BRUCE COCKBURN – Bone On Bone (True North TND 678)

Bone On BoneHaving released twenty-four studio albums, starting with his self-titled 1970 debut, at almost yearly intervals, the acclaimed Canadian singers-songwriter found himself hitting a creative block following 2011’s Small Source of Comfort, partly from the distraction of becoming a father again and partly because he’d poured all his energy into penning his memoir, Rumours of Glory.

But then he was approached to contribute a song to a documentary about seminal Canadian poet Al Purdy, and the spark returned. The result of that commission can be heard on the rhythmically chugging ‘3 Al Purdys’, which, featuring trumpet maestro Ron Miles on cornet and Julie Wolf on accordion, is a song written and sung in the gravelly voice of a homeless man who recites Purdy’s poems in the street in return for money and features spoken extracts from Purdy’s works, but extends beyond that as a typical Cockburn social commentary.

The album opens with the smoulderingly taut ‘States I’m In’, which he describes as literally a ‘dark night of the soul’ song about illusion and self-delusion and the tricks you play on yourself as it moves from sunset to dawn with imagery such as that of a drunk shinnying up a greased pole and “the mayor and his uniformed monkeys.”

‘Stab At Matter’ features his signature bluesy fingerpicked style, producer Colin Linden providing slide with gospel call and response vocals from Ruby Amanfu and The San Francisco Lighthouse Chorus, the latter a group of singers from Cockburn’s church who also feature on the subsequent folksier ‘Forty Years In The Wilderness’, this time joined by Mary Gauthier on a song about faith and moving forward.

It’s back to the blues with ‘Café Society’, a drivealong almost rockabilly boogie with treated vocals about the folk who collect at his local coffee shop to chew over the state of the world, slowing the blues groove down for the circling riff of ‘Looking and Waiting’, one of his faith and frustration religious-themed numbers (“scanning the skies for beacon from you”) that sees him on 12 string and mbira, joined by nephew John on accordion and sansula, Linden on slide and the Lighthouse Chorus, this time with Brandon Robert Young.

Cockburn’s name is too often absent when lists of guitar greats are bandied about, but, featuring just his picking and bones the intricate instrumental ‘Bone On Bone’ shows just why it should be mentioned alongside the likes of Clapton, Thompson, Gregson et al.

Its back to vocals for ‘Mon Chemin’ (aka ‘The Road’), accompanying himself on charango and dulcimer and singing (and swearing) in French for a meditation on a physical and existential life on the road that sees Miles providing some striking cornet cork. Bringing back nephew, Linden, Young and the Chorus, ‘False River’ started out as another commission, this time from Victoria poet laureate Yvonne Bloomer who wanted him to pen a spoken word piece about the Kinder Morgan Mountain Pipeline, the controversial pipeline which, built in 1953, carries crude oil from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia and is the reported source of considerable environmental damage. The final form, however, is a complex rhythmically itchy fingerpicked brooding number with lines about tanker carcasses the planet’s pierced bones and even “a diamond-crusted pendant in the shape of Bart Simpson” in what emerges as a potent environmental warning that “on our own heads be our doom.”

As the title suggests, ‘Jesus Train’ is very much in Cockburn’s gospel mode, a relentless wheels turning chugger about heading for the city of God and marking another spirited turn for Amanfu and the Chorus. Continuing with the spiritual and mysticism themes given a sense of greater urgency in the Trump era, they also line up for ‘Twelve Gates To The City’, a 12 string fingerpicked gospel blues that sees Miles adding New Orleansy jazzed brass flourishes as drummer Gary Craig pins down the persistent rhythmic drive that sees the album out in fine style. The creative drought has given way to a virtual monsoon, so perhaps, following his long overdue induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, we can look forward to a follow up in the not too distant future.

Mike Davies

‘States I’m In’:

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Artist’s website: www.brucecockburn.com

Bruce Cockburn announces thirty-third album: Bone On Bone

Bruce Cockburn

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

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

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

Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble – Rise

Annabelle Chvostek RiseRise, is a rousing celebration of recent grassroots uprisings in Canada and around the world – complete with casseroles, a “peoples’ chorus” and a cover of Peter Tosh’s ‘Equal Rights’.

Annabelle Chvostek is a Montreal artist, who went on to write chart-topping roots songs and play New York’s Town Hall as a member of the Wailin’ Jennys. , Chvostek now shows off a whole other side of her musical personality on Rise as compared to 2008’s Resilience – the album that introduced her fearless innovation and beguiling indie folk sound to a massive, post-Jennys audience.

Where Resilience was a plaintive album that showcased Chvostek’s originality in contemplating matters of the heart, Rise is joyful, anthemic, and unabashedly political, revealing Chvostek’s passion for social justice work and musical activism. Call it protest music for the indie generation or a soundtrack for the Maple Spring.

