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BRUCE COCKBURN > Articles by: adminsuper

Bruce Cockburn: The Roots Music Canada interview

by Ted Ferris – October 2, 2019

Bruce Cockburn’s 34th studio album, Crowing Ignites, was released on Friday, Sept. 20 on True North Records. The instrumental album contains 11 original songs and was produced, recorded and mixed by Bruce’s long-time confidant, Colin Linden. The album was recorded in a former fire hall located just a few blocks from Bruce’s home in San Francisco.

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Bruce about his latest album, the upcoming North American tour, and what comes next for a guitar legend.

Ted: The liner notes explain that the title, Crowing Ignites, was translated from Accendit Cantu, a Latin phrase that appears on the Cockburn family crest. I’m curious to know whether you’ve always been aware of this part of your family history or was this a more recent discovery?

Bruce: Not exactly recent, but it doesn’t go all the way back either. I’ve always been aware of, and always felt kind of connected to, my Scottish ancestry, but I had not ever particularly researched the family history. My Dad did that in the ’70s and ’80s … but I think it was actually my brother who came up with the family coat of arms with that motto on it. It was initially translated as music excites, which I thought was very exciting, and so does he, because what more appropriate (laughs) family motto could I have? But later on I came across other versions of it that weren’t – it was clear that none of these were actually translations. So I actually just went back and translated the Latin, and it came up “crowing ignites,” which I thought had a much better ring to it than the other versions in English. [It’s] just a strong poetic phrase. As far as the ancestry side goes, my Dad actually put it together in a kind of self-published book. He’s the one that did that work; not me. But the connection to Scotland has always been there and remains. It was in the ’90s when we discovered that motto, but the translation was only this year … I was looking at that Latin phrase and thinking … “It doesn’t say ‘music excites,’ and it doesn’t say ‘he arouses by crowing,’ and it doesn’t say a couple other things that people claimed it said. So I got excited and went after it and translated it. And then when I discovered what it really said, I got much more excited … Then my wife said, “You gotta use that for your album title.” So I did.

Ted: Was the concept for Crowing Ignites being an instrumental album in place before the selection of the album title?

Bruce: Oh yeah. It’s not a concept album other than the fact that it’s all instrumental, and that was the intention to do that. Instrumental music, for me at least, isn’t really about anything in particular. It’s about itself … It exists, and it has the capacity to touch you in whatever way it does, and that’s it. … Pieces get titles because you have to call them something, and sometimes you get lucky and think of a title that really fits the piece. Sometimes the titles are obvious right away, and other times you have to struggle with it for a while. But in terms of the album as a whole, the plan was to initially to make a Speechless Two. We were going to collect the various previously released instrumental pieces that weren’t on Speechless and then add some new pieces to that and basically do the same thing we’d previously done ’cause there seemed to be some interest on people’s part on having that, and it appealed to me. But then I started writing pieces, and they just kept coming. So it became Crowing Ignites instead of Speechless Two.

Ted: You recorded the album in a former fire hall in San Francisco. Did you encounter any challenges converting the space into a functioning recording studio? From the photos that I’ve seen online, it looked like there were several hard surfaces you may have had to contend with.

Bruce: No, actually, far from it. It was the easiest thing. Kind of the most hassle-free recording I think I’ve ever done. … The room sounds great as it is. It’s true when you look at pictures you see a cement wall, but the cement wall is very heavily textured so it doesn’t reflect the sound … at all. And there’s a lot of wood in the room, so it really sounded nice. I had heard music in there before, and so I knew that it sounded like it did, and it just seemed like the combination of that and its proximity to where I live and my daughter’s school and so on it made it very convenient. My friend, who owned the place, was very happy to let us use it. Colin … went out and rounded up the gear and brought it in and set it up. It didn’t take much. It came in suitcases and it set up on a table, and there it was. I brought in all my stuff that you can see in the pictures: chimes and Tibetan singing bowls and all sorts of things with strings on them, and then we just – we spent a great week making a record.

Ted: While it sounds like the studio came together quite well, did any particular song present any unique challenges? I understand that “Seven Daggers” and “Bells Of Gethsemane” were constructed in the studio, and you used a vast assortment of unique instruments on each song. Did you have any difficulty putting them together, micing and recording them?

