Media 2005

The Toronto Globe and Mail
December 23, 2005

Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Wilson. An offshoot of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, the Juno-strong collective Blackie Meets Bambi settles in for an all-star pickin' and grinnin' session. Dec. 28, doors open at 9 p.m. $20. Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St. W., 416-598-4226.

Posted December 19, 2005

Canada's Musical Voice Of Conscience Gets Speechless - Bruce Cockburn: Live at the Rehearsal Hall

World Television Premiere - January 17 @ 9pm ET & 1am ET

TORONTO, Dec. 19 /CNW/ - Renowned Canadian singer-songwriter and respected activist Bruce Cockburn takes centre stage in this installment of Bravo!'s concert series Live at the Rehearsal Hall. In this previously recorded one-hour presentation, the outspoken activist speaks candidly with host Bill Welychka (former MuchMoreMusic VJ, current host of BreakfastTelevision, CityTV Edmonton), and performs music from his new instrumental album Speechless and classic hits from his monumental repertoire.

The first performer to christen the Queen Street Rehearsal Hall's beautiful new interior, the legendary Cockburn talks about his unorthodox guitar style, his recent fact-finding mission to Baghdad, and the many awards he has received over the years, including the one he is most proud of - the Order of Canada. Cockburn also plays a selection of songs from his huge collection of music, including an enchanting acoustic version of When A Tree Falls.

Born in Ottawa in 1945, Cockburn was initially inspired by the music of Elvis Presley. In the early '60s, he studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music before returning to Ottawa to play with several bands. As a solo artist, he has found a distinct voice, drawing largely upon his spirituality and political beliefs for inspiration. While Cockburn writes music about love and nature, he is mostly influenced by world events - like the civil wars in Central America, the AIDS crisis, and more recently the American-led war in Iraq. Cockburn's celebrated career includes more than 30 albums, 11 Juno Awards and an induction into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canada's highest honour, the Order of Canada.
The Bravo! Rehearsal Hall is a state-of-the-art facility featuring an astonishing electronic acoustic system that can dial up the sound quality of an intimate nightclub or the Sistine Chapel. The Bravo! Rehearsal Hall

provides the perfect setting and sound for Bravo!'s Gemini award-winning concert series Live at the Rehearsal Hall, which has featured such diverse musical artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Ben Heppner, Diana Krall, Paul Anka, Philip Glass, Hall and Oates, Ute Lemper, Bob Geldof, Daniel Lanois, Joe Jackson and Rufus Wainwright.


Posted: December 8, 2005
D. Keebler

New Studio Album and NPR

I spoke with Bernie Finkelstein this morning regarding the next studio album. Bruce will be recording the album in late January and early February, 2006, likely in Ontario. The release date is expected to be July 11, 2006. The album will be produced by Jonathan Goldsmith, former band mate and producer of many of Bruce's albums from the 1980s.

Bruce will be recording a segment in Toronto for NPR on December 16, 2005. It will air on NPR's Weekend Edition on December 25, 2006. Check local stations for your NPR affiliates.


November 30, 2005
Cockburn's music does the talking
By Rob Williams - Winnipeg Sun

For a guy whose latest album in an instrumental collection, Bruce Cockburn sure has a lot to say. Ask the folk legend about almost any topic chances are he's got a story to tell or an opinion to share. So why would one of Canada's most prolific, poetic and respected singer-songwriters release a disc called Speechless when he's anything but?

"It's just seemed like a good idea," says the 60-year-old artist, who visits the city this week to accept an award from the Winnipeg Folk Festival. "We've been asked for (an instrumental album) for a long time and had requests to put all those old ones together. We got to have our cake and eat it -- with enough new pieces to make it interesting."

Speechless compiles Cockburn instrumentals -- solo cuts and band numbers -- dating back to 1970, along with three new songs. Even though it's mostly oldies, it might come as a surprise to people know Cockburn from songs like If I Had a Rocket Launcher but don't realize he's just as talented a guitarist as he is a lyricist.

"It's a totally different thing playing an instrumental, because a song starts with lyrics for me. If I have the lyrics, then there's a conscious search to find the music to fit them," he says.

He's been doing plenty of searching lately. Recent events have given him plenty of material for his next album. Besides the expected reflections on spirituality, politics and relationships, Cockburn has penned an account of a trip to Baghdad this year.

"I've been in other war zones, but this was different in that it was an occupied city -- a first for me. Iraqi society is in a state of chaos, with an overlay of American military presence that had nothing to do with the Iraqis. And not one person in Iraq had illusions about the U.S. They said, 'This is about American domestic policy and oil,' which everyone else in the world knows except the Americans."

Cockburn had no official status during his trip to the Middle East but met with women's groups, Kurds, scientists, doctors and homeless squatters living in bombed-out buildings. He witnessed a myriad of problems, from traffic signals that don't work to a lack of emergency supplies created by more than a decade of economic sanctions.

"We're hearing so much about it but we're hearing nothing about it. There's a lot of blather about the tragedy and what's going on, but we got a different angle on it," says Cockburn, who has visited war-torn areas around the world as an observer and ambassador.

His humanitarian efforts have gone hand-in-hand with his musical achievements. He has 20 gold and platinum albums, is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Tomorrow, he will receive the 2005 Winnipeg Folk Festival Artistic Achievement Award during the Winter Wassail fundraiser at the Convention Centre. He'll play three songs. Cockburn played the Folk Fest five times, including the first two events in 1974 and 1975.

"I have good memories of the festival and good images of the festival but I don't have a ready anecdote for you," he says. Cockburn speechless? Now that's a first.

Tickets for the Winter Wassail are $125 at the Folk Festival office. If that's a tad rich for your blood, you can meet him for free. He'll be chatting with fans and signing autographs at the Folk Festival Music store today from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 


November 26, 2005

Bruce Cockburn: talk to the guitar
by Brad Wheeler

No, the Canadian singer-songwriter has not run out of lyrics. But he does love to play the guitar, he reminds us on his new instrumental album, writes Brad Wheeler.

'He is a popular musician with a difference: a latter-day wandering minstrel whose songs reflect the discontents of modern society.' -- Order of Canada citation, 1982.

As Bruce Cockburn looks down at his hands, he judges his 60-year-old fingers. "They're holding up pretty well," he says, not bothering to add the standard "all things considered" qualifier. "I'm able to do what I need to do with them."

Cockburn, looking hale and hearty but with cropped hair and Vandyke beard that are snow-white, admits his right hand stiffens up from time to time, but that it is no impediment. Perhaps the paw tightens up from his finger-picking style of playing, or maybe it's a case of writer's cramp: A list of the man's accomplishments stretches to more than two pages. Thankfully, a record-label publicist has typed up the document, one that chronicles Cockburn's various achievements -- his album releases, his honours, his certifications, his et cetera.

Topping the list of honours, in the musician's mind, is his Order of Canada. "That is the one I feel the most proud of," he says, before mentioning that he felt serious enough about the honour almost to disown it. "When [Brian] Mulroney got his," Cockburn explained in a relaxed tone, referring to the former prime minister, "I very nearly sent the medal back. I felt there couldn't be a less  appropriate recipient as him. I changed my mind on that, because what the honour represents transcends any disagreement with him. It's service to the nation, no matter what direction it was in."

And so, the discontent of a wandering minstrel is noted. If anybody worried that the recent, wordless Speechless album carried the implication that Cockburn had nothing remaining to say, they should now rest assured that this is not the case.

As an outspoken activist over the long years of his career, as well as an often brilliant lyricist, Cockburn's abilities with a guitar have -- in comparison only -- been underplayed. It is an oversight that the musician himself takes partial blame for. "I'm as guilty of emphasizing things that way as anybody else," he says, inside a small hotel room made smaller by his six guitar cases. "I think of myself in terms of lyrics mostly, but I do love playing the guitar. It's kind of fun to actually have switched the emphasis over, for this time period at least."

Speechless collects 15 instrumentals, most from his 27 previous records, reaching as far back as the nimble Sunwheel Dance from the 1972 album of the same name. The three new songs are the dark, eloquent Elegy, the echoing, spiralling The End of All Rivers and King Kong Goes to Tallahassee, a country blues inspired by associations with Ottawa poet Bill Hawkins and author Robert Olen Butler. (Butler's Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards sits on Cockburn's bedside table, alongside a science-fiction collection from Harlan Ellison and a book of poetry by Janis Ian.) All tracks on his new album, naturally, feature the distinctive style of Cockburn, a graceful, intricate player whose influences include Albert Ayler, a free-jazz hornist from the 1960s.

"He was seminal," says Cockburn, who studied jazz composition at Boston's Berklee College of Music. "I desired to be a jazz guitarist, but I never quite got it together."

Perhaps that is not entirely true, for Speechless sits high on the Billboard jazz charts in the United States. As well, at one point in the 1980s, there was serious talk between German jazz label ECM Records and Cockburn about him doing a jazz-leaning all-instrumental recording for the label.

But, what if he had become the jazzman he once wished to be? All those lyrics -- lines about one day waiting for the sky to fall, and next day being dazzled by the beauty of it all -- never would have happened?

"As much as you can say, 'What if?' that's probably true," Cockburn says, grinning slightly, his head angled at the thought.

He never fully grasped how to play jazz, he says, and left Berklee early, knowing that he would play guitar for a living, even if it meant busking for loose change in the subway. "I was quite prepared to go down that road," he says. "It didn't lead there, fortunately for me."

After his current Southern Ontario tour, the road leads to Winnipeg, where Cockburn receives the 2005 Artistic Achievement Award from the Winnipeg Folk Festival. After that, the musician heads to Montreal in early December, where he'll take part in a performance with the La La La Human Steps dance company at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

It adds up to more recognition for Cockburn, who is excited by the ceremonies, but has reservations. "It can be harrowing because you have to make a speech, which is a terrifying experience for me," he says, smiling at the admission. What's this? Bruce Cockburn, speechless? Couldn't imagine such a thing.

Bruce Cockburn appears, solo, in Oakville, Ont., tonight; Chatham, Ont., tomorrow; and Kitchener, Ont., on Monday.


November 20, 2005

Rocket Launcher Reload
FRESH FIRE | Globetrotter/marksman Bruce Cockburn rediscovers old song
by Greg Quill
Toronto Star

I went to Baghdad for a vacation and I had a really good time," Bruce Cockburn says about his recent visit to the war-torn Iraqi capital.

