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

Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love (Proper PRPCD123P)

gauthierGauthier’s seventh studio album, her first in four years, finds her stepping outside of the major label model to take control of the business on her own terms. As such, she declares that taking back and reclaiming her power is an underlying theme to both the album and her life, a significant statement given that it also comes on the back of the collapse of a two year relationship.

To which end, the album opens on an unambiguous note with the swampy blues ‘When A Woman Goes Cold’, a lyric about love’s dying embers with Gauthier drawling out the lines “She’d curse my name like she did before, but she looks through me like I’m not there.” with all the pain that being scorned can inflict. The theme continues on the more countrified weariness of ‘False From True’, a co-write with Beth Nielsen Chapman (who also provides harmonies) where she sings “a stranger showed up in your eyes, hard as steel, cold as ice, I tried and tried but I could not break through.”, a track you could hear Willie Nelson performing.

The album’s six minute title track follows on, a melancholic road song full of “rumble strips, red lights…lonely travellers and cheap motel art”, a blizzard blowing though both the air and her heart, albeit to the sound of a gorgeous guitar break by Guthrie Trapp.
Continue reading Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love (Proper PRPCD123P)

Tompkins Square Release ‘Live At Caffè Lena : Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013,’ 3CD Box Set

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47 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED TRACKS from DAVE VAN RONK, SLEEPY JOHN ESTES, KATE McGARRIGLE, RICK DANKO, RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT, TIFT MERRITT . . .

Nestled in the quaint upstate town of Saratoga Springs, New York is Caffè Lena, the oldest continuously operating folk music coffeehouse in the US. Opened by Lena Spencer in 1960, this tiny room has played host to influential artists across diverse genres of music; traditional folk, blues, singer-songwriters, jazz and bluegrass. Luckily, many performances were caught on tape through the years, offering the listener a thrilling seat inside this hallowed venue. ‘Live At Caffè Lena’, a 3-CD box set, the result of years of investigative research, contains 47 tracks, all released for the very first time, alongside previously unpublished photographs. Images include selections from the archive of esteemed photographer Joe Alper, who captured many iconic, intimate portraits from the folk era of the 1960s. Continue reading Tompkins Square Release ‘Live At Caffè Lena : Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013,’ 3CD Box Set

Ben Glover's New Album – Do We Burn The Boats is now out…

Recorded in the heart of Nashville, the album was produced by Neilson Hubbard (Kim Richey, Glen Phillips, Garrison Starr) and features a track (Rampart Street) co written by seasoned folk songstress Mary Gauthier (who we featured very recently on folking.com)

“I intended to record just five songs for an EP, but after three days in the studio we all felt that there was a momentum happening that we couldn’t ignore. So we decided to go full steam ahead and cut ten songs and make an album,” says Glover. “It all happened very quickly and organically, but I’ve learned that sometimes the creative process takes on a life of its own and when it does it’s best to follow it’s direction.” Continue reading Ben Glover's New Album – Do We Burn The Boats is now out…

Mary Gauthier – LIVE AT BLUE ROCK

After twelve years of relentlessly touring the world with her acoustic guitar and harmonica, singing on stages large, small and in between, Mary Gauthier is proud to announce the release of her first live recording.

Recorded with a small band at the very highest level at the incredible Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio just outside of Austin, Texas, Mary Gauthier LIVE at Blue Rock is an emotional evening of songs from an artist who has put in her ten thousand hours and mastered her craft. This recording is the culmination of a lifetime of Mary’s passion for story songs and tales that speak to the heart of the human condition. Many of the characters she sings about are hard hit, wounded and wandering outcasts – people whose lives have been scarred with blows so unexpected and traumatic that they were knocked into another place, a place unfamiliar – a place where transformation can happen. Continue reading Mary Gauthier – LIVE AT BLUE ROCK