Bruce: Well, … not beyond what you’d expect. Let’s put it that way. I mean, everything’s a challenge. You’ve got to get it right, but there [were] no real difficulties at all. The most complicated one is “Seven Daggers.” We constructed that one and “Bells of Gethsemane,” as you pointed out … in the studio. All the other pieces, I knew what I was going to do when I went into the studio. But with those pieces, all I knew was that I had an idea for certain kinds of layering that I wanted to do. In the case of “Seven Daggers,” I wanted to use little kalimba things that I have, and the charango. … The charango can be tuned so it will play in A minor with the kalimbas. So we created loops out of those and made a layer out of that and then just started adding things to it. [Then] Colin put on the baritone guitar part, and I played the 12-string over top. That was the most elaborate of the constructions. “Bells of Gethsemane,” I just put down a layer of singing bowls and then another layer of singing bowls and then a layer of chimes and some other stuff and just played over top, playing the baritone myself on that one. So I wouldn’t call them challenging. There’s a process, but the only real challenging part, which is always there, is to get past the conditions of the day … How tired are you? Or how imaginative do you feel at this moment? … Those kinds of things. But that’s always there.

Ted: I recognized a few of the musicians that perform on Crowing Ignites. However, one name that I didn’t recognize was Bo Carper’s. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about him.

Bruce: Bo Carper is a guitar player that I’m acquainted with here in San Francisco – a very good guitar player actually. We met at a social gathering, and we ended up jamming together, so that’s how I found out what kind of guitar player he is. Because I don’t really know many people in the music scene here, I [contacted] him and asked him if he knew any percussionists, because I was interested in having somebody play percussion on some of the pieces. He gave me a couple of names. … One I didn’t get a hold of, and the other one … was already booked for the time period that we needed him for. So that didn’t pan out … I let Bo know that, and he said, “Well you know I’m a really great shaker player.” I had never heard anyone say that about themselves before, so I immediately perked up. And so he came in and played shaker. I thought this will be fun to try, or whatever. It’s not what I was exactly looking for, but it might work really well. And I think it does, and I think he did a fantastic job. A couple of the pieces we played live together, and then a couple of them he did as overdubs. Colin was involved in every aspect of the album, and he plays on the aforementioned “Seven Daggers” and also on “Blind Willie,” putting a great slide guitar part on that. And then Janice Powers, Colin’s wife, plays keyboards, as she’s done a lot of times before for me on other albums. She’s really great at coming up with these atmospheric keyboard kind of landscapy parts that I think contributed greatly to the overall effect of things.

Ted: Another person listed on one of the tracks is your daughter, Iona. What was it like including her in the recording of the album?

Bruce: It was fun. She got to clap along, and she was excited to be able to go in studio and clap her hands. I don’t know if it’ll mean too much to her in the long run, but it was fun at the time.

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Crowing Ignites – Review by Folking

by Mike Wistow

BRUCE COCKBURN – Crowing Ignites (True North Records TND 737)

Bruce Cockburn, legendary Canadian artist, released Crowing Ignites on September 20th. This is Cockburn’s 34th album and is made up of eleven new compositions – unusually, all instrumental. In 2005, Cockburn released a previous all-instrumental album, Speechless, which earned him a Canadian folk Music award for Best Instrumentalist. I’ve just re-listened to it – I prefer Crowing Ignites, which tells you how good I think this is.

I approached this review with some trepidation – how do you describe the mountain tops of guitar playing when you’re barely in the foothills? It was pointed out to me that, in comparison to Cockburn’s finger picking style, most of us are in the foothills and I really should just get on with it. Here goes.

The video linked below shows Cockburn playing ‘Bardo Rush’, the opening track off the album. The New York Times has described him as having “the hardest working right thumb in show business”; you can see – more importantly, hear – from the video that, true as that may be, the rest of the digits are pretty hard working as well. On first listen I was wondering if there were two guitars at places; as you can see there’s one and the thumb drives the rhythm over a melody, part picked, part strummed and so smoothly played that you can only watch in awe while the tune pulls your emotions into a slightly uncertain location while the rhythm holds them reassuringly stable.

The album moves on to ‘Easter’, more relaxing, written on Easter Sunday, beginning with a mood of calm joy, bringing you home to an easy place – before it leaps into more energetic musical celebration. ‘April In Memphis’ (written on Martin Luther King Day and named for the day/month and city he was shot) is emotionally similar, but finishes with the haunting hint of chimes we’ll hear later on the album.

The style changes a little for ‘Blind Willie’, guitar and dobro swapping notes on a track named after the gospel blues player Blind Willie Johnson. ‘Seven Daggers’ moves the sound again, this time to a more spiritual feel, not least because of the way the guitar plays against the kalimba. ‘The Mt Lefroy Waltz’ is smooth jazz.