"Sounds like a song title, something deeply ironic, doesn't it?" the legendary Canadian songwriter, guitarist, environmental and anti-war activist continues. "But it's the truth. I went there for a week with some American friends to check out Iraq under (American military) occupation. Admittedly it was the quietest week in Baghdad since the war started, but there was automatic weapons fire in the street one night outside the hotel where we were having dinner.

"Someone yelled out, `It's okay — just a wedding!'"

Dedicated to improving the human condition — Cockburn has been invited to take part in the opening ceremonies for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change December 6 [ed. note: should be December 7] in Montreal — the songwriter is no stranger to gunfire.

It was during a similar fact-finding trip to Nicaragua in the 1980s that he was provoked to write his controversial hit "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." It's a powerful and vengeful rant against supposedly covert American military intervention in a civil struggle, and its devastating effects on impoverished and undefended bystanders. Bystanders, he says, like the ordinary Iraqis he met in Baghdad a few moths ago, who were "just trying to lead regular lives, get to work, get their kids to school, and doing their best to keep up their spirits while the bullets are flying all around them.

"You never see these kinds of stories on American television — or Canadian television, for that matter."

That trip to Nicaragua also inspired a decade-long fascination with guns, admits Cockburn, who's in the middle of a North American tour.

He taped a live performance Thursday for an upcoming Live at the Rehearsal Hall Bravo! series, and has solo concerts around — but not in — Toronto over the next two weeks, with material from his recently released CD Speechless, a collection of instrumental guitar compositions.

He's appearing at Markham Theatre tomorrow, Brock University's Centre for the Arts in St. Catharines on Wednesday, the Sanderson Centre in Brantford on Friday, the Oakville Centre next Saturday, the Kiwanis Theatre in Chatham Nov. 27 and Kitchener's Centre In The Square Nov. 28.

In contrast to the public perception of Cockburn as a hippie peacenik, he was a member of a suburban Toronto gun club during the 1980s and early '90s, a competitive marksman who racked up decent scores and earned the respect of his peers.

"I shot at bits of paper," he says. "I don't hunt. I deplore hunting for sport, though I have no problem with people hunting for food. I wasn't brought up with guns, but my grandfather hunted partridges and pheasants."

It all started, Cockburn explains, when a soldier in Nicaragua tossed over an unloaded weapon the singer had been admiring.

"I've always been ambivalent about guns," he explains. "I like the idea of knowing how they work, but I was scared of them. When I held that rifle for the first time, it felt pretty good."

His interest in target shooting abated in the mid-1990s, he says, though the memory of the destructive power of guns, rocket launchers and other weapons still remains.

"At the time I remember a feeling of outrage after reading in Soldier of Fortune magazine stories with people boasting about all the things Reagan was denying were happening in Nicaragua. There were RPGs — rocket-propelled grenade launchers — all around me. I was fascinated by them, and horrified when I learned what damage they could inflict. That's when I wrote `Rocket Launcher.'"

He stopped performing the song after 9/11, for fear it would be misunderstood in the rage of revenge that was sweeping the U.S., he says.

"I didn't want the song to be misinterpreted. I didn't want to play into the `Let's go get 'em' thing that was going on.

"But it's back in the repertoire now, because Americans seem to be more interested in what I have to say than they were the last time out. A couple of years ago they were demoralized and depressed, and a lot of my songs were too dark and politically pointed.

"Now they're pissed. They feel duped about the reasons for going to war. They've made a connection between Iraq — Iraqis aren't allowed to fix their own cities, and foreign contractors are getting all the money and work — and what's going on in New Orleans, where the millions for rebuilding the city after the hurricane are going to big, out-of-state operations, not to local businesses.

"Now it's all out in the open. Nothing remains concealed. And they're angry.

"Suddenly `Rocket Launcher' makes sense.


Posted: November 16, 2005
D. Keebler

Bruce's October 16, 2005, performance at Mountain Stage in Charleston, West Virginia, will air on November 25, 2005. Check here to see if there is a station near you that carries the program.


November 14, 2005

Bruce Cockburn to perform at the opening ceremonies for the UN Climate Control Conference: December 7

From True North Records

MONTREAL: Tuesday, December 6th, 2005 at Palais des Congés de Montréal HALL : 517 B,C,D which holds 1500.

United Nations Conference on Climate Change High Profile Opening Ceremonies. Bruce will be performing If A Tree Falls and La La La Human Steps will be doing a dance interpretation of the song while Bruce performs it. Bruce will do it solo.

The performance in its entirety will be available for world broadcasters as per the United Nations host city agreement. This broadcast is for news coverage only. This is not a commercial broadcast. 


Posted: November 10, 2005
CBC Radio One
Sounds Like Canada

On Remembrance Day 2005 (Friday, November 11), Shelagh Rogers talks to Canadian music icon and activist Bruce Cockburn. They reflect on the day, his long career and involvement in humanitarian causes. The occasion is the recent release of his all-instrumental CD called "Speechless," the latest of more than 35 recordings. Bruce also plays live in the Vancouver studio. This program was taped on November 10, 2005.


Posted: November 10, 2005
from Bravo! and True North

Bravo Canada's Live At The Rehearsal Hall, which is being taped on November 17, 2005, will air on Bravo Canada on January 17, 2006.


November 6, 2005

In Quiet Protest
San Francisco Chronicle
By Tom Lanham

It's an amusing metaphor. On the cover of his latest album, "Speechless," Canadian folk firebrand Bruce Cockburn is just that. The famously outspoken 60-year-old singer-songwriter peeks from behind the neck of his trusty acoustic, his mouth obscured by the guitar body.

The record is an anthology of his instrumental-only work, dating back to his third album in 1973, with three new numbers ("Elegy," "The End of All Rivers" and the bluesy stroll "King Kong Goes to Tallahassee") added. The 15 songs are gently finger-picked in styles ranging from jazz to flamenco to fey English folk.

For fans of this composer's typically vitriolic invective, a nonvocal set might come as a shock. As far back as 1984's Central America-themed "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," Cockburn has railed against social and political injustices, often visiting the foreign lands he sings about to more fully empathize with their problems. It's difficult for anyone to keep this Canuck quiet.

So how has he managed now to keep himself muzzled?

"When I write songs, I write lyrics first, then look for music to carry the lyrics," he says. "It's similar to scoring a film, where you have a landscape of some kind with characters in it, and that needs to be supported by the music. But with the instrumental pieces, it's a whole different thing. I never really sat down and analyzed how it works, but sometimes I'll get an idea when I'm playing the guitar and it'll just turn into a piece. And that's what you're hearing on 'Speechless.'

"I've seen reviews of my albums that say, 'Too much political bull -- . What does this guy know? He's just an artist.' Like somehow journalists are the only people who are qualified to write about politics."

Within five minutes of discussing "Speechless," Cockburn's muzzle unstraps, and his powder keg of leftist opinions explodes.

Yes, he acknowledges, he's been quite busy in this new neocon-controlled, pro-religious-right, anti-science-and-environment era. Already, he has enough incendiary new material to fuel an album. And with 2,000 U.S. soldiers now dead as a result of the Iraq war, Cockburn's classic "Rocket Launcher" feels as if it were written only yesterday.

"And it's the same old thing, really," sighs Cockburn, who's been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and made an Officer of the Order of Canada. "It isn't that the song is more relevant. It's just that more people are aware of this war than they were of the war in Guatemala. The Guatemalan war that inspired that song was being carried on by proxy, while Iraq is a more hands-on American war. And by proxy is how everybody would like Iraq to go, but it certainly isn't going that way."

Years ago, Cockburn growls, he was trying to warn listeners via songs like "Gospel of Bondage" about the encroachment of evangelical Christianity.

"It was totally clear to me then, even though Pat Robertson had not yet said, 'Go out and kill that Venezuelan head of state because he's an annoyance.' But he had said equally ludicrous and equally un-Christian things over and over again, and people were still respecting him as this Christian leader."

So what's happening today isn't new, Cockburn adds. "And everybody outside of America saw this stuff coming decades ago."
Cockburn used to deem himself a devout Christian, too -- much of his earlier work is suffused with spirituality. He's no longer affiliated with any one church, he says, thanks to "my understanding of spirituality being added to that, a lot of things that didn't come from Christian sources."

And the environmental apathy and human-rights violations he's witnessed in his travels transcend any single religion. In 2001, the singer bravely played a gig in war-zone Kosovo. He also journeyed to Vietnam and Cambodia as part of the Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Last year, Cockburn even dropped in on Baghdad for a week (fully documented in his new anthem "This Is Baghdad") and was horrified by what he found.

So obviously, he adds, in Iraq and elsewhere in our global-warming world, "there's no shortage of stuff to be concerned about. And if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get songs about it."

But Cockburn isn't singing "The Bird Flu Blues" just yet. And even though he's currently "Speechless," he still believes in the power of a single human voice.


Posted: November 4, 2005
Daniel Keebler

Bruce will tape an episode for Bravo Canada's Live At The Rehearsal Hall on November 17, 2005. There is a ticket give-away associated with this event. The show is scheduled to air sometime in January, 2006, according to information I received this date from Bernie Finkelstein. Check the Bravo website for details.


Posted: November 2, 2005

SPEECHLESS – The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn
Compilation produced by Bruce Cockburn & Colin Linden
True North Records TND 390
Rounder 11661- 3250-2
Released 27th September 2005
Single CD 68.50 minutes

Review by Richard Hoare

This is a compilation that has been waiting to happen. Cockburn started including instrumentals on his albums from his second LP High Winds White Sky (1971) through to Further Adventure Of (1978). There was then a gap of a couple of albums when Bruce started to get international recognition but they started to return on and off until in recent years there have sometimes been two on  individual CDs.

This compilation has been sequenced for our listening pleasure with tracks old and new all mixed up. My following observations and background however, are based on their chronological sequence of release.

Sunwheel Dance (1971) BC: “Touring the Carolinas in the 60s with a band of questionable musical virtue, met a young man named Fox Watson, given to rendering traditional fiddle tunes on the guitar in a graceful finger style that seemed to float like the wings of a gull. I fooled around with what I could remember of the technique and came up with the first of several guitar pieces.”(a)

Foxglove (1973) BC: “This was the second guitar piece I made up. The title, aside from being the name of the plant digitalis comes from, is a sly acknowledgement of Fox Watson’s influence.”(b)

Islands In A Black Sky (1973) This was the first of Bruce’s long solo acoustic guitar instrumentals committed to wax. It appeared on Night Vision, Cockburn’s fourth album that was an urban exploration after a trilogy that had focussed on purity in nature.(c) I like to think that the title to this piece was inspired by Bruce lying on his back at night on the edge of the city looking up at the stars, like the photograph in the World Of Wonders tour programme.

