Bruce Cockburn
 
 
"LIFE SHORT CALL NOW" ::: IRISH RELEASE 14TH JULY 2006 on Cooking Vinyl :::
Bruce Cockburn Speechless (Cooking Vinyl) Irish Release 23rd September 2005

Bruce Cockburn "You've Never Seen Everything" - Released in Ireland June 2nd 2003

 
 
     
     
 
BRUCE COCKBURN
"LIFE SHORT CALL NOW"
::: IRISH RELEASE 14TH JULY 2006 on Cooking Vinyl :::
Friday 14th July sees the release of Bruce Cockburn’s 29th studio recording entitled LIFE SHORT CALL NOW. This beautiful album follows up 2005’s Speechless – Cockburn’s first-ever instrumental record. Life Short Call Now was recorded at Puck’s Farm outside of Toronto. It includes 12 Cockburn originals and features guest appearances from Ani Difranco, Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman and Damhnait Doyle. Life Short Call Now was produced by JOHNATHAN GOLDSMITH who also produced Bruce Cockburn’s Stealing Fire in 1984. Several of these songs were written during and after Bruce Cockburn’s 2004 fact-finding mission to Baghdad. Some tracks feature Cockburn with a twenty-three piece orchestra which is a first for Bruce.

Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” was voted by listeners to number one on the CBC radio show The National Playlist where it stayed for three consecutive weeks during the month of March.

Cockburn’s 1979 hit “Wondering Where The Lions Are” has been recorded by Jimmy Buffett as the opening theme to the upcoming feature film “Hoot” which opens in theatres in May. The song will also be on the soundtrack.

Bruce Cockburn has been honored with multiple awards throughout his thirty-five year career, including the inaugural Humanitarian Award at the 2006 JUNO’s, April 2 in Halifax. The Tenco Award for Lifetime Achievement in Italy and 20 gold and platinum awards. He is also an Officer of the Order of Canada and inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He is also the recipient of honorary degrees in Letters and Music from several North American universities, including Boston’s Berklee and Toronto’s York University. Cockburn’s songs have been covered by such diverse artists as the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffet, Maria Muldaur, k.d. Lang, Third World, Judy Collins and others.

Full tracklisting as follows :

1. Life Short Call Now
2. See You Tomorrow
3. Mystery
4. Beautiful Creatures
5. Peace March
6. Slow Down Fast
7. Tell the Universe
8. This is Baghdad
9. Jerusalem Poker
10. Different When It Comes to You
11. To Fit in My Heart
12. Nude Descending a Staircase

 

“It’s not unusual for me to have roaming be a noticeable feature of an album,” says Bruce Cockburn. But LIFE SHORT CALL NOW found the singer and guitarist traveling, as he puts it, “a bit further afield” than usual.
How far? “Baghdad, for instance,” he says. “I went to Baghdad in 2004 and spent a week there, which produced the song This is Baghdad. I wanted to see what was going on for myself, because I didn’t believe what I was reading.”

Then there’s Missouri, featured prominently in the title song. “The first verse of that song is entirely Missouri, driving through there from St. Louis to the other side of the state,” he says. “It kind of came in between relationships, and expresses the loneliness of the road that a lot of travelers feel, whether they’re musical travelers or other kinds.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s an instrumental called Jerusalem Poker, whose provenance derives from a happier occasion - a holiday trip to the holy city with his girlfriend. And then there’s To Fit In My Heart, a song Cockburn describes as being about “the spiritual wandering that goes on in all my albums. There’s an ongoing quest to sort of figure out the cosmos, and that song is certainly part of that quest. It’s a reflection of things felt.”

It’s also a reflection of the restless energy and enduring curiosity that has marked Cockburn’s career as a musician and songwriter. The 29th album in a career that’s midway through its fourth decade, LIFE SHORT CALL NOW is wide-ranging, playful and adventurous, eager to take chances and happy to push limits. The songs run the gamut from the politically charged patter of Slow Down Fast to the classic folksong cadences of Mystery, and from the vocal intricacies of Ani DiFranco’s harmonies on See You Tomorrow to the deadpan modernism of the jazzy instrumental Nude Descending a Staircase.
As might be expected from the author of If I Had a Rocket Launcher, some of the songs are pointedly topical, but never in the obvious way. This Is Baghdad is more portrait than polemic, focusing on the sights and sounds and people of the city. “You don’t get to know a place in a week, but you get a taste,” he says. “And it’s a real taste, as opposed to what you get from TV or the paper.
“That’s the value of making a piece of art about something. The job is not necessarily to be factual - although the art is generally stronger when it is factual, or fact-based—but you can convey the emotional content of a situation in a way that mainstream news reporting tries not to do. By its nature, the news tries to be objective; I don’t have that burden. My job is the opposite: This is what it feels like for a guy from Canada to be sitting in Baghdad, talking to Iraqis.”

