
Evidence is unusual as well for the range of additional musicians who appeared on the album. On backing vocals Sibbles was joined by Murray McLauchlan (yet another True North artist), tragic Hungarian/Canadian pop-punk singer BB Gabor, Colleen Peterson (who had been part of the group 3's A Crowd with Cockburn in 1969 and had her own successful career as a country singer), and vocalist Louise Lambert, who also co-owned the tour bus company that Cockburn used. Lambert, who is now a voice and piano teacher in Maui, recalls "It was great fun singing Leroy's songs in the studio," and comments about her co-singers, "I loved Colleen's body of work, and we all played some of the same venues."
Fleshing out the instrumental side of things were guitarist David Bendeth, who would later sign Cowboy Junkies and the Crash Test Dummies to record deals when he worked for BMG Music; Dave McMorrow, who had just joined Canadian new wave outfit Rough Trade, known for their controversial hit "High School Confidential"; and Peter Follett, who went on to become a multi-instrumentalist in the New Age field, on additional guitars. According to Bart Schoales, eccentric funk star Bootsy Collins was on the scene as well, playing pinball at the studio while recording took place, though he doesn't appear on any tracks, unfortunately.
Most of the songs are Sibbles originals, with the exception of the 1958 Little Willie John R&B and pop hit "Talk to Me", a smooth soul version of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" and Paul Simon's "Richard Corey", one of the few overtly political/socially conscious songs. The title song, musically the most straight-ahead reggae track on the record, carries a bleak message about the state of the world, proclaiming that the planet's wars, pollution, and economic woes are bound to get worse. Sibbles sings "it's gonna be dreader than dread"; in other words, that everything's going to hell and it's going to get pretty dreadful. Though the collection ends with this lyrically downbeat song, positivity and happiness are the overriding themes of the rest and the album is, overall, one of Sibbles' most widely accessible efforts.
With the tracks in the can, it was sent off to be mastered by legendary engineer Bob Ludwig, who in that year alone also worked on albums for the Rolling Stones, Rush, Journey, and ZZ Top. Meanwhile art director Schoales, as he had done for the cover of Inner City Front in the café across the street from the True North offices, used his virtual backyard of Toronto to tell a story with his cover portraiture. Sibbles is posed at the Toronto harbor front, resplendent in combat gear (though with a big smile on his face), looking larger than life, as big as the spire of the CN Tower behind him.
Evidence capped off an extremely busy few years for Sibbles; he issued four solo albums between 1980 and 1982, as well as performing regularly and appearing on other musician's albums. Though many people tell him today that Evidence is a favorite album of theirs, it didn't sell especially well and turned out to be his only album for major label A&M, despite winning the Canadian Black Music Award for album of the year. That year (1982) he was also named top male singer, top bass player and performer of the year. The rest of his 80s output, though, was sparse and he eventually moved back to Jamaica in 1994, later saying "I just went so far, and couldn't go no further there [in Toronto]. I lost... well, I was trying my best to keep up as much as I could, but I lost touch with what was happening in Jamaica [musically]."
Sibbles is still very active today, performing numerous concerts every year, including dates in far flung locales such as Japan and Africa. A recent CD available through his website focuses on some of his well-known reggae bass lines. He's also prominently featured on the "reggae wall" outdoor mural in Toronto, which honors the Jamaica/Toronto musical connection and the artists who brought the music to life.
By 1985 Cockburn had finally made it to Jamaica, which produced his song "Dancing in Paradise", more of an impressionistic travel narrative than a dance-ready song of any type. Any overt reggae influence in his music had disappeared by then as he moved on, ever the restless musical explorer. In a way, Evidence was the culmination of his involvement with the genre - an interest which had started in the mid-70s when he discovered Bob Marley and the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come, and expanded later on under the tutelage of Raven-Hill. He says, "I wanted to incorporate some of that into what I was doing too…it would have been very bogus to announce that now I was a reggae player, but I wanted some of that influence in." [Music Makers and Soul Shakers podcast, Episode 19]
In the end, Sibbles and Cockburn enriched each other's music. What started as, ostensibly, a one-time collaboration on a reggae-flavored track of Cockburn's led to one of the most unique albums in Sibbles' and Cockburn's discographies, and in the legacy of the long musical connection between Jamaica and Toronto.