Salt Sun And Time (1974) BC: “Sea travel, hanging out on the coasts of Northern Europe. The title came from a phrase in Loren Eiseley’s book, The Immense.” (d) The tune on solo acoustic guitar sounds like a reflective moment on a clear day.

Rouler Sa Bosse (1974) The title is French for “to knock about.” BC: “When we listened to the playback right after recording this, Jack Zaza, the clarinettist, observed that we sounded just like two guys outside a whore house.” (e) Bruce’s acoustic guitar work is influenced by Django Reinhardt, who he credited as an influence on the sleeve of Night Vision.

Water Into Wine (1976) In my view this is the apex of Bruce’s acoustic instrumental guitar in the studio in the 70s. Columbia in the USA must have thought so as well because for the marketing of Nothing But A Burning Light (1991) they included the track on a promotional only compilation CD, The Bruce Cockburn Primer, in a double digipack with the subject CD.

Speechless then jumps 15 years during a fairly fallow period for instrumentals to:

When It’s Gone, It’s Gone (1991) Cockburn plays an instrumental with five other players. The title may be related to lyrics in the track, Mighty Trucks Of Midnight, on the same CD, in which Bruce sings “Everything that exists in time runs out of time some day.” This track sounds brighter than the original album version and the playing ends a few seconds earlier – possibly a different take.

Train In The Rain and Sunrise On The Mississippi (1993) - After a gap of 16 years, Bruce returned to releasing solo acoustic tunes on Dart To The Heart. Both of these pieces were delivered on a resonator guitar, an instrument Cockburn had started using on the previous album, Nothing But A Burning Light.

Mistress Of Storms (1996) - This piece is an instrumental duet by Bruce and Gary Burton on vibes. In a press release for the album, The Charity Of Night, Bruce commented – “Gary and I really connected. It was a positive no-ego kind of relationship. We just responded to one another. One of the real highlights for me is how complex and appropriate Gary’s playing is behind my guitar.” (f)

Deep Lake (1999) - An acoustic guitar instrumental with opening notes momentarily suggesting A Song For The Tour Of Stars before the pace settles into a Cala Luna-like lilt. Percussion and bass accompany Bruce’s picking joined by George Koller on dilruba, an Indian instrument with four main bowed strings and a rack of sympathetic strings that sustain with a swaying drone. Rise And Fall (1999) - The original Japanese sleeve note included Rick Lazar on percussion but here the bells are credited to Bruce. This long jazzy instrumental is a delight. These two pieces plus Down To The Delta really showed Cockburn hitting his stride with instrumentals that year in a band context.

The final three tracks were recorded for this compilation in 2005 at Chapel Of Shadows.

End Of All Rivers - This piece started to appear in concert some time ago. In 2000 Bruce introduced it on stage in Vermont with the line “ I don’t know what this is called yet so I can’t tell you!” At that point it was a more raucous instrumental played with the bass and drums he was touring with that year. This recording credits Bruce with two guitars, Tibetan bowl and Navajo flute. Cockburn makes use of an echo effect that allows him to harmonize with the melody as it progresses.

King Kong Goes To Tallahassee – Colin Linden suggested more blues on the album. Bruce recalled a piece that had its origins in a performance in New York’s Central Park, where he’d played guitar with a reading that Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler gave called “Three Ways to Die in the 50s.” That evolved into this tune. The title is partly a reference to Butler, who lives not far from Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle, and to Ottawa poet Bill Hawkins, who was mentor to Cockburn in the 1960s when he started writing songs. Says Cockburn: “Bill wrote a series of poems that featured King Kong going to various places and always getting into trouble, so the title is also something of a tribute to him.” (g)

Elegy – Bruce comes up with an instrumental that captures the definition of the word - a sorrowful or serious poem. Although it works in its entirety as an original piece I have found myself hearing echoes of The Beatles You Never Give Me Your Money in the melody and the resonator guitar flashing the notes from Kit Carson in the middle. Despite these comments this tune is fast becoming my favourite solo instrumental piece by Bruce since Water Into Wine.

To go with the music the Rounder release comes in a clear jewel case with a photograph of part of a resonator guitar on the inlay card – a larger version of that reproduced on the disc. The True North release is in a very fine digipak. The CD booklet cover is a close up of part of the guitar on the digipak cover including Bruce’s thumb with the Speechless logo in the centre. The inside of the digipack gatefold is a photograph of dappled light, probably from Chapel of Shadows. The disc is decorated with a close-up of part of Cockburn’s resonator guitar devoid of wording – speechless! Note the rectangular burnished area on the guitar where Bruce rests the little finger of his right hand while picking. The CD booklet is beautiful. Michael Wrycraft has once again produced a work of art which includes photographs of a rack of guitars, wooden floors, reflected light, a knife from Bruce’s collection and an angel with an accordion that I can almost hear playing Bone In My Ear. I like to think these shots are inside Chapel of Shadows. We may be in the era of downloading but for me the packaging still puts releases in context.

The public at large may think of Bruce as primarily a song-smith but there are at least another ten instrumentals in his catalogue before counting the ones that have recently surfaced on Deluxe Editions.

Speechless – definition: silent, unable to speak because of great emotion. That’s me after hearing this album.

(a), (b), (d) & (e) BC quotes form songbook: All The Diamonds, Vol. One, 969 – 1979, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.
(c) From The World OF Wonders Tour Programme
(f) From a Rykodisc press release for The Charity Of Night.
(g) From a True North press release for Speechless.


Posted: October 20, 2005

Bruce Cockburn - Recipient of 2005 Artistic Achievement Award

The Winnipeg Folk Festival is proud to announce that acclaimed singer/composer Bruce Cockburn has been named the recipient of the 2005 Winnipeg Folk Festival Artistic Achievement Award to be presented December 1, 2005 at the Folk Festival's Winter Wassail. Cockburn will be in attendance to accept the award.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival Artistic Achievement Award was established to recognize outstanding accomplishment in the performance, composition and innovation of music in the folk genre, and to recognize a contribution to the retention and public awareness of folk music. A nominee must have performed at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The presentation consists of $10,000 cash and a commemorative award.

Folk Festival Executive Director, Trudy Schroeder says, "The Winnipeg Folk Festival is pleased to have this opportunity to recognize the excellence and breadth of the contribution Bruce Cockburn has made to music in Canada and internationally. Cockburn performed the first two years of the Winnipeg Folk Festival (1974 and 1975) and again in 1978, 1984 and 1998. He is an eminent contributor to the history and significance of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He has also found ways to bring attention to social issues of international scale, from landmines and famine to the preservation of the environment and indigenous cultures. We want to acknowledge Cockburn's successes on his diverse musical journey and express our appreciation for his inspiring humanitarian efforts. "

As Bruce Cockburn once said, "The whole point of writing songs is to share experiences with people." Looking back on his career, it includes 27 albums, with the 28th releasing Tuesday, September 27th entitled Speechless, numerous international awards, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Tenco Award for Lifetime Achievement in Italy, 20 gold and platinum records in Canada, and countless concert performances since he released his first solo work in 1970. Cockburn's collected work is a reflection of our times, from personal stories to the large issues facing the world.

Join us in celebrating this great Canadian artist at the Winnipeg Folk Festival Winter Wassail, Thursday December 1 at The Winnipeg Convention Centre. Tickets are available by calling 204-231-0096.

© 2005 Winnipeg Folk Festival


Posted: October 17, 2005

Observations & Background
by Richard Hoare

Deluxe Edition
True North - TND 346
Rounder – 11661 - 3207 - 2
Released: 2005

Musicians: Bruce Cockburn: acoustic and electric guitars, dulcimer & vocals; Pat Godfrey:electric piano, marimbas & vocals; Robert Boucher: bass and Bill Usher: percussion & voice.
Recorded in concert at Massey Hall Toronto April 8+9 1977.
Remote recording: Fedco.
Mixed at Eastern Sound, Toronto-engineer Ken Friesen.
Produced by Eugene Martynec
Restoration + Re-mastering: Peter J Moore at the E Room.
Single CD: 79.27 minutes.

“The rediscovery of jazz at the time of the Joy album went on here. First time I had the nerve to involve musicians who were conspicuously superior to myself as players. Started thinking in terms of group performance in this period, too. Circles is a record of the first Bruce Cockburn band.” - Bruce Cockburn from the World Of Wonders tour programme.

Circles In The Stream first appeared as a double LP in 1977. It was first released on CD in an edited, limited edition in Japan before technology enabled the whole album to fit on one silver disc. In 1997 the original, unedited double album was restored and digitally re-mastered by Peter Moore on to one CD for True North release in Canada only. This Deluxe Edition has now been released around the world with an expanded booklet.

The recording comprises 17 tracks, which combines unreleased material with a collection of many of his best songs from the previous six albums. In my experience few double live albums stand up to repeated listening, they are just often a souvenir of a few excessive moments but this is a well sequenced and clear recording of terrific performances both solo & with the band. On vinyl the spaces in the music and atmosphere played as much a part of the sound as the instruments however the restoration & re-mastering puts you right there in Massey Hall.

Bruce assembled three musicians for the tour. Pat Godfrey had worked with Cockburn on David Wiffen’s Coast To Coast Fever and Paul Stoddart’s Day Coach Rider as well as playing keyboards on Night Vision and Joy Will Find A Way. Bill Usher had also worked on the same David Wiffen album and subsequently played on In The Falling Dark. Robert Boucher had played bass on the first two Jesse Winchester albums and also with Dan Hill who had employed a number of the same musicians that Cockburn played with on Ronney Abramson’s Stowaway.

1. The Pipes. The Pipes(1.32)
Pipe Major Mike Mackay from the 48th Highlanders heralds the start of the concert by playing a traditional Scottish tune on bagpipes that segues into....

2. Starwheel
Song first released on: Joy Will Find A Way 1975
Bruce Cockburn: Looking at big skies out of small eyes in ice-clear rural winter night.(a) All the instruments combine to set the standard for the album - listen to the percussion.