Annabelle Chvostek – G20 Song from Beehive Productions on Vimeo.

‘End of the Road’, is a veritable block party of an opening track that conveys Chvostek’s glee at seeing thousands of people finally rising against injustice. ‘Rise’ is a soaring, heartfelt call to arms to defend an abandoned meadow in Montreal’s Mile End – a privately-owned but publicly-claimed gathering place where locals have taken up “guerilla gardening” and graffiti artists have made a canvas of nearby concrete. ‘Do You Think You’re Right’ is a response to the documentary Jesus Camp that may never have made the album if not for Bruce Cockburn. And ‘G20 Song’ is a seething chronicle of events that welcomed Chvostek home to Toronto when she moved back from Montreal in 2010. The Eastern European “vibe” – which turns up on several tracks on the album – is inspired by Chvostek’s work on the soundtrack forTransition, Tamara Vukov’s documentary about factory workers in post-war Serbia.

Of course, not all the numbers on Rise have explicit activist undertones. Some celebrate simpler pleasures than the electrifying spirit of street protest. ‘Ona (In Toronto I Get More Hugs, In Montreal I Get More Kisses)’, for example, is a quirky, uplifting, and lovable little ditty, feting the differences between Montreal, Toronto and New York.

Rise was produced by ex-Rheostatic Don Kerr and mixed by New York-based Grammy and Oscar nominee (and ex-pat Montrealer) Roma Baran, along with her studio partner, Viv Stoll. It features guest vocals by Cockburn and Oh Susanna, guitars by David Celia, and percussion by Debashis Sinha of Autorickshaw and Minor Empire. Chvostek herself plays a lot of mandolin and fiddle on the album, often drawing driving, pulsating backdrops from these frequently-sweet-sounding strings.

Artist web link: www.annabellemusic.com

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Martyn Joseph – Songs For The Coming Home – reviewed by Trish Roberts

After 30 plus years of making music you would be forgiven for thinking an artist would plateau at some point, happy to remain within familiar boundaries of the singer/songwriter, the man, voice and guitar. However , that is most assuredly not the case here !. Whatever preconceptions there are of what to expect ignore them, they will be way off the mark; I know mine were.

This is Martyn as people know him, never shy of confronting subjects as only he knows how to. On this creation we have Continue reading Martyn Joseph – Songs For The Coming Home – reviewed by Trish Roberts

BRUCE COCKBURN – Small Source of Comfort

Bruce Cockburn has always been a restless spirit. Over the course of four decades, the celebrated Canadian artist has traveled to the corners of the earth out of humanitarian concerns – often to trouble spots experiencing events that have led to some of his most memorable songs. Going up against chaos, even if it involves grave risks, can be necessary to get closer to the truth.

“My mother once said that I must have a death wish, always going to what she called ‘those awful places,’” laughs Cockburn. “I don’t think of it that way. I make these trips partly because I want to see things for myself and partly out of my own sense of adventure.”

Released in April 2011, Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. Winning this year’s Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album, and his 12th Juno Award to date, the album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience.

Bruce Cockburn’s songs, along with his humanitarian work, have brought him a long list of honours, including an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and several international awards. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year, the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn’s extensive songbook with a tribute concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti, folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin’ Jennys.

Never content to rest on his laurels, Cockburn keeps looking ahead. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next”, he once said. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stopped working till they dropped, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.” Small Source of Comfort, a reflection of Cockburn’s ever-expanding world of wonders, is the latest step in his creative evolution.

With a career spanning more than four decades, producing an acclaimed body of work that has sold over 2 million copies worldwide, Bruce Cockburn continues to be revered by fans and fellow musicians alike as one of the most important songwriters of his generation.

Small Source of Comfort is Cockburn’s first studio album since 2006 – a rhythmic and highly evocative collection of 14 new tracks inspired by his renowned unusual and diverse muse – recent trips to Afghanistan and ponderings on the re-incarnation of Richard Nixon, to road trips and unreturned phone calls. The album boasts some of the best musicians recording today, including violinist Jenny Scheinman, former Wailin’ Jenny Annabelle Chvostek, and long time collaborators Gary Craig, Jon Dymond and producer Colin Linden.

As both a songwriter and a guitarist, Bruce Cockburn is considered among the world’s best. The New York Times called him a “virtuoso on guitar”, while Acoustic Guitar magazine placed him in the esteemed company of Andrés Segovia, Bill Frisell and Django Reinhardt.

Cockburn’s songs have been covered by such diverse and talented artists as Elbow, Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, Anne Murray, Chet Atkins, K.D. Lang, Barenaked Ladies, and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia.

Artist web link: www.brucecockburn.com

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.