Sunday, March 27, 2011



With a career spanning more than forty years and a resume that includes 31 albums, Canadian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn (stop snickering adolescents, it's pronounced "Co-Burn") has quietly developed an enthusiastic international following and earned him appearances on Saturday Night Live, Live 8 and various Canadian television appearances.

Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn's first studio album in six years, is an evocative collection of tracks inspired by his unusual and diverse muse that boasts guest appearances by some of the best musicians recording today (violinist Jenny Scheinman, former Wailin Jenny Annabelle Chvostek) and producer Colin Linden.

As both a songwriter and a guitarist, Bruce Cockburn is considered among the world s best, and he has been called a virtuoso on guitar, placed in the esteemed company of Andrés Segovia, Bill Frisell and Django Reinhardt. His songs have been covered by such diverse and talented artists as Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, Anne Murray, Chet Atkins, k.d. lang, Barenaked Ladies, and Jerry Garcia.

While it may not be up to the level of his late seventies and eighties work, I am pleased to see Bruce returning to an acoustic sound with rich instrumentals, and lyrically not as dark and angry as some of his more recent works, but also somewhat less profound and spiritually thought provoking than the early days.

I normally do not do a track-by-track analysis, and will not here, but a few bear a mention. SSOC opens up with the catchy "Iris Of The World," an infectious song with great Bruce wordplay that echoes "How I Spent My Fall Vacation" from Humans, some three decades hence..

The second song, "Call Me Rose," is the single, written from the viewpoint of Richard Nixon who has been reincarnated in the body of a single mother living in the projects, that captures a feeling of resignation and perhaps even a chance at redemption.

The album closes with "Gifts," written in 1968, a short poem (perhaps prayer) set to music. Bruce's manager wanted him to record it for his first album, and Bruce said he would rather record it for his last.

Is this his last album?

Bruce is 66 years old, an age at which most other professions retire. He has certainly given us nine strong lyrical songs and five solid instrumentals, so the old dog has some new tricks left!

Bruce once said "Everything that exists in time runs out of time one day." If this his time has run out, he has certainly left behind a vast musical legacy.

I could not find any sound clips, except for the samples on Amazon here.


  1. Cockburn is one of my favorite singer/musician/songwriters--he would definitely rank in my top 5 and depending on my mood I would often put him #1. I discovered him back in the mid-80s when his stealing fire album came out and became fanatic about obtaining everything I could find by him. Since I don't keep up with music like I used to I was not aware of the release of this new album.
    Glad you appreciate this underappreciated artist.

    Tossing It Out
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  2. Lee-

    I remembered you liking Bruce from one of your lists last year.

    I first heard of him when "Wondering Where The Lions Are" came out, and they had "Humans" and "Resume" at my college radio station and I liked them both ("Resume" was a compilation of his earlier Canada-only albums).

    He's been pretty steadily releasing material and has built himself a pretty impressive catalog.