3. Never So Free
Song first released on: Salt Sun and Time 1974
BC: ...the rugged witch-misted coasts of Devon and Cornwall ...July days in Britain where the sun actually shone.(b)

4. Deer Dancing Round A Broken Mirror
Previously unreleased
Cockburn has played this instrumental solo on acoustic guitar from time to time in concert over the years, however this is the only place it can be found on CD.

5. Homme Brulant
This is the only place this song can be found on CD. An object lesson in bass and percussion interplay and possibly Bruce’s best jazz guitar solo of the record. The title is French for Burning Man and Bruce sings the song in that language. The same performance of this song also appeared in 1977 on the B side of a 7 inch vinyl single on True North. The A side was a studio cut of Free To Be. In the late 70’s Cockburn included songs sung in French on each of four consecutive albums starting with In The Falling Dark.

6. Free To Be (2.29)
Subtle marimba underpins this performance. A studio cut of this song (2.35) appeared on a 7 inch vinyl single on True North in 1977. The studio recording included an electric keyboard rather than a marimba. When True North compiled Waiting For A Miracle (Singles 1970 - 1987) they chose to include the live non-single version of this song.

7. Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long
Song first released on: Night Vision 1973
This is a solo acoustic rendition of a great blues based song. Bruce wrote this number soaking up the frustration surrounding the producing of David Wiffen’s Coast to Coast Fever album. This performance of the song subsequently appeared on the US-only LP compilation. Resume, released by Island in 1981.

8. Cader Idris
Previously unreleased
This is the only place this solo acoustic guitar instrumental can be found on CD. The title is named after a Welsh mountain that translates as Chair Of Arthur. It may have been inspired by a visit there during a visit to the UK. On Salt Sun and Time (1974) there is a song entitled Don’t Have To Tell You Why, written in Toronto which includes the line “...Just want to stand on some hillside in Wales with you...” Two other songs on that album were written in England.

9. Arrows Of Light
Song first released on: Joy Will Find A Way 1975
Bruce gives his dulcimer a rare outing backed with conga drum and bass joined by keyboards later in the song.

10. One Day I Walk
Song first released on: High Winds White Sky 1971
BC: I don’t remember much about the writing of this one. Kim Semenik, whose father made my dulcimer, told me that she sang it to an old derelict gentleman she happened to be sharing an abandoned house with while hitchhiking. She said it cheered him up, and how come I don’t write more stuff with this kind of universality? (c)

11. Love Song
Song first released on: High Winds White Sky 1971
This version of the song is preceded by BC on acoustic guitar playing an instrumental piece from 15th century composed by Gilles Binchois. (d)

12. Red Brother Red Sister (3.54)
Previously unreleased
BC: In the early 70’s, I met Native Canadians for the first time. I began to understand their situation and the history that led to it. There was this cab driver in Regina, an older guy, with a white ducktail gone yellow at the edges. We must have been getting the truck fixed or something, but he was taking us somewhere and recommending racially “correct ”establishments. (e)
A studio cut of this track (4.11) subsequently appeared on the True North Mummy Dust (1981) compilation with credits that located it as an outtake from the 1976 sessions for In The Falling Dark.

13. Lord Of The Starfields
Song first appeared on: In The Falling Dark 1976
BC: I was trying to write something like a psalm. (f) Bass, guitar, keyboard and percussion spar in a confounding introduction to this familiar song where all these instruments create more than the sum of the parts including a neat solo by Cockburn.

14. All The Diamonds
Song first appeared on: Salt Sun and Time 1974
BC: A boat trip through the Stockholm archipelago - barren islands, sun on waves - the balance tipping toward a commitment to Christ. The words seemed to want a church-like music, so I used more chords than usual. It must have worked. My friend, Paul Stoddart, the Vancouver poet, would-be rounder and confirmed agnostic exclaimed on first hearing it, “It sounds like a hymn!” (g) (h)

15. Dialogue With The Devil (8.37)
Song first appeared on: Sunwheel Dance 1972 (6.20)
On this version Bruce uses a subtle effect on the guitar sound, injects more soul into the performance and plays a great solo. This performance of the song subsequently appeared on the US-only LP compilation, Resume, released on Island in 1981.

16. Joy Will Find A Way
Song first appeared on: Joy Will Find A Way 1975
BC: With a few minor changes, I ripped off an Ethiopian thumb harp piece to make the guitar part for this. I was thinking about death, and what a big part of life it is. (i) Bass, marimba, percussion and guitar lay down a hypnotic rhythm. The marimba solo is beautiful.

17. God Bless The Children
Song first appeared on: Night Vision 1973
BC: C S Lewis meets the surrealists! (j) Magnificent understated keyboard and percussion.

Bart Schoales was credited with art direction for the original LP sleeve. (l) In 1977 True North released the double LP in a gatefold sleeve in Canada with the wonderful Bart Schoales photo of circles in the stream on the front cover and the photo of Bruce by Skip Dean on the inside of the gatefold. The inner sleeves carried the lyrics in English & French. For the US release however Island reversed the concept with Cockburn on the front cover & the circles in the gatefold.

This latest release retains the same orientation of the cover photographs as the original True North LP. In addition to the hand written lyrics in English and French and the original inner gatefold photo reproduced in colour there are four un-credited photographs from the tour – three of Bruce and one of the whole band – all on stage. These photographs, whilst not of the clearest quality, do provide a visual flavour of the shows and I have not seen them in other publications. One page has the track listing in a modern font rather than the lettering from 1977 used in the 1997 release.

Unfortunately unlike the first two batches of the Deluxe Edition CDs this release does not include a clear jewel case or cardboard slipcase but it does have sleeve notes by Nicholas Jennings. In my view this release is the third LP in a jazz trilogy that included Joy Will Find Away (1975) and In The Falling Dark (1976). At that time Bruce was married to Kitty and together with their year old daughter, Jenny, they lived in a modest rural maison in the Ottawa valley.

Bill Usher: Listening back to the show it’s amazing to hear how tight we are together. There’s almost a baroque quality to some of the playing. We’re all hitting the same accents at the same time and in harness with each other. (k)

This release is an excellent live album and serves as a best of collection of Cockburn’s early work.

The title of this album appears as a phrase in the song Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand that includes the lyric:

Young men see visions and old men dream dreams
see them pluck bright pebbles out of circles in the stream

The song was subsequently released on the album that followed Circles In The Stream, Further Adventures Of (1978).


(a),(b),(c),(f),(g),(i),(j) BC quotes from songbook: All The Diamonds, Vol.One, 1969-1979, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.
(d) During the 15th century there was considerable musical activity at the court and chapel of Phillip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Gilles Binchois from Flanders spent the latter half of his life as a musician to the Burgundian court where he was the leading composer of chansons, which was the name given to polyphonic settings of French secular poetry - from Art & Music by Cleaver & Eddins 1977 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.
(e) BC quote from songbook: Rumours Of Glory, 1980-1990, OFC Publications, Ottawa, Canada.
(h) BC played on & produced Paul Stoddart’s album Day Coach Rider (1974) released on True North.
(k) Quote from an interview with Bill Usher by Daniel Keebler in Gavin’s Woodpile Issue Number 22, August 1997.
(l) Bart Schoales was credited with art direction for three earlier BC albums.

This article is an updated version of the review that was published in Cala Luna No5 1999.


October 13, 2005
From the Worcester, MA, Telegram

‘Speechless’ Cockburn forges new musical path
By Scott McLennan

Musician Bruce Cockburn has made a name for himself with a potent batch of songs that blend the lyrical and the topical.

And that sometimes makes it easy to forget what a strong guitarist he is. Many of Cockburn’s early albums from the ’70s contained stunning instrumental pieces, and he revived that tradition in the ’90s, after spending much of the ’80s shying away from instrumental pieces as he built up his chops on the electric guitar.

In their original settings, Cockburn’s instrumentals tended to serve as points of release, with the artists noting during a recent interview that those wordless songs ended up being heard “juxtaposed against songs with varying degrees of intensity in the lyrics.”

But recently, Cockburn pulled together a bunch of those instrumentals that appear on previously released albums, recorded three new ones, and packaged the 15 tunes into a record called “Speechless.”

“I was surprised at the unity,” he said.

Listeners too will likely be pleasantly pulled into this mix of songs that cover blues, jazz, folk and various cross-pollinations thereof. “Speechless” is a record that combines cinematic sweep and poetic intimacy all at once, and in the process erases the fact that the songs themselves span more than 30 years of Cockburn’s craft.

Analyzing his own efforts, Cockburn noted how the earlier songs on “Speechless” emulate the fiddle tunes he first learned to play on acoustic guitar. With time, his compositions grew more jazzy, and the newest ones in the collection reach new heights on improvisational creation.

And while the overall mood of “Speechless” is mellow, the record boasts the same sort of intensity Cockburn generated with his more rocking and confrontational records of the ’80s.

As with those more familiar records, he invested as much craft into instrumental songs such as “Salt, Sun and Time,” “The End of All Time” and “Islands in a Black Sky,’ as he did on “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” all songs that offer some of his more famous lyrics and are representative of lyrical precision.

As Cockburn explained it, instrumentals and songs with lyrics each demand different things of him. An instrumental, for instance, isn’t something that could wear a lyric if the right one came along, and conversely, the words he writes (which tend to come before the music is written) can’t be easily adapted to any piece of music.

“What happens is instinctive,” he said. “When you’re not dealing with the literal world of lyrics, different emotions happen in a song. Words bring a different dimension to the process.”

Cockburn is celebrating the release of “Speechless” with a string of solo concerts, including shows next Thursday at the Somerville Theater in Somerville and next Friday at Memorial Hall Theater in Shelburne Falls. The dates will not be entirely instrumental affairs, though Cockburn said he will be playing a few more instrumental pieces than he normally does in concert.

Though first trained at Berklee College of Music, Cockburn is hardly a conventional stylist on guitar.

Over the course of a 35-year career he has liberally plucked influences from disparate musical cultures, meaning finger picking and meditative droning are equally weighted elements in any given song.

A member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Cockburn is enjoying a renaissance of sorts as Rounder Records reissued his catalog, expanding each title with bonus material not found on the original releases. And other artists keep covering Cockburn in ways that export his music into new camps all the time.

“I appealed to a certain brand of country artist for a time. Then Nashville got turned off when my music got more political. But Jimmy Buffett has covered my songs, and now country artists seem interested in my songs again. And I just found out that (the reggae band) Third World did a version of ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time.’ It’s always interesting to see where this stuff lands.”

