Bruce Cockburn - March 2019 - Firehouse SF - keebler
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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


Acoustic Classic: Bruce Cockburn’s ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’

In 1984, Bruce Cockburn scored an unlikely pop hit with “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” which describes the Canadian singer-songwriter’s fantasies of violent retribution following a visit to a Guatemalan refugee camp that was regularly shelled by government helicopters. Cockburn originally recorded the song in a rock-band setting, flush with electric guitars and synths, but when he stopped by AG’s studios to film a private lesson last spring (see “Band in a Box” on page 20 of the print/digital edition), he stripped the song down to just guitar and voice.

Bruce Cockburn - Acoustic Guitar Magazine cover Sept-Oct 2019 edition

The transcription on the following pages captures that performance note for note. At a glance, the notation might appear dense and complex, but you can make things easier on yourself if you break the song down and approach it systematically. You could play the first ten bars of the intro exactly as written, but it would be equally effective to improvise the natural harmonics. What’s most important here is the continuous eighth-note stream of open E notes—play them as firmly and evenly as possible, using palm muting if you’d like.

The heart of the song appears in bars 11–14. Riff A is the harmonic sequence for the subsequent verses and guitar solo, so be sure to spend plenty of time learning to play it with precision. In bars 11 and 13, maintain a barre across strings 3–5 at the seventh fret; grab the ninth-fret B and E with your third and fourth finger, respectively, or barre them both with either of those fingers. For the C6/9 chord in measures 12 and 14, keep your second finger stationed on the eighth-fret C and your first finger barred at the seventh fret, while stopping the tenth-fret G with your fourth finger.

In his off-the-cuff-feeling solo, starting at bar 45, Cockburn continues the eighth-note bass action established in the intro, above which he adds lines based mostly on 16th notes. Key to playing an effective solo here isn’t necessarily playing exactly what’s on the printed page but understanding how it works. The solo might sound intricate, but Cockburn is simply playing notes from the E natural minor scale (E F# G A B C D) entirely in seventh position—notes within easy reach of the chord shapes in the main riff. (For the lowdown on soloing with chord shapes, see Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ Weekly Workouts in the June 2017 and March 2018 issues of AG.) Be sure to put in the time studying this approach, as it will pay dividends for you in solo-guitar settings in general.

~from Acoustic Guitar.

Find this article and lots more in the September-October Editon of Acoustic Guitar Magazine.

Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the September/October 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 60.

Direct Link: Acoustic Classic: Bruce Cockburn’s ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’



Video Lesson: Bruce Cockburn Teaches His Sophisticated Guitar Style

Acoustic Guitar Magazine – BY JEFFREY PEPPER RODGERS

19 July 2019 – Over a career spanning five decades, Bruce Cockburn has traversed an extraordinarily wide landscape on the guitar, from fingerstyle folk, country blues, and gospel to edgy rock and exploratory jazz—all in the service of his songwriting muse. What’s even more remarkable is that he’s done all this not just as a bandleader but also as a solo acoustic performer. In Cockburn’s hands, the guitar becomes a true band in a box, delivering powerful grooves, riffs, melodies, harmonized lines, and improvised solos in real time.

direct link – Video: Lessons

And at 74, Cockburn is certainly not done exploring the instrument, as is obvious from a spin of Crowing Ignites, his 34th album and first-ever collection of all new instrumentals (2005’s Speechless compiled previously released instrumentals along with a few new tracks). The title Crowing Ignites is a rough translation of “Accendit Cantu,” which adorns the old Cockburn family crest. As does so much of his music, the album ranges across folk, blues, jazz, and shades in between, with virtuosic playing primarily on six-string, 12-string, and baritone acoustics.

Bruce Cockburn - Acoustic Guitar Magazine cover Issue Sept-Oct 2019

Getting a handle on Cockburn’s multilayered guitar style isn’t easy, even for Cockburn himself. “I don’t think about how I do it—I just do it,” he says on the phone from his home in San Francisco. “But it’s actually quite interesting to try and make it into something communicable.” That is exactly what Cockburn accomplishes in this lesson: He breaks down the key components of his style and demonstrates them through a series of examples drawn from his songs.

Below, you can learn the core guitar parts from some of Cockburn’s best-known songs, such as “Wondering Where the Lions Are” and “Pacing the Cage,” as well as other gems from across his career. At acousticguitar.com, you can not only check out the video of Cockburn sharing excerpts from these songs, but you can see him perform a complete version of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” (transcribed on page 60 of the print/digital issue) as well as two instrumentals from Crowing Ignites. The result is perhaps the closest and clearest view ever of this guitar master at work.


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