‘Sweetness and Light’ is a jauntily finger-picked tune, while ‘Angels In The Half Light’ which follows it is more emotionally mixed (as you might surmise from the title), that driving thumb again, deep notes, bent in places, and fighting with the higher pitched cheeriness – which never quite wins the tune and thus leaves an uncertain equilibrium. ‘The Groan’ is a return to a more bluesy, hand-clapped style – the title presumably because it was written about the aftermath of a school shooting.

The penultimate ‘Pibroch: The Wind In The Valley’ makes the guitar sound like highland bagpipe – Cockburn is Canadian but there is Scottish heritage and he has said “I’ve always loved pibroch, or classic bagpipe music, it seems to be in my blood. Makes me want to sip whiskey out of a seashell on some rocky headland”. ‘Bells of Gethsemane’ closes the album, more than seven minutes long, holding the attention, some guitar work which touches on Scottish styles, blues styles, echoing lead acoustic and all set against Tibetan symbols, chimes and singing bowls. It works. Give it a listen.

Cockburn has noted of this album: “It’s different from songs with lyrics……with instrumental stuff, that specificity isn’t there and the meaning is up for grabs. But I’m glad if people find a message in the music”. There are complexities in using the medium of words to capture the medium of sound, particularly for an instrumental album where we will each hear it differently so I’ll conclude by simply saying that, for all the different styles I’ve referred to above, this is less an album with eleven tracks and more a piece with different movements.

True North Records TND 737

Credit: Folking.com


Bruce Cockburn on his lyric-less new album, Crowing Ignites

CBC Radio · Posted: Sep 23, 2019

One of Canada’s finest lyricists has decided to lose the words — at least for the moment.

Bruce Cockburn’s new album, Crowing Ignites, is his second foray into instrumental music. Instead of lyrics, Cockburn’s deft and soulful guitar playing takes centre stage. He dropped by the q studio to perform songs from the new album, including a duet with our own Tom Power.

Credit: CBC Radio q


Interview: Bruce Cockburn on “Crowing Ignites,” Meeting Jerry Garcia, and ‘Little Ass’ Bells

September 17, 2019 – Melissa Clarke

Americana Highways recently spoke with Bruce Cockburn about his new instrumental album, Crowing Ignites, due to be released September 20th. Here is what transpired.

Bruce Cockburn - 2019 - photo Daniel Keebler

AH: The title of the album is Crowing Ignites. Tell us the story behind this title!

BC: My brother discovered that the Cockburn family motto as part of the coat of arms is “Accendit Cantu” which is a Latin phrase. We were all excited because it was translated for us as “Music Excites” which seemed like a really fortuituous circumstance, especially for somebody like me. But awhile later I was looking up information on the family and it was translated differenty; it was translated as “He Arouses Us By Crowing” and there were some other variations, so finally I looked it up myself, and translated it myself and it came out “Crowing Ignites”! And it was such a punchy phrase it was exciting. My wife suggested I use it for my album title and I thought “yes I should”!

AH: This album is instrumental, as was your earlier album Speechless. In the absence of spoken human language, what does music, on its own, convey?

BC: It’s unusual for music without a lyrical content attached to it to convey a specific idea. But it certainly carries feelings. And it contains the capacity, depending on how the listener approaches it, to transport the listener to a place of their choosing. If I listen to mournful sounding Baroque pieces, for instance, I get a tremendously wistful peacefulness from that music. And there’s music that gets you all fired up and other music that makes you uncomfortable and so on. So it has that capacity as well.

In making music, basically what you hope for is that a listener will get out of it what you put into it, but there are of course no guarantees there. Fundamentally everyone experiences any kind of art through their own filter, and they are going to bring their own understanding of how it fits into their lives to the picture.

You can steer them by your title. But even there, does “Sweetness and Light” mean the same thing to me as it does to everybody out there? Probably not. So you’re always at the mercy of that subjectivity. But that’s both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand you can be specific about what you want to say but on the other hand there is still a universality to the absence of words because nobody has to get stuck on language, which can be another source of various interpretation. And then half the time people don’t understand the words anyway either.

AH: The song “Seven Daggers” has these wonderful layers, and different world instruments. I wasn’t even sure what one of the was when I saw the instrument list. How did you come to choose them?

BC: It was constructed in the studio. As is the pattern for me, I generally don’t go into the studio to make an album until I know what’s going to be on the album. For this album this was the case, but there were two songs, and this was one of them, that existed in my mind as a concept and had to be developed in the studio, because it was all about the layers.