And even better, it is always interesting to hear the originator of this richly made material perform it himself.


Posted: October 11, 2005
D. Keebler

XM Satellite Radio Loft Session #23: Bruce Cockburn

Back in the early days of The Loft, Canadian troubadour Bruce Cockburn delivered what was both the very first and a very short Loft Session. Returning for a second time, Bruce graciously played a solid hour of favorites mixed with selected tunes off the new instrumental CD, Speechless. A true honor. The performance will air the week of December 12, 2005: Monday at 12noon & 9pm, Thursday at 3pm & 9pm and Saturday at 6pm. Please note that all times are Eastern.


October 7, 2005
The Triangle
The student newspaper at Drexel University

Cockburn and Lee perform at World Cafe for 'Free at Noon' series
By Misheal Devlin

When I visited WXPN's Web site to read about the Sept. 30 Free at Noon concert featuring Bruce Cockburn (pronounced "Co-burn") and Amos Lee, I read that the show was a standing room only show. I had been downstairs at World Café Live a few times before, so I knew that the place had tables and chairs. It's a restaurant, and restaurants usually have such things. I thought the note on the Web site just meant that the staff would let people inside to see the concert even if they ran out of seats. When I entered the downstairs venue and found that the ordinarily-obvious bar was invisible without squinting and contorting my body, I realized just how wrong I had been. There were no tables or chairs; the staff had moved them to best accommodate precisely what they got - a horde of fans to see Cockburn, who is considered Canada's greatest singer-songwriter, and Lee, a local singer-songwriter who has won, and is winning, wide appeal.

The two musicians performed a "double header" concert: each musician played a set that lasted approximately 45 minutes, extending the typical length of a Free at Noon concert by half an hour.

Cockburn performed first, primarily focusing on work from Speechless, his latest album. Cockburn chose that title because the album consists of guitar instrumentals, which he recorded in response to critics who have called him "verbose."

Early in his set, Cockburn played "Rouler Sa Bosse" from Speechless. The French title means literally "to roll one's hump", but more casually it means "to ramble about." If you watch old movies or TV shows, then the soothing instrumental will conjure up romanticized images of Paris and tired Can-Can dancers taking a break. All that's missing is the accordion. Or rather, the clarinet. Cockburn said he recorded the track with a clarinet player, but that he would imitate the clarinet vocally. The song certainly did not suffer by the absence. In fact, Cockburn's slightly worn voice gave the piece a rough-edged, broken-in charm, like familiar jeans.

"The End of All Rivers,"another track from Speechless and a piece for which Cockburn accompanied himself by creating an echo with a pedal, was a surge of delicate, intricately-spun sound.

Cockburn interspersed songs with lyrics among the Spechless numbers. The sometimes blues-inspired, sometimes folk-inspired works, like "Mighty Trucks of Midnight" and "Lovers in a Dangerous Time", often paired moody concepts with even moodier, finger-picked chords.

After Cockburn took his bow and some stage rearrangements were made, Lee took the stage. Lee began his set with "Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight", revealing a wide vocal range, a deceptively-relaxed-yet-forceful singing style, and a deceptively-effortless-yet-precise guitar-playing style.

While Cockburn was a bit reserved, Lee frequently talked to and joked with the audience. When he mentioned the difficulty of parking in Philadelphia, some audience members said they took the train. Lee responded by saying he would play a train song for them, which he did - "Working on the Night Train", a brooding song which he performed with a friend who was in the audience but joined him on stage.

Later, Lee unleashed some country music influences with "Bottom of the Barrel," an upbeat tune of encouragement.

As a way of saying "thanks" to the audience and to Philly in general, Lee performed "All My Friends", the last track from his recent self-titled album, as his final song.

Because the age difference between Bruce Cockburn and Amos Lee was clearly apparent (I'm not saying that anything was wrong with that, just that it was apparent), I expected to see groups of people to leave after Cockburn's set and new groups of people to arrive for Lee's set. At the time, I was surprised that the audience stayed the same. Now, in retrospect, I realize that I had momentarily forgotten something very simple: a focused technique and an ability to paint with sound - which both Cockburn and Lee possess - can appeal to practically anyone.


Posted on: October 6, 2005
D. Keebler

Bruce is scheduled to go in the studios of BRAVO! on November 17, 2005, to perform for the television program, Live At The Rehearsal Hall. It is unclear at the moment if it will air live (unlikely, I'd say) or if it will air at a slightly later date. Check for times.


Posted: September 22, 2005
From True North

Bruce will make in-studio appearances at the following radio stations:

9-26-05 WGBH in Boston
9-27-05 Sirius Satellite Disorder in New York City
9-30-05 WXPN in Philadelphia
10-1-05 WBOS and WXRV in Boston


Posted: September 15, 2005
D. Keebler

Bruce will play a benefit concert to help save a culturally and historically important church in Toronto... St. Stephens-in-the Field. Performers also include Katherine Govier, Molly Johnson, Daniel Lanois & Lori Anne Reid, Michael Ondaatje, Jane Siberry and Kurt Swinghammer. It is scheduled for September 18th, 2005 at 7:30pm at Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields Church located at 103 Bellevue Avenue at College Street, Toronto. More information about the church can be found at


September 7, 2005
The Ottawa Citizen

Pulling at heartstrings
Cockburn's guitar playing on latest album reminds fans of other side of political activist
by Lynn Saxberg

With everyone from the Rolling Stones to Barbra Streisand taking swipes at U.S. President George W. Bush in new songs, it's refreshing to hear one of Canada's most political songwriters take a radically different approach on his latest disc.

Bruce Cockburn keeps his mouth shut and plays his heart out on Speechless, a compilation of instrumental pieces from his catalogue, along with three new compositions. His 28th album will be in stores Sept. 27. Dominated by gentle, often intricate acoustic guitar compositions, the project serves as a reminder of Cockburn's outstanding guitar playing, a talent that tends to be overshadowed by his reputation as an outspoken political activist.

Yes, he's the guy responsible for the hard-hitting 1980s hit If I Had a Rocket Launcher, but he's also the nimble guitarist everyone was in awe of back in the days when the Ottawa music scene involved hanging out and playing acoustic guitars on Sparks Street. The silver-haired Ottawa native learned to use contemplative instrumental pieces to break up the pace of a heavy album. "The pieces that have been on other albums that have a lot of words already function as a kind of relief from the intensity of having to listen to all those words," he said in a recent phone interview. "But in the context of their own album, they assume a different significance."

In one case, he felt the album (1999's Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu) was long enough and decided to pull the long, slow instrumental Rise and Fall. It resurfaced on a Japanese release of the disc, and is now one of the rarities included on Speechless.

Listening back to his old material with co-producer Colin Linden, Cockburn was struck by the changes in his writing. "It held up better than I thought it might," he says. "I don't listen to my old albums, really, except when I want to learn a song that I've forgotten, so to have to go through and pay attention was instructive, good for my sense of perspective.

"I think Colin pointed out a lot of the older pieces have more chord changes in them than the newer instrumentals that I've done, which seem to be floatier, less harmonically structured," he says.

A Canadian folk legend who's received Juno Awards and the Order of Canada, Cockburn says he wasn't even tempted to put words to them. "The songwriting process for me normally starts with lyrics, so the instrumental pieces kind of come direct from that other side of the brain ... without the need to serve a set of lyrics, they can be richer, more complex, not follow a kind of logical pattern the way songs usually do."

The three new pieces are the dark, mournful Elegy, a flowing retake of The End of All Rivers, which has been presented as a full-band jam in concert, and King Kong Goes to Tallahasee, a bluesy number that Cockburn says was inspired by Pulitzer-winning American author Robert Olen Butler and Ottawa poet Bill Hawkins. The music was written to accompany a spoken-word performance by Butler, who lives near Tallahassee, but the title was inspired by Dancing Alone, this year's retrospective volume of Hawkins' poetry. In the 1960s, Hawkins was Cockburn's bandmate in the legendary 1960s Ottawa group the Children.

"Reading the poems in the new book, there are several references to Tallahassee," Cockburn explains, "and then he had a whole series of poems that involved King Kong as the perpetual frustrated outsider. So it seemed like if I was going to put in Tallahassee, it would be nice to have King Kong."

The new pieces are likely to be included in Cockburn's next studio disc.

Meanwhile, the singer-songwriter-guitarist heads off this fall on a solo tour of the U.S., with a few Canadian dates, to promote the disc. A week ago, he hadn't decided if he would take an electric guitar or stick to the acoustic theme of the album.

His first live performance in a couple of months is tomorrow's benefit concert and 60th-anniversary celebration for USC Canada.

It's at the Congress Centre and also features speaker David Suzuki. Cockburn, who turned 60 this year, has been the development agency's spokesman for years; he participated in a similar event a decade ago to mark the 50th anniversary.

For Cockburn, turning 50 was a bigger deal than turning 60. "That was the old half-century thing. Sixty feels like just another thing with a zero after it," he says. "It doesn't feel any different than 59.

"I guess when I start getting those cheques in the mail, it may feel different then. To me, as long as I'm able to keep doing what I do, it won't change my perspective."


July 22, 2005
The Orlando, Florida Sentinel

Music Review
Third World: Black, Gold & Green (3 stars out of 5)
'Black, Gold & Green' strays into the bland
by Jim Abbott
Sentinel Pop Music Critic

In its 30 years of existence, Third World has been all over the map, infusing Jamaican reggae with elements of R&B, dance and pop.

Black, Gold & Green, in stores Tuesday, is a reference to the colors of the Jamaican flag, which suggests that these 13 songs might be a return to the band's roots.

While there are tasty servings of traditional reggae, such as the percolating "Nah Sweat" and a horn-powered "Butterflies and Rain," Black, Gold & Green finds the band's musical imagination as restless as ever.

The results are a mixed bag of inspired adaptations and other songs that sound a trifle too commercial.

On the positive side, a cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers In a Dangerous Time" melds a simmering island rhythm section with harmonies and instrumental interludes that inject a bit of sophistication. The blast of keyboards and backing vocals that announce the first verse sound like a page from the old Motown play book, though the song's understated groove doesn't fulfill that expectation.

The band's affinity for old-school R&B surfaces again in a cover of Ashford & Simpson's "Solid," one of the songs that ventures too far into the disposable pop realm with its strings and vaguely smooth jazz approach.