Evidence (Dread, Dread) - https://youtu.be/9Hc62VQAysE
~by Rob Caldwell
7 September 2016 - Five years on from the release of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' collaborative Kings and Queens release, the roots rock group have announced a companion LP. Bringing aboard male musicians including City and Colour's Dallas Green and Brit power pop vet Nick Lowe, their Kings and Kings collection is due October 7 file under: Music.
While the project last delivered South in 2013, Kings and Kings is the spiritual successor to Kings and Queens, which found Blackie and the Rodeo Kings working with vocalists including Roseanne Cash and Lucinda Williams. As a press release explains, this time around the band's Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing reached out to their "best 'guy' friends from the world of roots, blues, and country" to help put together some new tunes.
The roster of talent includes past collaborators like Bruce Cockburn, Buddy Miller, and Keb Mo, while Linden brought aboard artists like Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson and Sam Palladio, with whom he'd worked with on the Nashville television series.
Other notable names involved with Kings on Kings include Dallas Green, Nick Lowe, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Eric Church, and Raul Malo.
Thematically, the full-length kicks off with "Live By The Song," a tune written by all three Rodeo Kings, and featuring guest vocals from Crowell, that is dedicated to "every working musician/songwriter committed to the 'life.'" Elsewhere, Cockburn and Linden wax on "timeless beauty" for "A Woman Gets More Beautiful."
You'll get the full breakdown on the LP below, where you'll also find a stream of the set's Wilson-led, City and Colour-assisted "Beautiful Scars."
Kings and Kings:
1. Live By The Song (ft. Rodney Crowell)
2. Bury My Heart (ft. Eric Church)
3. Beautiful Scars (ft. City and Colour)
4. High Wire (ft. Raul Malo)
5. Playing By Heart (ft. Buddy Miller)
6. Bitter and Low (ft. Fantastic Negrito)
7. Secret of a Long Lasting Love (ft. Nick Lowe)
8. A Woman Gets More Beautiful (ft. Bruce Cockburn)
9. Land of The Living (Hamilton Ontario 2016) (ft. Jason Isbell)
10. Long Walk To Freedom (ft. Keb Mo)
11. This Lonesome Feeling (ft. Vince Gill)
12. Where The River Rolls (ft. The Men of Nashville)
11 August 2016 - Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s elder statesmen of song. Joe Leary spent 24 Seconds with the iconic Canadian singer/songwriter.
24: You’ve been doing this for 40 years and have released 30 albums or so. Does it seem like you’ve really been at it this long?
BC: It depends on where you start counting. I kind of date my professional career from the beginning of 1966, which makes it 50 years and 31 albums officially but some of them are compilations. It’s been quite a run so far and it doesn’t seem like it’s over yet, which I’m grateful for.
24: I was surprised to learn that back in your group era, your band Olivus actually opened for Jimi Hendrix and Cream. How did that come about?
BC: The bands I was in were rock bands and they varied stylistically. The first band was sort of ‘Beatles-y’ oriented singer/songwriter band. I’m kind of understating it somewhat — it was a broader range of stuff than that makes it sound but just for the sake of the conversation that was The Children in Ottawa. I was in a couple of other bands and then I went to Toronto and joined the band that was originally called The Flying Circus and then became Olivus. That band opened for Jimi Hendrix in Montreal and for Cream in Ottawa but the band couldn’t make up its mind — the organ player was a big fan of Garth Hudson and would have like our group to go in the direction of The Band and I wanted to be more like Frank Zappa and the drummer and bass player were coming from an R&B place. We had all of those elements in there and I injected as much psychedelia as I had the chops to pull off I guess, as the rest of them were willing to accommodate. Actually we got reviewed in a Montreal paper and the guy said that if it had been anybody other than Hendrix and Soft Machine that we were opening for we would have ended up stealing the evening; which I think is a measure of how much that guy smoked (laughs). We opened for Wilson Pickett in Toronto and the audience was not into our kind of music at all; two songs in their yelling at us and shaking their fists. That was a short set. We didn’t have very many gigs but the ones we did have were kind of spectacular.
24: Did you feel confined in the group environment and want to go solo?
BC: When I dropped out of Berklee School of Music and joined that first band, I had no idea what I wanted to do or what my direction was supposed to be. The only thing I knew was it wasn’t was I was learning in Berklee. So I joined this band and I started writing songs in earnest at that point. By the end of the sixties I had a little body of songs that I liked better when I played them alone than with any of the bands that I had been in. The songs were the product of trying to write for each of the different bands so there was quite a wide variety but the ones I liked best just sounded best when I just played them. I was also getting tired of big long, wanky guitar solos; not tired of playing them particularly but tired of hearing them and I thought that I probably wasn’t alone in that and I thought there must be an audience for the kinds of songs that these represented; basically what’s on the first two albums. I went solo and initially just played little gigs in little clubs and it kind of expanded from there.