Then there’s Tell the Universe, which - although very much a Bush song—an appeal to conscience, not a blanket condemnation.
“Rather than say, ‘You bastard, look what you’re doing,’ it seemed more to the point to say, ‘Look, God is watching you, the Cosmos is watching you,’” Cockburn explains. “The closest it gets to castigation is the bridge, where it says, ‘You’ve been projecting your shit at the world/Self-hatred tarted up as payback time.’ It may be too simple to say that’s the psychology of Rumsfeld and that crowd, but it’s what it looks like.

“It seemed to me worth putting things in those terms, rather than being another voice going, ‘I hate you.’ I don’t think I want to write an ‘I hate you’ song.”
Then again, neither does he have much interest in writing an “I love you” song - at least not the usual sort, anyway. Instead, Cockburn would rather write something like Different When It Comes to You, which he calls “a slightly twisted take on the standard love song idea.”

LIFE SHORT CALL NOW finds Cockburn performing mostly on acoustic guitar. “These songs evolved at least partly during a period of a lot of solo shows, or duo shows that I did with Julie Wolf, just keyboard and guitar,” he says. “Generally, a song gets recorded on whatever guitar I wrote it on, and these took shape more on the acoustic side of things - the 12-string, the six-string, the dobro. We were loaned a baritone guitar, made by a guy here named Tony Karol, and that’s the guitar that you hear in Peace March. I ended up buying it, because once you’ve recorded on the damned thing, you have to go and play it for people that way.”

Baritone guitar wasn’t the only new addition to Cockburn’s sonic palette on the album. There’s a string section on several tracks, something that came about in part because that’s how Cockburn heard This Is Baghdad in his head, and in part, he says, because “I’d never done it before.”

Jazz trumpeter Kevin Turcotte appears on several songs, and is part of the horn section that helps bring Mystery to its conclusion. To enhance the intended Salvation Army Band effect, the horn players brought in antique instruments, one of which dated back to the 1850s. Unfortunately, Turcotte’s horn was so ancient that its springs no longer pushed the valves back into place after the keys had been pressed. “We actually had to gaffer tape his fingers to the valve, so he could pull them up after he played each note,” says Cockburn. “It was funny as hell to watch.”

Cockburn also enlisted the help of some of Canada’s best young singer/songwriters to provide vocal harmonies for the album, a group that includes Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman and Damhnait Doyle. “I was going to keep it all Canadian, and then through some fortuitous broken telephone calls, Ani DiFranco kind of volunteered her services, and I was very quick to say yes,” says Cockburn. “The nice thing about getting people who are singers and writers in their own right is you don’t get a studio sound - you get character.”

Cockburn also took some chances with his own singing, particularly in Beautiful Creatures, which soars up into falsetto because, says Cockburn,“it seemed like the melody wanted to go there.
“There was a time I would’ve been afraid of being laughed at for doing something like that,”
he adds then chuckles. “But at this age, I don’t give a shit.”

 
 
 
 
Bruce Cockburn

Speechless (Cooking Vinyl)

Irish Release 23rd September 2005

So pronounced is Bruce Cockburn’s reputation as a celebrated singer-songwriter and respected music activist that it’s sometimes been easy to overlook the fact that Cockburn is also an exceptional guitarist. Speechless should change all that. A collection of previously recorded and brand new instrumental tracks, the album puts the spotlight squarely on Cockburn’s brilliant acoustic guitar playing.

Despite its absence of words, Speechless is highly expressive. That, says Cockburn, is the nature of instrumental music. “With lyrics, you’re dealing with something very conscious,” he explains. “When you’re not fettered by lyrics, the music just goes where it goes. The less conscious it is, the more the technique reflects the mood. Instrumentals are non-specific,” he adds, “which allows people to read whatever they want into the piece.”

Ranging from some of his earliest numbers to three recent compositions, Speechless showcases the breadth of Cockburn’s eclectic guitar style. There’s a strong cinematic quality to much of the album, whether it’s in pieces from the 1970s like the haunting “Islands in a Black Sky” and the cascading “Water into Wine,” or else in 1990s instrumentals such as the emotional “When It’s Gone It’s Gone” and the ambient “Mistress of the Storms.”