That song, and the slick "Runaround" are bland compared with the moments when the band gets more traditional. "Revolution in Her Eyes" showcases the loose, joyous tenor of lead singer Rugs Clark above a terrific background of horns, chugging organ and voices.

"Writings on the Wall" follows the same successful formula. Vocals by dancehall reggae star Wayne Marshall are added to the mix, but not much else.

Even the band's experiments are better when they don't become mired in excess. The delicate "There's a Reward," built on a solitary oboe and acoustic guitar, is a simple song. It's also one of the best moments on an album that sometimes stretches too much.


 Posted: July 15, 2005

From a conversation with Bernie Finkelstein
by Daniel Keebler

Bruce's next album, Speechless (The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn), is currently scheduled for release on September 27, 2005. It will contain 15 tracks. They are:

1. Foxglove 2.Train In the Rain 3. Water Into Wine 4. Elegy 5. Mistress Of Storms 6. Rouler Sa Bosse 7. Salt, Sun and Time 8. Islands In A Black Sky 9. Rise And Fall 10. Sunrise On The Mississippi 11. King Kong Goes To Tallahassee 12. When It's Gone, It's Gone 13. Deep Lake 14. End Of All Rivers 15. Sunwheel Dance

The release will be followed by a limited solo tour with dates in Ontario, the northeastern U.S. and several dates on the west coast: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

In 2006 Bruce is expected to release a new album. It will be backed by a full band tour. Details as they become available.


July 2, 2005

Cockburn fighting poverty
Shot film about Mali 'tragedy'
By Jason MacNeil -- Special to The Toronto Sun

Bruce Cockburn has seen first-hand the devastation that poverty can bring. The 60-year-old singer-songwriter filmed a documentary in March, 1998, entitled River Of Sand, spending a month in Mali while looking at the effects of desertification. He says that it's one thing to see it and another to be there experiencing it.

"It's hard for people to imagine the level of deprivation that is meant by world poverty," Cockburn says during a break from mixing his new album Speechless. "But you can imagine it if you picture what sort of circumstances reduce a family to living in a dump voluntarily. That's their only way of getting some income to find or restore items that get thrown away.

"In one way it's a commendable sort of recycling process. But on the other side it's a human tragedy."

Cockburn, who performs in the early afternoon at Live 8 today, says that TV images of Third World poverty don't truly encapsulate what is happening.

"It can't really communicate what it means for people who are basically just like us, that have the same aspirations with their lives," he says. "They want to have some kind of life and don't want to watch loved ones die around them. There are too many parents in the world having to watch their kids die before they get to be five years old."

The speed with which Live 8 tickets were snapped up globally was evidence to Cockburn that the cause was more than just. He feels that the concerts can be very effective.

"Hopefully, with the kind of statement these concerts are making to the G8 politicians, the heads of state, they will be moved to make decisions that they seem very close to making," Cockburn says. "The world leaders in question are right on the brink of making the right moves. They just need the nudge that we're going to give them to convince them to make it right."

Musically, Cockburn is in the homestretch of completing Speechless, a new album consisting of various instrumentals that appeared on some of Cockburn's previous 27 albums. The record contains three new songs as well as a song that appeared only on a Japanese version of his Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu album.

The singer has a few dates this summer, but will tour in the fall behind the new album. He says that it's interesting hearing the instrumentals together.

"Within the context of an album, they constitute a relief from all the words ... In the context of an instrumental album, they are the whole thing. I'm very pleased with how it's coming out."


Posted: June 23, 2005
USC Press Release

USC Canada is one of Canada’s most experienced and oldest international development agencies. Throughout 2005, we will celebrate 60 years of working in partnership with communities in the developing world to promote social justice and development. USC is organizing two events in September to mark the occasion.

Not Waiting for a Miracle: an Evening with David Suzuki and Bruce Cockburn
Thursday, September 8, 2005 at 7:30pm at The Ottawa Congress Centre

David Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster. He has received consistently high acclaim for his thirty years of award-winning work in broadcasting, explaining the complexities of science in a compelling, easily understood way. He is well known to millions as the host of the CBC's popular science television series, The Nature of Things.

David’s presentation will discuss how technology, trade, and global industrial practices are threatening the environment, biodiversity, and the livelihoods of millions of farmers around the world. He will offer viable ways in which individuals, communities and governments can take actions to address the root causes of poverty, injustice and environmental degradation worldwide.

With over 25 albums to his credit, Bruce Cockburn is one of Canada’s greatest singer/songwriters. His music and words have had a profound influence on generations of Canadians. His political consciousness, his views on nature and the Canadian landscape, and his respect for human rights and world cultures make his music unique and inspiring. Bruce has been USC Canada’s spokesperson for many years. He will perform a selection of songs from his wide-ranging repertoire.

This event is open to the public and will be held at the Ottawa Congress Centre in downtown Ottawa. Tickets go on sale in mid-June through Ticketmaster. All tickets purchased prior to August 1st will cost $25. After August 1st, Ticket will cost $35 ($25 for students).

Meet our Guests; Support our Programs!

A private reception at the Ottawa Congress Centre will allow USC supporters and friends to meet David Suzuki and Bruce Cockburn in a more private forum. This is a fundraising event for USC and tickets are available at a cost of $150 per person, which includes admission to the entire evening. A special selection of Hors d'oeuvres and drinks will be served from 5:30 until 7pm. Your generous support is needed to help USC and our partners continue our work in promoting strong, healthy and just communities around the world!

Tickets will be available in mid-June through Ticketmaster.


Posted: June 21, 2005
Canada Newswire

Bryan Adams, Motley Crue, Simple Plan and Tragically Hip Confirmed for Live 8 Canada Park Place

(Formerly Molson Park) to play host to star-studded line-up

TORONTO, June 21 /CNW/ - Organizers of Canada's contribution to the global Live 8 initiatives, today announced a stellar line up of over 20 internationally acclaimed acts that will take to the stage at Park Place (formerly Molson Park) on Saturday, July 2nd from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., with gates opening at 9 a.m.

Confirmed performers(*) to-date include:

- Bryan Adams - African Guitar Summit - Jann Arden - Barenaked Ladies - Blue Rodeo - The Bachman Cummings Band - Bruce Cockburn - Tom Cochrane - Deep Purple - DobaCaracol featuring Kna'an
- Great Big Sea - Les Trois Accords - Gordon Lightfoot - Motley Crue - Our Lady Peace - Sam Roberts
- Simple Plan - Tegan & Sara - The Tragically Hip

Canadian comedians Dan Aykroyd and Tom Green will host the event, which will also feature a very special performance by Celine Dion live by satellite from Las Vegas.

With the unprecedented assembly of live acts, ticket holders will enjoy the greatest line up of music ever including satellite feeds of Live 8 concerts from across the globe, featuring Pink Floyd, U2, Sir Paul McCartney, Destiny's Child, Stevie Wonder, Sarah McLachlan and many more.

Free tickets - limited to 2 per person - will be available to the public as of 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 23rd, and can be attained in Canada and the U.S. online from Ticketmaster's website only ( According to Michael Cohl, producer of Canada's Live 8 concert, there is a twist on how people can get tickets. "We want people to understand why they're attending the concert, so anyone looking for tickets will have to answer a skill-testing question about Live 8," said Cohl. In order to secure tickets, concert-goers will be required to answer the following question:

According to Live 8 and Make Poverty History, what can the G8 leaders do to help make poverty history?
a) Increase foreign aid
b) Cancel the debt of poor countries
c) Make trade rules fair for the poor
d) All of the above

"I'm thrilled with the outpouring of support from the artistic community," said Cohl. "It promises to be a great show, but we have to remember that we're coming together to urge the government to cancel the debt
and improve aid and trade."

"1.2 billion people are living in abject poverty," says Gerry Barr, Co- chair of the Make Poverty History Campaign. "Every day, 50,000 people die from poverty-related causes. More than 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. These numbers can numb us with a sense that little can be done to end so much misery. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Poverty is not inevitable. We can make poverty history."

Bob Geldof, the driving force behind Live 8, believes that July's G8 conference presents a unique opportunity. "This is not a charity event. The concerts are rallying points for the largest constituency ever mobilized to call for justice for Africa and the world's poor." Geldof's goal is to eliminate the debts owed to the world's richest countries by the world's
poorest countries.

"We can make Live 8 a turning point in history," says Dave Toycen, President of World Vision Canada. "Canadians have a clear opportunity to add their voices to the millions who want the G8 leaders to end extreme poverty. We've already gathered more than 12,000 postcards asking Prime Minister Martin to increase aid to .7% of GNP and to push for better trade rules for poor countries. Together, we can take a big step to end child poverty."

It was also announced today that CTV will be the host broadcaster for Live 8 Canada. CTV will broadcast the complete event live beginning at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, July 2. In what is being planned as an historic, all-day, rock and roll television event, CTV will also broadcast live portions of additional Live 8 concerts from around the world. CTV will begin broadcasting live early on Saturday, July 2 when the first act takes to the stage in Europe and will continue until the last act finishes at the Canadian concert, sometime around 8 p.m. ET. CTV also plans to air a "Greatest Hits" recap in primetime following the conclusion of the live broadcast with highlights from the most memorable performances of the day from around the world. See CTV's companion broadcast release for further details.

"Live 8 is music with a message. All resources are on deck to bring viewers expansive coverage of this important international event," said Susanne Boyce, CTV's President of Programming and Chair of the Media Group. "CTV's expertise in live musical production will be utilized to let viewers feel like they are part of the action, both at home and abroad." Live 8 is part of a day of action across the world, which kick-starts The Long Walk to Justice that calls on the leaders of the world's richest countries to act when they meet in Gleneagles, Scotland, July 6-8. On July 2nd in Toronto, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Philadelphia, Washington, Paris, Tokyo and Rome, millions will come together to call for complete debt cancellation, more and better aid
and trade justice for the world's poorest people. The public is encouraged to visit to learn what they can do to support Live 8 – whether they attend a concert, watch on TV or listen on the radio.

Without the support of the following official sponsors, Canada's Live 8 would not be possible;

Standard Broadcasting - Official radio broadcaster of Canada's Live 8 (radio details to be announced at a later date)

WestJet, the official airline of Canada's Live 8, have offered to fly the performers and their crews to and from the event

Rogers Wireless - Official wireless carrier of Canada's Live 8

The Live 8 Canada concert will be produced by TGA Entertainment in cooperation with House of Blues Concerts.