24: The music business you embarked upon is completely different than the one we see today. Back in the day one needed to be signed to a label and the record label needed to get radio play. What do you think of the way the business is today?
BC: Well it’s certainly different. I’m not involved in it enough at the starting level to really have much of a say to the extent of what the difference is and the fact that there obviously aren’t record companies offering record deals and if they are, it’s extortion to the extent of publishing and so on. Unless you’re the type of artist who’s really aimed at mass commercial radio, you’re on your own basically. That was to some extent the same back in the day because in Canada at least, there weren’t very many record companies; in fact there were no Canadian record companies other than independents that weren’t interest in Canadian talent at all in the sixties. One or two people maybe leaked through in spite of that; Bobby Curtola from Thunder Bay had a hit; the Beau Marks from Montreal had a big hit around the world in ‘Clap Your Hands’ and Paul Anka of course but that was really rare. It took awhile for there to be enough momentum in the Canadian scene; it took the CRTC regulations in fact to get the business going to push radio to play Canadian stuff and it worked. I’m not really in favour of government intervention but it worked.
24: You were one of the artists getting radio play before it became mandatory.
BC: I was getting a limited amount of play before those rules came into effect but I’ve never been motivated by stuff like radio play or awards or that whole end of things but there are people and really legitimate artists who really do think about those things. For me it was all about the songs about living a life that would allow me to find fodder for the songs in a way. I didn’t think of it consciously like that but that’s what it amounted to. So I didn’t want to get in on playing the success game for wont of a better way to put it. Luckily I hooked up with Bernie Finkelstein and he did want to play that game so it kind of worked out because he was very good at that and is still and I was able to offer him enough ammunition that he could play the game well. What artists now are facing is something that’s pretty intimidating in a way because it’s not hard to get your stuff out there; everybody can make a record in their bedroom and put it out but to get anybody to notice it to be able to make a living off of it is a whole other thing. In other words; like getting paid. It’s one thing to have your song everywhere but how does that translate into making a living and I don’t think anybody’s really figured that out yet. Maybe I’m behind the curve and there are theories now that can be applied. I hope so because otherwise it’s not a very attractive picture. The thing that’s missing from the equation is money and to me the important thing about the money is the ability to pay musicians. Not every record wants to be made in a bedroom. Sometimes you want to make it in a good studio; sometimes you want to have an orchestra or horn players or something and where do they come from? Somebody has to pay for that and traditionally it was paid for by record companies who then got their money back from selling the records to the public. That only works for a very few people now. The audience is being deprived of a great variety of stuff that they might like. I feel for people starting out. I remember when the coffee house era ended, suddenly there was an absolute sense of rooms in which people really listened to the music. In bars people were noisy and it changed songwriting because the songwriters couldn’t expect to have an attentive audience and those that didn’t want to make that change had to struggle with the presence of noise and whatever else adverse working conditions. That was one thing but we all kind of got over that but this is a whole other ballgame; the interface between art and technological culture.
24: You’ve always been an artist with a strong social conscience. Has that ever inhibited perhaps some of the access to your music whereas the content might steer someone away because it was considered too political?
BC: I think there’s been a little bit of that but I don’t think I’ve suffered greatly from it. The point being ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’ and ‘If a Tree Falls’; those kind of songs have done well and I didn’t find any great resistance that I saw. The people in the trenches; the sales people may have I don’t know but I didn’t feel that coming back at me. With very few exceptions that I am aware it really hasn’t hurt me.
24: When you have songs like ‘Rocket Launcher’ and ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’; songs that have become Canadian standards, does it ever frustrate you as an artist because that’s obviously what people know you best for but perhaps in your estimation you’re probably thinking there’s much better material on deeper cuts on the albums.
BC: The regrettable part of that picture might be that people don’t get to hear some of those songs and then make a choice. It’s just a fact of life. To the extent that radio’s been a part of my career for wont of a better thing to call it, radio obviously can’t play everything. Even the most enlightened freest form radio can’t play everything so people are going to be attached to the things that they hear repeatedly; hopefully something will catch their ear and maybe they’ll come out to a show and they get to hear the other stuff and even more hopefully they’ll buy the record but nowadays that’s a bit of a forlorn hope because people just download the tracks they want and there are no deeper cuts but we’ll see what happens with my next album because I’ll be swimming in that same sea.
