November 12, 2019
by J. Poet
Even after more than 40 years of making music, Bruce Cockburn is still able to surprise and delight the ear with his expressive playing and impressive fingerpicking.
This new, all-instrumental album features 11 compositions, recorded with a small group of sympathetic players. His eclectic interests in folk, jazz, rock and world music are on display here, presented in his usual understated style, emphasizing the melodies and shining a light on his often virtuosic playing.
The tunes have a cinematic air and, without lyrics, they invite you to wander freely through the terrain of your own emotions. “April in Memphis” is a slow, funereal waltz that commemorates the enduring spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Shimmering, descending runs slide into solemn bass notes that hang in the air like mournful angels, while chimes toll quietly in the background.
“Seven Daggers” is another melancholy track, with sustained notes from Cockburn’s 12-string drifting under a warm, bubbling, percussive interplay between kalimba, charango, dulcimer, bells, chimes and producer Colin Linden’s booming baritone guitar.
The deep bluesy sound of “The Groan,” is amplified with Cockburn’s bent notes and Linden’s somber mandolin supported by the grim rhythm of clapping hands.
Cockburn shows his lighter side on “Sweetness and Light,” a bright, melodic number that echoes its title, with lively bass notes and vibrant single-note runs.
He also takes some excursions with the jazzy “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz”—a showcase for Cockburn’s quiet electric guitar, the cornet of Ron Miles and the subtle rhythms of Roberto Occhipinti’s stand-up bass—and ”Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley,” a pastoral jaunt full of iridescent arpeggios and bright, droning dulcimer tones.