(*)Performers are subject to change without prior notice.


June 13, 2005

Bruce Cockburn Tells All At North By Northeast
by David McPherson

As part of the 11th annual North By Northeast music festivities, music writer Nick Jennings sat down with Canadian songwriting legend Bruce Cockburn for a tête-à-tête about his career. Dressed in an army fatigue shirt and sporting a grey goatee — looking like the wise and weathered poetic philosopher that he is — Cockburn casually chatted with Jennings about his 40-year career that shows no signs of slowing down.

Amongst other things, the pair discussed politics, religion, spiritualism, guitar playing, people who had covered the songwriter's music and Cockburn's varied musical influences during the hour-long chat.

Jennings opened the conversation by paying homage to the songwriter and providing a little history of his "relationship" with Bruce. He revealed that some of the earliest discs he bought as a kid were Cockburn albums and that when he first got into music writing it was the songwriter's discs that he often reviewed while working at the student newspaper.

"I got into music journalism, so I could keep getting Bruce's records," he joked.

After this light-hearted opener, Jennings allowed Cockburn to get serious as he delved into the songwriter's penchant for political songs and making statements about world affairs. Jennings discussed such Cockburn classics as "Tokyo," (which Hawksley Workman sang at this year's White Ribbon Campaign) "Call It Democracy" and "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" — the latter which was often misinterpreted as a war song. Jennings remarked that he always felt Cockburn's songs were like cautionary tales that suggest something without lecturing or being a call to action.

"I don't know how to stop it," Cockburn remarked. "One way that things get changed is through strong feelings shown to the supposed elected representatives and corporate heads. If enough people get interested then things do change."

Later, Jennings complimented Cockburn on his finger-style guitar, and the humble singer said that he's still working at it. "When I'm being good, I practise every day," he said. "A meaningful practise is a few hours and when I'm getting ready to go on tour I practice for at least eight hours a day. But, I do get lazy and sometimes don't play for a few days and then I get depressed."

The songwriter lived in Hogtown for 20 years, but the restless wanderer recently moved to Kingston. "Toronto was very good for me, but it was time to be somewhere else," he said.

Cockburn talked candidly and let his guard down to answer Jenning's questions. The self-professed loner said that especially now he's recently entered his seventh decade, this introversion probably won't change.

"At this stage, it's pretty much confirmed," he joked, of his nomad persona. "I like hanging out with people, but I have always been an observer — the guy that stood back. I probably perplexed my parents — how do we end up who we are?"

Overall, this celebrity interview was an intimate opportunity to see one of Canada's songwriting greats chat about his storied career.

Watch for an instrumental album from Cockburn in the fall.


Posted: June 8, 2005
LIVE: Bruce Cockburn Shines At White Ribbon Fundraiser

Phoenix Concert Theatre
Tuesday June 7, 2005
Toronto, Ontario
By David McPherson Staff

As his powerful performances at last night's White Ribbon Campaign concert confirmed, veteran singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn shows no signs of slowing down.
Despite equally electric performances by the likes of Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and the Barenaked Ladies, no one could match the 60-year-old's stage presence and collaborations at this annual benefit to raise awareness and money to stop violence against women.

Early in the evening, the Canadian icon was spotted hanging out with Hawksley Workman in the VIP area. Not surprisingly, Workman was the first artist Cockburn shared the stage with around 10:30 p.m. Workman said that he got into singing because of Cockburn, and playing electric guitar to Cockburn's acoustic, the two harmonized and played a rousing version of "Tokyo."

Later, Cockburn shone on his own, with a display of fine finger picking on the bluesy Blind Willie Johnson number "Soul Of A Man" and the folksy Pete Seeger cover "Turn, Turn, Turn." The latter received a standing ovation. Finally, the Barenaked Ladies joined Cockburn near the end of the evening for "Lovers In A Dangerous Time."

The eighth annual event has only one rule: all artists must sing cover songs (except for warm-up act Shawn Hewitt who kicked off the night around 8:40 p.m. with a short set of originals). The 2004 NXNE Fan Choice Award winner mixed a variety of styles, from psychedelic rock to jazz and soul and showed why he won over audiences last year. The highlight was "Firefly," a soulful song he dedicated to "the beauty of women."

Royal Canadian Air Farce newcomer Jessica Holmes hosted the event. While she tried to get laughs from the audience, most of her delivery fell flat. This wasn't an issue though, since people didn't come to the Phoenix to see an improv sketch — they came for the music. And, there was plenty of that with more than three hours of tunes by some of Canada's best-loved musicians.

One of the many highlights on this night of surprises was Matt Mays' two-song acoustic set. Sporting a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap, the East Coast surf bum and rocker mellowed the minds of those in attendance. Sitting centre stage, cross-legged on a stool, armed with only his guitar and harmonica, Mays showed that while he's currently in loud mode with his bandmates in El Torpedo, the songwriter has a softer side. Mays paid homage to JJ Cale, admirably covering his "13 Days." A little later, Sarah Slean, alone at the keyboard, sang an ethereal version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock."

Next to Cockburn's covers, the other major highlight was Cuddy, who was joined by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and ex-Doughboy John Kastner for a hometown homage to Neil Young. "Alex suggested that we play this acoustic, but I said no way," said Cuddy before the trio scorched through the Zuma classic "Don't Cry No Tears."

Once again, the White Ribbon show was a memorable night of music with the added bonus that even more money was raised for a great fundraiser that started here in Toronto and is now put on in more than 40 countries around the world.


Posted: June 2, 2005
True North Press release



JUNE 2, 2005 – TORONTO – World-renowned guitar master Bruce Cockburn is getting ready to record his 28th collection of songs for his first ever instrumental recording. The album will be produced by Colin Linden and Bruce Cockburn and is scheduled for a world-wide September/October release.

Pieces are being chosen now, some gems coming from previous albums. SPEECHLESS (The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn) will also include several new songs and recordings. 

Instrumental pieces chosen for SPEECHLESS include: Sunwheel Dance, the title track from Sunwheel Dance, (1971) Fox Glove from 1973’s Night Vision, Mistress of Storms from The Charity of Night (1996) and Salt, Sun and Time from Salt, Sun and Time (1974).

On Friday, June 10 at 4PM Bruce will take a different stage when journalist Nick Jennings interviews him for The North by Northeast Music & Film Festival (NXNE) at the Holiday Inn on King Street. The NXNE Festival takes pride in 2005 by celebrating independent success stories. Besides recording 27 albums, writing hundreds of songs, receiving numerous prestigious awards, Bruce is also known as a compassionate ambassador for humanitarian causes world-wide. He has traveled extensively on many fact-finding trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Kosovo, Nepal, Nicaragua, Mozambique and in January 2004 war-torn Baghdad.

Musicians today aspire to be able to record their music how and when they want to, and hope they can make a long-standing respectable career out of it. Bruce Cockburn does just that and has done so for over 35 years. He has always remained true to himself, his music, his values and his views.

Bruce will be presenting Alanis Morrisette with her Walk of Fame Award on June 5th and is taking part in the White Ribbon Concert (Ending Men’s Violence Against Women) at The Phoenix Concert Hall in Toronto on Tuesday, June 7. 


May 13, 2005
True North Records Celebrates 35 Years In 2005
True North press release

TORONTO – May 13, 2005 – In keeping with the NXNE theme this year, “Celebrating Independent Success Stories”, True North Records is proud to celebrate thirty-five years during 2005 and is thrilled to be a part of the North by Northeast Music and Film Festival and Conference. 

On Friday, June 10 at 4PM True North Recording Artist Bruce Cockburn will be at the Holiday Inn on King as a featured celebrity interview with journalist Nick Jennings. Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed a remarkable thirty-five year career as a solo artist with twenty-seven albums released internationally with number twenty-eight to come out in October, 2005.

Bruce is also a part of the prestigious White Ribbon Concert on Tuesday June 7th.

On Saturday, June 11 at Lee’s Palace, True North proudly shows off some of Canada’s finest artists. These are confirmed, but there may be a few surprises.

9:00 pm     Joel Kroeker – Melodrama (February 2004)
10:00 pm     Colin Linden – Southern Jumbo (March 2005)
11:00 pm     The Rheostatics – 2067 (October 2004)
12:00 pm     54*40 – Yes To Everything (releases June 14, 2005)
1:00 pm     The Golden Dogs – Everything in 3 Parts (June 2004)

Limited advance tickets are $20 and being sold through Against The Grain outlets. The first 200 NXNE badges and wristbands gain free admittance.


Posted: May 13, 2005
Coming Releases
Daniel Keebler

Bruce is expected to release a new album by October, 2005, according to True North Records. It will be an instrumental album. It will contain previously released songs as well as new songs. Additionally, a DVD of a concert recorded in Montreal a few years ago for Canadian TV is due out by the end of the year. I will post details as they are available.


Posted: May 13, 2005
by Richard Hoare

Bob Hunter: The Canadian journalist who helped found Greenpeace and became its first president in 1973 died of cancer on 2nd May 2005.

Former Greenpeace director Rex Weyler told BBC's World Today programme - "I felt like the first time I met him I had seen a genius. He seemed to see things other people missed. I remember him saying things like "Ecology is going to be the biggest revolution in human history. It's going to change everything. It's not just a matter of cleaning up rivers and oil spills, but it's going to change science, politics and philosophy." He saw this environmental movement in the 1970s when no such thing existed."

There were tributes from the current leadership of Greenpeace." Bob was a storyteller, a shaman, a word-magician, a Machiavellian mystic, and he dared to inject humour into the the often shrill and sanctimonious job of changing the world."

Bob attended meetings in the early 70s on how to put pressure on the United States to end its nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Hunter christened the group "Don't Make A Wave Committee" - a name that denoted the disturbance a nuclear blast would make in the oceans. They agreed the best place to protest against the tests was where they were happening. On 15 September 1971 Hunter and 11 of his idealistic colleagues rented a rusting fishing vessel named the Phyllis Cormack and sailed it to waters just off Amchitka Island, Alaska where the testing was based. They gave the boat a new name -the Greenpeace - and thus was born an organisation that since become a byword for environmental activism, with 2.5 million members in 40 countries.

Bob will also be remembered for inventing another term: the labelling of the organisation's fast growing band of activists as "rainbow warriors." The name was inspired by a Canadian Indian book of native myths.