~ from 24hrs.ca - 24 Seconds with the great Bruce Cockburn by Joe Leary.
15 August 2016 - Bruce Cockburn’s toughest critic is a pint-sized package of opinion.
The bespectacled singer/songwriter laughs as he describes the brutal honesty with which his four-year-old daughter assesses his iconic catalogue.
“She enjoys some of it, and the stuff she doesn’t enjoy she goes, ‘What’s the name of this song?’ I’ll tell her and she’ll go, ‘Skip it’,” Cockburn says.
She does this as they travel to and from preschool, letting dad know her preference for the gentler acoustic numbers – ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’ remains a favorite - over “the rockier stuff.”
“She’s really without mercy, but it’s fun,” Cockburn tells Simcoe.com in advance of an Aug. 17 solo performance at the Orillia Opera House. “It’s fun to kind of hear this stuff through her perspective.”
An 11-time Juno Award winner and an Officer of the Order of Canada, Cockburn has released 31 albums over the past four decades.
As the current tour winds down, plans are in the works to enter the studio for his next release, the songs brought into being over the past year-and-a-half.
Previous to the tour, he’d devoted his creative energies to penning the 2014 memoir ‘Rumours of Glory’.
It was at the end of that experience that Cockburn found himself questioning whether he still possessed the intangible quality necessary to the songwriting craft, a combination of roll-up-your-sleeves hard work and something akin to divine inspiration.
"I hadn’t written any songs during the whole time I was working on the book, which was about three or four years,” he adds. “I was looking forward to getting back to being a songwriter again, but I wondered if I still was one, just because I hadn’t done it for so long.”
Inevitably, “the songs started to come, and they kept coming.”
While Cockburn has yet to firm up plans for the recording session, fans should expect something that leans “towards the bluesy end of the spectrum,” he says.
“They are written mostly on acoustic guitar … but there are some songs that are going to want electric guitar in them.”
No doubt there will be some measure of social commentary, Cockburn having earned a reputation for his keen eye, wit and laser-sharp assessment of society’s ills.
More than 30 years after releasing the gutsy and provocative single ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’, he sees little evidence that the world has rid itself of the murderous dictators and corrupt governments that impose their will through brute force.
If anything, that troubling reality only seems to have intensified.
“At least I feel like it has,” he says. “Maybe I’m just more aware of the goings on. I feel like that whole scene has kind of gotten worse to the point where it is sort of hard to say anything about it.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t try, but where do you start?” he adds.
While Cockburn has never been one to shy from the political, don’t expect him to weigh in on the subject of all subjects these days: presidential Republican candidate Donald Trump.
At least not in song.
“I’m not wasting my energy on that idiot,” he says before expounding on the three-ring circus south of the border. “(Trump) represents something that I think is much bigger than him.
I think what he represents is the expanding chaos, and he is furthering it better and more visibly at least than most of the other parties that you might think of as guilty in that regard.”
Incessant fear mongering by Trump and his ilk have left the populace increasingly alarmed, Cockburn included.
“My own inclination is to be afraid of the stuff that I see around – afraid in the sense that I worry for the world that my little girl is going to grow up into, for instance,” he adds. “I suppose somewhere underneath there I’m afraid for myself, too, but I outthink that because it’s my nature.”
Mix in the exploding role of technology in our everyday lives and the self-described “Sci-Fi buff” can’t help but consider it all with a mixture of wonder and suspicion.
“When drones the size of horse flies go around spying on people, it’s crazy. And that kind of craziness is sort of fun at the same time as it’s sinister. Of course, when you start looking at the human cost of all of this stuff, it ceases to be very entertaining.”
As an artist, Cockburn finds himself gravitating toward the spiritual as he attempts to come to grips with the mixing of the personal and external worlds.
“That’s always been there, but it’s come back around in a bigger way than it has in a long time,” he says.
While stopping short of describing himself as a Christian – “but I’m certainly leaning that way” – Cockburn has returned to church after drifting away decades ago.
“I go to a church that is the kind of church that I would never have imagined going to, where it’s kind of an evangelical thing with a rock band,” he adds, laughing.
~from Simcoe.com - Orillia Today - by Frank Matys.