I had this charango. A charango is a stringed instrument that is a little bit like a mandolin but is native to the Andes region of South America. You’ll hear Bolivian street bands in Europe playing it. I came across this in Chile in the early ‘80s, and I had one and I got another one, and now I have a solid body electric charango which I got in the late 80s that was made by Linda Manzer whose guitars I also play a lot. It’s traditionally tuned to an open A minor 7 chord. And so I thought I also have this sansula, which is kind of like an African thumb piano, and this is a particularly nice version of that with a skin head and it plays so nicely. And its tuned to A minor.

So I had these two instruments that are built to play in A minor, and I thought I can make a pattern here, there’s a piece here. So that’s how it started. And there’s another African instrument in there too, the kalimba.

AH: What about the “little ass bells” you credit in the liner notes? How little are they?

BC: They are quite small! (laughs) Those are a variation of the Indian cowbells you see around in yuppie gift stores sometimes. There was a store in Vermont where I spent a lot of time. This particular store had an incredible array of these bells. The buyer for the store had gone out of her way to get really nice sounding ones, they weren’t clunky at all. These are not tuned in a Western way but they have a really pretty sound to them. So I bought all of them! One of each of the different pitches. Some of them were actually quite large, they were practically a foot long and a few inches around and others that were tiny. I bought a whole selection. And I strung the tiny ones on a metal rod, and you can shake them that way, and that’s what you hear on the record. There are ten of them strung on this thing and they work in a way like sleigh bells, except they don’t sound anything like sleigh bells. They are much prettier.



Bruce Cockburn CROWING IGNITES A Guitar Masterclass That Defies Description

The Rocking Magpie

9 September 2019 – Release date: September 20, 2019 – True North Records

There are quite a few ‘instrumental albums’ in my collection; predominantly of the Jazz persuasion, but one or two Delta Blues ones for good measure (one has 17 harmonica tracks on it!) plus a couple of ‘Experimental’ type things from Mahavishnu Orchestra among others; but nothing in the Folk idiom.

I say ‘Folk’; but that moniker doesn’t do justice to what Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has created here alongside a handful of friends.

The quality throughout Bruce Cockburn’s 34th album CROWING IGNITES (and second one of instrumentals!!) is of such a high standard I don’t want to just call them ‘tracks’ …… how about opuses?

The first of these ‘opuses’ is Bardo Rush and I was left spellbound the first time I played it; and again tonight Cockburn’s dazzling fretwork is almost peerless in the musical world I inhabit.

Okay; this was all recorded in a studio; with plenty of time for Take 2’s; but the playing on each and every track is absolutely flawless and, it has to be said exemplary too.

There are flourishes in Easter and The Groan* that will send a shiver down your spine as your lips break into a stupendous grin; such is the way Cockburn delivers a Masterclass in Acoustic Guitar playing.

Perhaps what has impressed me most here is that Bruce Cockburn manages to create music that could and should be in very different genres; but somehow manages to make the intriguing Jazz opuses Angels in the Half Light and The Mt. Lefroy Waltz sit comfortably alongside the delightful Ragtime ditty Sweetness & Light; a raw Blues tune like Blind Willie and the transcendental (?) Seven Daggers and make them all sound cohesive. What a rare talent this man really is.

Selecting a single Favorite Track (or should that be opus?) is almost futile; but then again two tunes really do manage to stand out here. April in Memphis is quite staggering in its very own rite; with Cockburn playing his guitar in an almost Classical fashion; and then I read that it was written on MLK Day 2019 and is dedicated to Dr. King; my heart skipped a beat.

The other is also a tad on the Classical side; but with a dramatic Celtic spine too, which combines to make Pibroch, The Wind In The Valley quite remarkable in many ways; which is why it’s probably taking the accolade.

For an album as beautiful as this, there were very few people involved in the making; all of whom; including Iona Cockburn; 7 year old daughter of Bruce who helped supply handclaps on The Groan; deserve a huge round of applause for creating such a magical and majestic body of work; that will certainly stand the test of time.

Released September 20th 2019

Credit: The Rocking Magpie


Bruce Cockburn Nods to Scottish Heritage With ‘Pibroch: The Wind In the Valley’: Premiere

8/26/2019 by Gary Graff

A funny thing happened to Bruce Cockburn as he started making his new album Crowing Ignites — whose track “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley” is premiering exclusively below.

The all-instrumental acoustic album was designed to be a Speechless II, a sequel to his 2005 instrumental set Speechless, again compiling instrumental tracks from his albums with a few new compositions. “I set about looking for ideas for new material and ended up with so much of it that (Crowing Ignites) became its own album,” Cockburn tells Billboard. “I wasn’t expecting to come up with so much (new) stuff. The ideas just kept coming. So it’s not Speechless II. It’s its own thing entirely.”