This is summarised and mercilessly ripped off from The Original Rainbow Warrior by David Usborne and an obituary by Fred Pearce both published in The Independent newspaper Wednesday 4 May 2005 in the UK. Check out both pieces for more details.

Bruce Cockburn wrote Actions Speak Louder as the theme for the documentary film "The Greenpeace Years." Bruce included it on his 1991 album Nothing But A Burning Light. Now go and play Gavin's Woodpile on the 1976 album In The Falling Dark...


May 04, 2005
Alex Lifeson And Sarah Slean Headline 8th Annual White Ribbon Concert
By: Staff

The NXNE Music And Film Festival and the White Ribbon Campaign have announced the lineup for the 8th Annual White Ribbon Concert, to be held on Tuesday, June 7, 2005.

Confirmed participants include guitarist Alex Lifeson of Rush, All Systems Go's lead vocalist and guitarist John Kastner, Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, singer-songwriters Bruce Cockburn , Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Slean and Emm Gryner and Alexisonfire guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green, who will perform with singer Jully Black . NXNE's 2004 Fan Choice award winner Shawn Hewitt And The National Strike will start the evening off. More names will be announced shortly.

The all-ages concert will follow the traditional, cover-songs-only format, but there will be no house band — a change that one publicity agent “is sure to result in even more musical minglings than before.”

Another change in this year's event will be the absence of the Tea Party's Jeff Martin. He was one of the White Ribbon Concert's main Toronto organizers, but this year he's letting some new blood run the show.

The event will be held at The Phoenix in Toronto. The first 100 NXNE 2005 wristband holders in line will be admitted free of charge. Otherwise, tickets for the event are $25 and go on sale on May 6, 2005 at The Phoenix Box Office, Rotate This, Soundscapes and through Ticketmaster.

For $75 a pop, VIP tickets entitle the bearer to goodie bags, free food, cocktails and better opportunities to meet the musicians. All proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the White Ribbon Campaign.

The White Ribbon Campaign was established in 1991 when a group of Canadian men decided to speak out against violence against women. It has since become the largest effort in the world of its kind. The white ribbon is a symbol of men's opposition to men's violence against women.

—Angela Kozak


Posted: March 8, 2005
Close Up: Fingertips
by David Hayes
from Saturday Night Magazine

Most days, Bruce Cockburn picks up his guitar and practises for anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours, whether he’s going over older material, writing new songs or practising scales. When he has a concert tour approaching, he rehearses with his band for a week or two beforehand, usually eight hours a day. While on tour, he plays a two-to-three-hour concert a night, and sound checks can add another couple of hours of playing each day.

Cockburn is a fingerstyle guitarist, which means he plucks the instrument with his fingers rather than with a flat pick. Unlike many fingerpickers who use their thumb and first two fingers, he uses his thumb and the first three fingers of his right hand. “I fuss with my fingernails all the time,” says the 59-year-old Cockburn. “There is a never-ending search for the perfect nail treatment.” He started out using fingerpicks — the kind that wrap around each finger — but didn’t like them. Nor did he like fake fingernails, also popular among guitarists. Decades ago a friend showed him an unorthodox technique: alternating layers of Krazy Glue with tiny sheets of toilet paper, creating a fibreglass-like laminate. “You want to be very careful if you try it yourself. You don’t want it touching your skin, and you definitely don’t want to stick your fingers together. It’s pretty painful separating them.”

Over time, the Krazy Glue concoction chipped away layers of his nails, making them thin and fragile. A few years ago, Cockburn discovered an alternative: a cosmetic product called Nail Envy. (Though it’s available across North America, he still purchases it in quantity from a hair salon in Warren, Vermont, where he first discovered it, when he visits friends there.) He uses about three layers of Nail Envy Original plus a couple of layers of RapiDry Top Coat formula to create a protective coating. The coating wears down as he plays, rather than the nails themselves. Once it’s applied, he needs to touch it up only a couple of times a week. “It’s funny,” he says. “My mom will call and I’ll tell her that I’m watching TV and doing my nails.”

Five years ago, Cockburn began to notice a stiffness between the second and third fingers of his right hand. It wasn’t a problem in most of his repertoire; for certain songs, he figured out a way to slightly alter the picking. He’s written so many songs over his 35-year career, he explains, that “mostly I just stopped playing them if they gave me any trouble.” But on two oft-requested songs — an instrumental called “Foxglove,” from early in his career, and “Live on My Mind,” from his 1996 album, The Charity of Night — he had trouble with the tricky arpeggios played over an alternating bass line with the thumb. Fearful the problem might worsen, he visited Dr. John Chong, medical director at Musicians’ Clinics of Canada in Toronto and a self-described “specialist in performing arts medicine.” Chong hooked Cockburn up with electrodes to a biofeedback device that allowed him to see how tiny shifts in his arm angle, head position or feet placement produced changes in muscle groups pictured on a computer screen. “I used to play with my head down and my shoulders hunched,” says Cockburn. “It’s amazing how minuscule changes in posture would make a noticeable change to the muscles in my fingers.”

Then there’s the guitar itself. He’s constantly experimenting with the tools of his trade, acquiring new ones and sometimes selling, trading or giving away old ones. He has about a dozen now, most of them electrics. “Over the years I’ve gone through a lot of them, searching for better sound or sometimes just for the novelty of it.”

For a decade he’d been using a guitar made for him by Toronto luthier Linda Manzer, who also makes instruments for Pat Metheny and Carlos Santana, and whose prices start at $10,000 (U.S.), with a two-year waiting list. Cockburn had originally asked her to make the instrument’s body slightly deeper to provide a bigger bass sound, but it pressed against nerves in his forearm and contributed to his righthand problems. So he switched to one of Manzer’s innovative designs, a wedge-shaped instrument thicker at the bottom and narrower at the top. When he began practising yoga a few years ago, he discovered that proper breathing also helped his posture, which, in turn, lessened the stiffness in his picking fingers. Today, after 27 albums and countless concerts, his fingers give him almost no trouble.

Cockburn doesn’t do anything special to care for his hands — no ablutions, massages or acupuncture. And despite the difficulties he’s had, he still considers himself lucky: “So far, mercifully, my left hand has been OK.”


January 17, 2005
Bruce Cockburn Celebrity Interview At North by Northeast 2005
Press release from True North Records

TORONTO – JANUARY 17, 2005 – The NXNE Music & Film Festival and Conference is proud to announce that one of Canada’s most admired and respected musicians, BRUCE COCKBURN, is confirmed as one of this year’s celebrity interviews.

The 11th Annual NXNE Festival takes place in downtown Toronto, Canada from June 9-11, 2005. Our celebrity interview with Bruce Cockburn will be held on Friday, June 10 at The Holiday Inn on King, NXNE conference headquarters. Delegates to both the music and film conference have access to the interview. Delegate passes are available for sale at

Bruce Cockburn is a world-renowned virtuoso guitar master, a fiery and literate wordsmith, and a compassionate ambassador for humanitarian causes worldwide. This will be his first appearance at NXNE, and it also marks the first time he has agreed to a celebrity interview.

“We’re thrilled to have Bruce Cockburn participate at NXNE,” says Andy McLean, NXNE Managing Director. “His unwavering independent approach to his music is a true inspiration to the emerging artists at the festival. He is one of Canada’s most influential songwriters and someone who has achieved worldwide commercial success without compromising his commitment to speak out against injustices.”

As an acclaimed singer-songwriter/musician, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed a remarkable 35-year recording career as a solo artist with 27 albums released internationally, all through the independent Canadian label True North Records.

Cockburn has been honoured with the Order of Canada, the Governor Generals Performing Arts Award, and three honourary doctorates - one of which is from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Bruce received Italy’s TENCO Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Holland’s Edison Award for Album of the Year for Inner City Front. He has received 11 JUNOs, 14 SOCAN awards, and numerous other awards and honours in his long and distinguished career.

With 20 gold and platinum albums, Bruce Cockburn has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. Over 200 artists have covered Bruce Cockburn songs, including; kd lang, Jimmy Buffett, The Barenaked Ladies, Jerry Garcia, Elbow and Maria Muldaur. Bruce has also traveled extensively on many fact-finding trips to places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Kosovo, Nepal, Nicaragua, Mozambique and, in January 2004, war-torn Baghdad.

Bruce Cockburn is in a rare league as an artist. Musicians today aspire to be able to record their music how and when they want to, and hope they can make a long-standing respectable career out of it. Bruce Cockburn does just that and has done so for over 35 years. He has always remained true to himself, his music, his values and his views.


Posted January 8, 2005
CBC Plans Telethon
by James Adams
Toronto Globe & Mail

A celebrity-packed prime-time benefit to be carried nationwide next week on CBC-TV and Radio One aims to raise millions of dollars for the victims of the Asian tsunamis and the rebuilding of devastated communities.

Organizers of the hastily organized telethon, scheduled for Thursday, announced yesterday they have secured the participation of numerous musicians, artists and performers for the three-hour, commercial-free broadcast, including Margaret Atwood, Bryan Adams, Don Cherry, Cynthia Dale, Blue Rodeo, Anne Murray, Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, Oscar Peterson, Bruce Cockburn, Barenaked Ladies, Daniel Lanois, Rush, Jann Arden, Tom Cochrane, Molly Johnson, Marc Jordan and Murray McLauchlan.

The program, called Canada for Asia, will be hosted from CBC's Toronto broadcasting centre by sportscaster Ron McLean, comedian Rick Mercer and actor Sonia Benezra. It will feature a contribution from Celine Dion, taped prior to her performance that evening at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

The benefit will air as a live broadcast in Atlantic Canada and run tape-delayed to the rest of the country starting at 7 p.m. in each time zone. Viewers and listeners will be asked to make donations for tsunami relief via a toll-free number or on the Internet at

Editor's note: Bruce performed Joy Will Find A Way from his 1975 album of the same name.


Posted January 6, 2005
Bruce to Perform at Tsunami Benefit

Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Chantal Kreviazuk, Bruce Cockburn and more have been confirmed to perform at a Concert for Tsunami Relief in Calgary's Saddledome on January 31, with proceeds going to Oxfam, Care Canada, Doctors Without Borders and War Child. Tickets are $99.50, $59.50 or $42.50 and will go on sale this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at all Ticketmaster outlets.

© Daniel Keebler 1993-2023