Meanwhile, a strong country-blues feel is evident on tracks like “Sunrise on the Mississippi,” which can be attributed to the early influence on Cockburn of blues guitarists like Mance Lipscomb and Mississippi John Hurt. And Cockburn’s jazzier side comes across on “Rouler sa Bosse,” a piece inspired by Django Reinhardt, and on “Rise and Fall,” a piece that was previously only available on the Japanese edition of 1999’s Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu.

Speechless opens with the distinctive finger-picking style of “Foxglove,” which has long been a favorite with guitar teachers. Featuring an alternating bass played under a series of sprightly triplets, it has challenged many a guitar student over the years. Both “Foxglove” and “Sunwheel Dance” were the first two instrumental pieces that Cockburn ever recorded.” “I learned the style from a guy named Fox Watson who translated fiddle tunes on to guitar using open tunings,” recalls Cockburn, who titled the tune “Foxglove” to honor the fiddler-guitarist. “That opened up another door for me.”

The new instrumentals on Speechless include the meditative “Elegy,” played on the dobro and the circular “End of All Rivers.” On the latter, Cockburn makes use of an echo effect that allows him to harmonize with the melody as it progresses. Another piece came about when co-producer Colin Linden wanted more blues on the album and suggested a new version of “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long.” Cockburn wasn’t so sure. But he remembered 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 the bluesy “King Kong Goes to Tallahassee.”

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 a mentor to Cockburn in the 1960s when he first 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.”

Cockburn, who originally studied at the Berklee School of Music, admits that his guitar style is unorthodox. “It’s really the sum of my influences,” says Cockburn. “I use the thumping drone or alternating bass from the blues, but instead of playing blues licks over top of that, I grafted on a broader harmonic and more complicated melodic range that I’d learned studying jazz. I was also very much drawn to Eastern and early Renaissance music, so when I first started finger-picking, what came out was often modal sounding.” Added Cockburn: “I once told a friend that I thought my guitar style was half way between India and Ireland, and she said, ‘Oh, you mean St. Lawrence Valley music.’ So that’s maybe what it is.”

Over three decades, Cockburn has been honored with numerous awards, including the Tenco Award for Lifetime Achievement in Italy and 20 gold and platinum awards in Canada, where he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He is also the recipient of honorary degrees in Letters and Music from several North American universities, including Boston’s Berklee and Toronto’s York University. His songs have been covered by such diverse artists as the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Barenaked Ladies, Maria Muldaur, Anne Murray, Jimmy Buffet, The Rankins, Chet Atkins and k.d. lang. His international breakthrough came in 1979 when his “Wondering Where the Lions Are” reached the Top 25 on Billboard.

“Wondering Where the Lions Are” appeared on Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws, an acoustic jazz-rock album that featured some of Cockburn’s finest guitar work ever. Acoustic Guitar magazine voted it an “essential” recording, putting Cockburn in the prestigious company of such revered pickers as Andrés Segovia, Bill Frisell and two of his early heroes, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt. Acoustic Guitar also featured Cockburn on their cover (September, 2003) calling his guitar instrumentals “dazzling...compositionally and technically years ahead of his time.” Guitarist magazine has called Cockburn “one of the very few singer-songwriters to last 30 years with no embarrassing period whatsoever.” His songs have always been highly regarded. Now, with Speechless, Cockburn’s formidable guitar playing gets the showcase it so richly deserves.

 
 
 
 

Bruce Cockburn
"You've Never Seen Everything" (COOKCD257)
Released in Ireland June 2nd 2003

With a career that spans over three decades, Cockburn has never stopped recording, touring, and reflecting on political and social causes. Born in Ottawa in 1945, Cockburn set his sights on a career in music after growing up listening to Elvis records. He landed at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the early ‘60s, but found he was too spiritually restless to settle into studies of jazz guitar and composition and in 1965 he moved back to Ottawa to play in a series of rock ‘n’ roll bands. Cockburn eventually found his voice as a songwriter drawing upon instinctive spirituality, a keen eye for detail, and a wry sense of humor. By then he had also developed a highly personal finger picking guitar style that merged Mississippi John Hurt blues with modal jazz harmony as well as melodic lyricism and cycling rhythms that suggested an ear for Indian, Asian, and African music. Twenty-seven albums later, Cockburn continues to redefine himself musically and is widely recognized for his compelling songwriting, innovative guitar playing, and social content of his songs.

Co-produced by Cockburn and Colin Linden and recorded in Toronto, Montreal, Nashville, and Los Angeles, “You’ve Never Seen Everything” features guest appearances from Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Sarah Harmer and Sam Phillips.

 
 

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