AUGUST 2021 Press Release – 50 years for the Canadian iconic musical gem, Bruce Cockburn.
For 50 years, this Canadian musical legend has been capturing in song the essence of human experience – while fiercely striving to make it better.
One of Canada’s finest artists, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while traveling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. “My job,” he explains, “is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal.”
That scratching and pulling have earned Cockburn high praise as an exceptional songwriter and a revered guitarist. His songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery are among the best to have emerged from Canada over the last 50 years. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. And he remains deeply respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth.
Throughout his career, Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song. Whether singing about retreating to the country or going up against chaos, tackling imperialist lies or embracing ecclesiastical truths, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight. “We can’t settle for things as they are,” he once warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”
For his many achievements, the Ottawa-born artist has been honored with 13 Juno Awards, an induction into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. But he never rests on his laurels. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” says Cockburn. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.”
Bruce is 1 of the hardest working artists in the biz and here is just a wee sample of what his music leads up to.
CIVIC AWARDS AND CULTURAL HONOURS
1983 – The Order Of Canada
1989 – Honourary Doctorate/York University – Doctorate Of Letters
1993 – Performance at Presidential Inaugural Ball
1997 – Honorary Doctorate of Music Berklee College of Music Boston
1999 – Honorary Degree (Doctor Of Letters) St. Thomas University (New Brunswick)
2003 – Promotion to Officer of The Order of Canada 2007 – Honourary Doctorate Queen’s University Kingston Ontario “In all the time I’ve spent thinking about God in my life, I never thought I’d be recognized for it.”
May 24, 2007 – Bruce Cockburn to Receive Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Memorial University. Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Bruce Cockburn will be honored for his music and his commitment to the betterment of the world with an honorary doctor of letters degree during spring convocation.
2007 – Honourary Doctorate University of Victoria, Victoria British Columbia
June 7, 2007 – “You do what you do and you hope it affects people,” he said. His commitment to growth has made Bruce Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come.
2009 June 8 – Honourary Doctorate McMaster University – Doctor of Letters
November 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.
6 June 2014 – June 2nd, 2014 – Canada’s 27th Governor-General, Michaëlle Jean, and renowned singer-songwriter and activist Bruce Cockburn are among the recipients of Honorary Doctorates at Spring Convocation ceremonies at Laurentian University this year. Bruce Cockburn, Doctorate of Letters: Winner of a Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award
2017 – September 23 – Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame induction from Massey Hall in Toronto.
For a FULL list of accolades, you can visit http://brucecockburn.com/about/at-a-glance/
In 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, a collection of instrumental tracks that shone the spotlight on the singer-songwriter’s exceptional acoustic guitar playing. The album earned Cockburn a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and underscored his stature as one of the world’s premier pickers.
Already, The New York Times had credited Cockburn with having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business,” adding that he “materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music’s pulse and its foundation—at once a deep Celtic drone and the throb of a vigilant conscience.” Acoustic Guitar magazine was similarly laudatory in citing Cockburn’s guitar prowess, placing him in the prestigious company of legends like Andrés Segovia. Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt.
2019, with the intriguingly titled Crowing Ignites, Cockburn has released another dazzling instrumental album that will further cement his reputation as both an exceptional composer and a picker with few peers. Unlike Speechless, which included mostly previously recorded tracks, the latest album—Cockburn’s 34th—features 11 brand new compositions. Although there’s not a single word spoken or sung, it’s as eloquent and expressive as any of the Canadian Hall of Famer’s lyric-laden albums. As his long-time producer, Colin Linden puts it: “It’s amazing how much Bruce can say without saying anything.”
The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto “Accendit Cantu” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.” The album’s other nod to Cockburn’s Scottish heritage is heard on “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley,” in which his guitar’s droning bass strings and melodic grace notes sound eerily like a Highland bagpipe. “I’ve always loved pibroch or classic bagpipe music,” says Cockburn. “It seems to be in my blood. Makes me want to sip whisky out of a seashell on some rocky headland!”
While Cockburn reconnecting with his Gaelic roots is one of Crowing Ignites’ more surprising elements, there’s plenty else that will delight followers of his adventurous pursuits. Says Linden, who’s been a fan of Cockburn’s for 49 years, has produced 10 of his albums and played on the two before that: “Bruce is always trying new things, and I continue to be fascinated by where he goes musically.”
The album is rich in styles from folk and blues to jazz, all genres Cockburn has previously explored. But there are also deepening excursions into what might be called free-form world music. The hypnotic, kalimba-laden “Seven Daggers” and the trance-inducing “Bells of Gethsemane,” full of Tibetan cymbals, chimes, and singing bowls, are highly atmospheric dreamscapes that showcase Cockburn’s world of wonders—and his improvisational gifts on both 12-string and baritone guitars. Each track was wholly created in the makeshift studio he and Linden put together in a converted fire station in Cockburn’s San Francisco neighborhood.
Singing bowls, Cockburn explains, are an endless source of fascination to him, dating back to a trip he took to Kathmandu, as seen in the documentary Return to Nepal. There, Cockburn stumbled on a man selling the small inverted bells sometimes used in Buddhist religious practices and became instantly captivated by their vibrational power. “I had no particular attraction to them as meditation tools or anything,” says Cockburn. “I just thought they had a beautiful sound.” After buying half a dozen in Kathmandu and more since he now has a sizeable collection.
