ANOTHER LEGENDARY BRUCE
GOLDMINE|August 2020
ACROSS 34 ALBUMS, BRUCE COCKBURN HAS MADE MUSIC THAT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO DEFINE.
RAY CHELSTOWSKI

A friend of mine recently made an interesting observation about the musician Bruce Cock burn. He noted how rare it was to find any photo over the years of Cockburn hanging backstage, performing alongside, or standing in the company of any fellow famous musician(s) from the same era. Almost every photo you find is the same — Bruce and his guitar alone in front of a microphone. It’s a metaphor for how he has so singularly lived his life. Bruce Cockburn is true to himself, avoids trends, and has always put forward material that is marked by a profound sense of daring and duty.

Across 34 albums, Bruce Cockburn has made music that is often difficult to define. At times he sits squarely within the folk world. Then he migrates a bit to jazz and rock. And for some time now he has found a way to color his music with spirituality, a nod to his reborn Christianity. A world-class acoustic guitar player, he is known for having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business.” His abilities here have helped rank his talent at par with guitar legends like Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt. All of this will be celebrated in a forthcoming 50th Anniversary Box Set, where three previously released records have been remastered for vinyl. These records consist of his 1970 self-titled debut, a very spare and introspective piece of music, joined by two albums from the early ’90s that have never been released before on vinyl: The Charity of Night and Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu. Each album has been re-mastered by Bruce’s long-time producer Colin Linden, and is pressed on colored vinyl. The five 180-gram discs are contained in original artwork sleeves adapted from the original designs by renowned graphic designer Michael Wrycraft, and reside with an individually numbered box signed personally by Cockburn.

They are a Platinum-selling iconic west coast Canadian band with over a dozen radio hits in their home country. With an avid cult following, Chilliwack’s induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on October 25th is being celebrated with the release of There and Back (Live Greatest Hits) on CD, Vinyl and Digital, previously only available at their live concerts. Recorded at concerts through 2000-2001, these are the band’s best-loved hits and gems from their exceptional live performances. The album includes “Fly at Night,” “Baby Blue”, “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” and “Lonesome Mary” -- songs that are woven through Canadian identity and stand the test of time as part of our national songbook. The 15-track album includes liner notes written by Bill Henderson of the backstories of each song, and a family tree of Chilliwack members past and present.

This unique approach to celebrating his anniversary is just another demonstration of how Bruce Cockburn has always done it his own way. A large tour in support of this release was to begin in May. But like most concerts at the moment, it has been pushed off until the fall. We caught up with Bruce to talk about the release, his creative process, and where he thinks we will end up on the other side of this world pandemic. His responses were often framed with an endearing sense of humility defined by regular laughter, and offered rare insights into what life has been like for the last 50 years as one of the few real bona fide troubadours.

GOLDMINE: You have always been politically/socially active and ahead of the curve. Where do you think things will go on the other side of this pandemic?

BRUCE COCKBURN: Well, it’s hard to predict exactly where it’s going to go. I don’t think that the quality of life in the world is going to improve because of this. One element of that has to do with democracy and who gets to have power and under what circumstances they get to exercise that power. That was already being eroded in this country anyway. Now I think that the threat of finding ourselves in some kind of authoritarian state is very real.

GM: In moments like these what is your approach to writing? Is the intent to make people feel better?

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