14 June 2016 -
“I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren’t half as frightening as they were before
But I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me” – Wondering Where the Lions Are, 1979
Singer, songwriter, poet, activist and Canadian Music Hall of Famer, Bruce Cockburn has shared concert stages all over the world with the likes of the iconic Jimi Hendrix and British rock super group Cream.
A ‘folker’ and a ‘rocker,’ Cockburn studied music at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. He began his musical career in the late 1960s, singing and playing guitar in Ottawa-based bands, ‘The Children’ (1966), and ‘The Esquires’ (1967), before heading to Toronto to form ‘The Flying Circus’ (later known as ‘Olivus’). In 1969, Cockburn struck out on the solo career that would bring him the affirmation and approval from a world, in which he says, he felt like a stranger in a strange place.
Cockburn’s Canadian star was launched after playing at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1967, and then headlining the festival in 1969. It would be another ten years before Cockburn’s international star shot through the stratosphere south of the border with the release of ‘Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws,’ featuring the hit single “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” a song that reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It was a time of accelerating fame for Cockburn, but one that was not without its difficulties. “I felt very much like an outsider,” Cockburn says of that time.
“It had to do with being cut off from my feelings. My family got along fine but we weren’t close emotionally. I had trouble getting my feelings out, a lot of it around relationships. I really didn’t understand anything about anything.”
It was with some irony that Cockburn read a reporter’s review in the 1970s that said, ‘Cockburn presents soft music and is soft-spoken, but there is a seething undercurrent of rage.’ The singer found this very perceptive and interesting, considering that he wove together such hope-inspired lyrics as:
Behind the pain/fear
Etched on the faces
Something is shining
Like gold but better
Rumours of glory - Rumours of Glory, 1980
Also in the 1970s, Cockburn’s sense of social engagement began to evolve with the discovery of his Native peers in Western Canada. He lent his voice to a number of causes including the refugee plight in Central America and the Haida peoples’ struggles around land claims in British Columbia. Living in the States during the years that the Vietnam War was full-blown, also had an effect on the singer. “It’s hard to write about the world and one’s place in it without making social commentary,” Cockburn says.
Seismic changes in Cockburn’s life over the past decades have been transformative in terms of his physical space, his emotional space and his approach-to-life space. “If you would have asked me a dozen years ago if I was going to be a dad again, living in San Francisco, I would have laughed. Yet here I am! At times, it can be utterly exhausting,” Cockburn says. “When I was a parent in my 30s, I don’t think I was as good at it. I felt more protective of my time; I was self-involved and focused on my art. My daughter, Iona, who is four, has a much more central place in my day-to-day than my older daughter Jenny (40), did. But it all came out ok in the end.”
Iona loves going on tour with her Dad, and insists that music is always playing in the car. “I am, to a great extent, the translator of the world for her,” Cockburn says. “It is a fun and very interesting role. Having Iona in my life is a constant source of amazing stuff.”
Cockburn has a real sense of connection to the Divine, but relies less on a traditional relationship with religion, and more on a moment-to-moment relationship with God. “I try to feel the presence of the Divine and be steered by that,” Cockburn says. “I have to listen and be open to that little voice that wells up, and not have my mind cluttered with other distracting voices. It is a continual work in progress.”
Cockburn now expends a lot of the energy, previously spent on song writing, on his full of life four-year-old. He is satisfied in the knowledge that he has had a sufficient amount of success, and doesn’t have to worry about taking a step back. “I care very much about performing and writing new songs,” Cockburn says, “but I no longer have to think about establishing a presence. However, I don’t take it for granted; it could go away.”
Cockburn misses the desert, huge skies and uncluttered landscapes, but having extra time to spend in nature’s wide open spaces isn’t on his current agenda. So, to keep himself in good shape and energized, Cockburn works with a trainer and goes to the gym a couple of times a week. At one time he was a committed student of yoga, but with his travel and touring schedule he has given it up. “My health is good and I try to stay active. Being on tour is not an especially healthy lifestyle, and because of Iona I only go away for three weeks max at a time.”
Music is Cockburn’s anchor – his songs a trail of life, change and growth. For his fans, its been a gift that has evolved over his 31 albums, and decades of writing, singing and performing. “It is hard to come up with new stuff, an idea that I haven’t already dealt with in some other song, although my new songs lean more to the spiritual than the political,” Cockburn says.
