Cockburn demonstrates his instrumental genius

Bruce Cockburn

I’ve been listening to Bruce Cockburn for a longtime.

The first album I owned was Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws (1979), but I was already behind. Bruce began recording (1970) and playing in public in 1967.

In fact, in the Canadian’s high school yearbook photo, 1964, states his desire “to become a musician.” He met that desire and more.

Bruce received Earth Day Canada's Outstanding Commitment to the Environment Award in 2010, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. On Nov. 19, 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, at the 2012 SOCAN Awards in Toronto. On Feb. 15, 2017, he received the People's Voice Award in Kansas City from Folk Alliance International. On Sept. 23, 2017, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at Massey Hall in Toronto.

By the sound of his latest album Crowing Ignites, he’s just getting started. The new instrumental CD was produced, recorded and mixed by Colin Linden, and recorded at the Firehouse in San Francisco.

It showcases 11 all-original compositions by Cockburn, who plays acoustic guitar throughout, backed by a stellar cast of sympathetic musicians.

“It’s hard for me to imagine what people’s response is going to be to these pieces,” Bruce said with a smile. “It’s different from songs with lyrics, where you hope listeners will understand, intellectually and emotionally, what you’re trying to convey. 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.”

Bruce is one of the most amazing guitarists on the planet, and sometimes like on “Sweetness and Light,” he plays solo. On other cuts, besides guitar, he adds instruments unfamiliar to most ears — shakers, kalimba, sansula, charango, singing bowls, Tibetan cymbals and a gong.

My personal favorite is “Seven Daggers.”

“Constructed at the Firehouse. Nearby is a chapel maintained by the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in which there is a statue of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, which gave the piece its title,” Bruce said.

The closing piece is also cool — “Bells of Gethsemane.”

“Also born in the Firehouse. Dark anticipation in a dark garden. Dawn looms, humming with trama, pain and ecstasy.”

For more information about Bruce and his music, please go to

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