Two tracks on his 34th album, 2019’s Crowing Ignites had their origins elsewhere. “The Groan,” a bluesy piece with guitar, mandolin, and some collective handclapping from a group that includes Cockburn’s seven-year-old daughter, Iona, was something Cockburn composed for a Les Stroud documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting and the healing power of nature. And Cockburn wrote the jazz-tinged “Mt. Lefroy Waltz” for the Group of Seven Guitar Project on an instrument inspired by artist Lawren Harris and custom-made by luthier Linda Manzer. It was originally recorded, with cornet player Ron Miles, bassist Roberto Occhipinti, and drummer Gary Craig, for Cockburn’s 2017 album Bone on Bone, but not released until now.
Cockburn doesn’t set out with any particular agenda when composing an instrumental. “It’s more about coming up with an interesting piece,” he says. “Who knows what triggers it—the mood of the day or a dream from the night before. Often the pieces are the result of sitting practicing or fooling around on the guitar. When I find something I like, I work it into a full piece.”
“Bardo Rush,” with its urgent, driving rhythm, came after one such dream, while the contemplative “Easter” and the mournful “April in Memphis” were composed on Easter Sunday and Martin Luther Day respectively. “Blind Willie,” named for one of Cockburn’s blues heroes, Blind Willie Johnson, features a fiery guitar and dobro exchange with Linden (Cockburn has previously recorded Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” on Nothing But a Burning Light). And the idea for the sprightly “Sweetness and Light,” featuring some of Cockburn’s best fingerpicking, developed quickly and its title, he says, became immediately obvious.
Meanwhile, “Angels in the Half-Light” is steeped in dark and light colours and conveys ominous shades as well as feelings of hopefulness, seemingly touching on both spiritual and political concerns—hallmarks of Cockburn from day one. “It’s hard for me to imagine what people’s response is going to be to these pieces,” he says. “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.”
More than 50 years since he embarked on his singer-songwriter career, Cockburn continues pushing himself to create—and winning accolades in the process. Most recently, the Order of Canada recipient earned a 2018 Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for Bone on Bone, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Peoples’ Voice Award from Folk Alliance International, and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Cockburn, who released his memoir, Rumours of Glory, and its similarly titled companion box set the same year, shows no sign of stopping. As his producer-friend Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.”
We’re all so happy to announce that Bruce Cockburn is getting back on the road with live concert tour dates starting in December 2021.
Here are Bruce’s first confirmed dates, with more to follow:
DEC 7 GRASS VALLEY CA CENTER FOR THE ARTS
DEC 8 SANTA CRUZ CA RIO THEATRE
DEC 9 BERKELEY CA FREIGHT & SALVAGE
DEC 10 BERLELEY CA FREIGHT & SALVAGE
DEC 12 EUGENE OR SORENG THEATRE
DEC 13 BEND OR TOWER THEATRE
DEC 14 GRANTS PASS OR ROGUE THEATRE
DEC 16 PORTLAND OR ALADDIN THEATRE
DEC 17 PORTLAND OR ALADDIN THEATRE
DEC 18 SPOKANE OR BING CROSBY THEATRE
DEC 19 SEATTLE WA NEPTUNE THEATRE
FEB 24 BURLINGTON VT HIGHER GROUND
FEB 25 ALBANY NY THE EGG
FEB 26 NORTHAMPTON MA ACADEMY OF MUSIC
FEB 27 BOSTON MA WILBUR THEATRE
MAR 1 WATERVILLE ME OPERA HOUSE
MAR 2 FALL RIVER MA CENTRE FOR THE ARTS
MAR 4 RIDGEFIELD CT RIDGEFIELD PLAYHOUSE
MAR 5 NEWTON NJ NEWTON THEATRE
MAR 6 NEW YORK NY SYMPHONY SPACE
MAR 8 ANN ARBOR MI THE ARK
MAR 10 CHICAGO IL OLDTOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK
MAR 11 CHICAGO IL OLDTOWN SCHOOK OF FOLK
MAR 12 MADISON WI BARRYMORE THEATRE
MAR 13 IOWA CITY IA ENGLERT THEATRE
APR 19 PETERBOROUGH ON SHOWPLACE CENTRE
APR 21 KITCHENER ON CENTRE IN THE SQUARE
APR 22 TORONTO ON MASSEY HALL
APR 23 OTTAWA ON NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE
For on-sale ticket information please check in your local market.
TRUE NORTH RECORDS – MEDIA ADVISORY
Legendary Singer-Songwriter Bruce Cockburn showcases his guitar technique on a new instrumental album, Crowing Ignites, coming to a THEATRE nearest you in North America this Fall 2021 through Spring 2022 via True North Records.
Fans, hurry don’t delay, get your copy of Bruce Cockburn’s 34th album, Crowing Ignites, grab your tickets for his concert appearance tickets in a city nearest you by clicking http://brucecockburn.com/tour-dates/
and check out his 4 NEW SONGS released in 2021 http://brucecockburn.com/2021/four-new-songs/
You can stay in tune with Canada’s iconic treasure, Bruce Cockburn by visiting his social platforms below: http://brucecockburn.com