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Bruce Cockburn - Bone on Bone

  by Stephen Simkin

published: 2 / 10 / 2017

Bruce Cockburn - Bone on Bone
Label: True North Records
Format: CD


Lyrical, politically-conscious first album in six years from much acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn

My first encounter with Bruce Cockburn’s music was via his classic song ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’. While I have kept half an eye on his career since then, I had lost track of him more recently. This, I now understand, is due to the fact that it is six years since his last album, 'Small Source of Comfort'. Since then, Cockburn has published a memoir, 'Rumours of Glory' (2014), but not released any new music. 'Bone on Bone' marks a welcome return, then, for a talented singer-songwriter who has chronicled social and political change, as well as mapping a personal and spiritual evolution over the years, with a rare degree of insight and honesty. An early highlight is the beautiful, gentle, finger-picked ‘Forty Years in the Wilderness’. Picking up the pace and sliding up the faders on the volume are songs like ‘Jesus Train’ and the raucous, gospel-tinged ‘Stab at Matter’. These songs feature a group of backing singers referred to as the San Francisco Lighthouse Chorus, named after the church to which they and Cockburn belong. It’s an unusual production choice but one that works beautifully, lending these songs a particular intimacy and sense of community. The album closes with ‘Twelve Gates to the City’, a song based on a traditional spiritual which is familiar to me via Elvis Presley’s rendition of ‘I, John’. Cockburn’s version adds some pertinent lyrics (“City on the hill top, I’m gonna make it mine/Gonna be a citizen of a world of love divine”) that press home a message of hope for the fusion of the spiritual and political in a world gone badly wrong. One or two of the songs drift past me on a first listen – the blues shuffle ‘Café Society’, ‘Looking and Waiting’, for instance. But the best songs – and that’s at least half of them - can stand proudly amongst some of Cockburn’s classic work. At the heart of 'Bone on Bone' is the spoken-blues style ‘3 Al Purdys’, a tribute to the prolific Canadian free verse poet who died in 2000, driven along by a gruff, road-worn vocal, propulsive dobro and shuffling rhythm track. It is both a fitting tribute to Purdy and a reminder why Cockburn himself is a Canadian icon worthy of a place alongside the likes of Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young.

Track Listing:-
1 States I'm In
2 Stab At Matter
3 40 Years In The Wilderness
4 Café Society
5 3 Al Purdy's
6 Looking & Waiting
7 Bone On Bone
8 Mon Chemin
9 False River
10 Jesus Train
11 Twelve Gates To The City

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