The new 11-track set, recorded in San Francisco, where the Canadian-born Cockburn now resides, and produced by Colin Linden, is titled after the translation of the Latin motto ‘Accendit Cantu’ that appears on the Cockburn family crest. It is, of course, markedly different than Cockburn’s more traditional song-oriented releases, but he says the process is “equally enjoyable.” “The big difference is the obvious one — there are no lyrics,” Cockburn explains. “The way I write songs, the lyrics generally come first, and then it becomes a question of finding the right music to carry those lyrics. With instrumental pieces it’s more like, ‘Here’s an interesting riff on the guitar’ and that suggests something else and it grows from there. It’s a bit like scoring a film; You’ve got images, ideas, characters that need to be supported by the music but not overpowered by it. It’s considerably freer.”


Video Premiere: Bruce Cockburn’s Slideshow “Sweetness and Light”

20 August 2019 – AmericanaHighways.org by Melissa Clarke

Americana Highways brings you this exclusive premiere watch of Bruce Cockburn’s slideshow video with his new song “Sweetness and Light.” This song is from his forthcoming instrumental album Crowing Ignites, which was produced by Colin Linden and is due out September 20 on True North Records.

So often people focus on “lyrics first,” but this album focuses on music and musicianship, and accompanied by Cockburn’s exquisite acoustic fingerwork, it demonstrates the depth at which music, alone, can touch the human heart. Crowing Ignites exhibits Cockburn’s adept acoustic fingerpicking acumen, on a collection of songs that are introspective complements to his Celtic and world music inspirations. “Sweetness and Light” is loyal to its title, and will bring you exactly what you need in your day.

“There I am at home, practicing, exploring, with the guitar in DADGAD, a tuning I’ve been playing around with for a while now, and I think, ‘What if I move my left-hand fingers this way? And then that way?’ Suddenly there’s the beginning of a new piece. It more or less wrote itself over the next hour. It wanted to be called ‘Sweetness and Light,’ and so it was.” –Bruce Cockburn

Order the album here: https://smarturl.it/crowing-ignites

Video by True North Records, Photography by Daniel Keebler

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Bruce Cockburn on His New Album & Accidental Career

Mike Raine, of Canadian Musician Magazine, interviewed Bruce in Toronto on July 16, 2019

31 July 2019 – “I’ve never thought in terms of a ‘career.’ I’m uncomfortable with the word. I don’t use it because I’ve never approached what I do that way.”

One of the greatest Canadian songwriters of the last five decades, Bruce Cockburn, joins us on this week’s podcast. An inductee into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and member of the Order of Canada, Bruce is about to release his 34th (!) album, which is an all-instrumental collection entitled Crowing Ignites. In this wide-ranging conversation, Mike and Bruce chat about his earliest years as a songwriter and performer in Massachusetts and Ottawa, the first song he wrote that he knew was good, the generational crossover in his audience, his friendships and partnerships with his long-time producer Colin Linden and manager Bernie Finkelstein, songwriting (of course), and a bunch more.

~from Podcast – canadianmusicianpodcast.com – episode 326.


Watch Moving Animated Video for Bruce Cockburn’s MLK-Inspired “April in Memphis”

Back in 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, an album of all-instrumentals that focused on his acoustic guitar playing. That record not only gained him further renown for his picking but earned him a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist. On September 20 True North Records will issue Crowing Ignites, which presents Cockburn in a similar setting once again. Unlike Speechless, which drew on previously-recorded compositions, Crowing Ignites presents 11 new songs.

Bruce Cockburn's Crowing Ignites album cover

This is Cockburn’s 34th record and once again, he deftly blends folk, blues, jazz and world sounds. Today we premiere a new animated video for “April in Memphis,” which Cockburn explains he wrote in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated outside The Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Cockburn tells Relix, “The piece came into being on MLK Day 2019. It pretty much formed itself in the course of a practice session. It took the shape of a lament, more than a celebration, which set me to thinking of King’s murder, and the loss of a voice of wisdom, compassion and respect that we could really use about now. Hence, the title. I think the video conveys the right sense of the poignant beauty, of the dignity, of the man and the spirituality that fueled him.”

Cockburn will support Crowing Ignites, which is now available for pre-order, on a U.S. tour, with with these dates. You can also click here for our conversation with him, following the release of his autobiography, Rumours of Glory.


Source: Relix.com


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