Life’s rewards include his relatively new family, his older daughter Jenny, his grandchildren and his beloved wife M.J. (Mary Josephine). Cockburn also cites the ‘illusion of wisdom’ from all that he has been through these past seven decades as a gift. “We don’t get smarter as we get older but we know more,” Cockburn says with a wry laugh. “A part of that wisdom is not getting stressed in the same way we did when we were younger. I can pick my (worry) targets better and I am less judgemental of people.”
In addition to his song writing talents, Cockburn is the author of his 2014 memoir, Rumours of Glory (HarperCollins). He spent three years writing the book, often pulling all-nighters as he parented his new baby daughter. The memoir takes the reader up to 2004; however, in the span of the last 14 years, significant developments have occurred in Cockburn’s life, including receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Cockburn is undecided if he’ll write the second part of his life story. “If I live long enough to forget how hard the first book was, there might be room for a part two,” Cockburn says with a laugh. “If arthritis gets the better of my hands, if I stop being able to remember lyrics, I could see writing another book. That’s a ways off, I hope.”
In the interim, Cockburn hopes to release a new album in 2016. “Whenever I think of retirement I think of B. B. King and John Lee Hooker – all these old Blues guys who go ‘til they drop – if I’m able, that’s exactly what I’ll do. I will just keep going, cuz that’s what I do.”
DISCOGRAPHY AND AWARDS
~from Active Life by Cece Scott, to read this story in digital online format, use this link. Photos in this article are by Daniel Keebler.
20 July 2016 - My guest on the show this week is legendary performer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Bruce has been recording and touring for over 40 years, and has over 30 spectacular albums to his credit. One of the most beloved of Canadian artists, Bruce has made a huge mark in the US and Europe as well. With humble beginnings in the folk scene of Toronto in the 60's, to releasing his first few classic albums on True North Records, before achieving massive commercial success in the late 70's and 80's with hit songs like "Wondering Where The Lions Are", "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" and "If I Had a Rocket Launcher". I've always been drawn to Bruce's creative guitar playing, which incorporates blues, jazz, folk and ragtime elements into a unique sound that instantly recognizable. Bruce and I had a chance to discuss his life and career in music and all the stages of his amazing career. Enjoy my conversation with Bruce Cockburn!
13 July 2016 - A legend in the Canadian music world, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has made his home in San Francisco for the last seven years — but he wears his status as a foreigner with pride.
"I don't get to vote there, because I'm what they call a 'resident alien,'" Cockburn told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.
"I love the term. I'm very proud of being called a resident alien. Any kind of alien, actually."
Over his more-than-four-decades-long career, Cockburn has become known for his political songwriting. But even if he could vote, Cockburn is not particularly excited by any of the options currently available to Americans.
"It might have been [Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie] Sanders, actually, who described himself as a 'hopeful pessimist,'" Cockburn said with a laugh. "I kind of feel like that."
"I see people working on particular issues [locally] and doing a good job. But you know, globally, nationally, not much is being done to address very, very big issues."
Music critics are also often quick to pick up on themes of faith in Cockburn's songwriting, but for him, it's not the most apt description.
"That's not a word I use, exactly," Cockburn said. "It's more of a quest than a faith. It's really about finding out what that relationship [with God] is supposed to be and how to actually make it go, how to hold up my end of it."
For much of his life, Cockburn identified as a Christian. But over time, he grew less comfortable with it, for a variety of reasons — "some personal, some social."
Lately he finds himself coming back around to religion. Is it a product of the 71-year-old's age? He figures it probably is, in some part.
"After a while you become sort of more concerned again about the spirit, [and] in some contexts, mysticism — that question of how we relate to the divine."
Cockburn is an accomplished guitarist who has dabbled in numerous genres, but the one genre he's never been able to tackle? Free jazz.
"I get attached to a rhythm, and then I start playing the rhythm, and then I can't depart from the rhythm because the bottom falls out if I stop playing it," he said.
"I've always wanted to do that, and I've never really quite had the chops, or given myself the space to do it."
As a kid, the last thing Cockburn wanted to listen to was his parents' music, so it still surprises him to see kids singing along with their parents at his shows — but he's come to enjoy it.
"It's actually really rewarding to think that the music isn't just kind of growing cobwebs and dying with my generation."
Bruce Cockburn plays the main stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this Sunday at 8 p.m.
~ from By Matt Meuse, CBC News, with files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.
CBC Early Edition Podcast, available in some areas.