Archive for November 4, 2011

The Noise Inside Bruce Cockburn

I bought a Bruce Cockburn CD while in Canada, because I wanted to be that obvious and unimaginative.

I’m kidding; I’m a fan. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to Cockburn, and his decades-long career deserves more air time in my life. Sure, I could look up his music in the ‘States any time, but being on his home turf, it seemed a good way to give the man a nod.

It’s not avant-jazz or free improv, of course; it’s Cockburn’s normal folk rock. But dig this, from the liner notes:

“When the last studio album, Life Short Call Now, was released, I felt that it was time for something different. I had a vision of music, electric and noisy, with gongs and jackhammers and fiercely distorted guitars.”

Now, that could be amazing. He wouldn’t have to go all Metal Machine Music on us, just partway. He’s a great guitarist, and the instrumentals on his albums peer into a world of jazz study, and — well, I see some promise in the overall package. Loud songs? Why not?

Cockburn says the past few years haven’t given him the isolation one would need to develop noisy music. He seems to mean that on a practical level — you can’t play the right instruments for it if you’re in a crowded apartment complex. So, that’s why this album is not the electric, noisy project he’d envisioned, but I hope the noise muse doesn’t fade away for him. I’d love to hear those gongs and jackhammers someday.

About the album. Small Source of Comfort is a more traditional Cockburn but still delicious stuff. “The Iris of the World” is full of the rich acoustic inventiveness that made his 1978 album Further Adventures Of… such a joy. And when the next song starts with “My name is Richard Nixon but now I’m a girl” — well, that’s hard to resist.

Did I mention Jenny Scheinman plays on the album? Jenny Scheinman plays on the album. She’s terrific.

November 4, 2011 at 12:01 am Leave a comment


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