One for the Humans

It’s been 40 years since Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn released his first, self-titled, solo album. He’ll celebrate that milestone in June when a diverse collection of musicians gathers to pay tribute to him. Recording artists such as Bare Naked Ladies, Judy Collins, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Hedges, Tom Rush and The Jerry Garcia Band have covered Cockburn’s songs ­ testament to the admiration and praise bestowed by his peers.

As rendered in lyrics of “Pacing the Cage” ­ “I’ve proven who I am so many times / the magnetic strips worn thin” ­ Cockburn has been through as many style changes as decades. In the ’70s, Cockburn’s guitar work and songwriting skills won him an early enthusiastic following. Raised an agnostic, his early songs featured Biblical metaphors and reflected his Christian beliefs. He transitioned from philosophical folkie into a socially conscious rocker of the ’80s, most notably in his controversial and bitter “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” In the ’90s Cockburn came full circle to a more introspective feel recalling his earlier work, but shifted his attention to more international political issues. The world music influences found in Cockburn’s arrangements reflect his global awareness.

Over the years there have been several live recordings of Cockburn, but none like his 2009 release, Slice O Life, which captures Cockburn in his finest form ­ solo, an artist at the prime of his musical maturity, his thought provoking, gripping and often emotional lyrics brilliantly ride every wave of his seemingly effortless guitar prowess.
This article was originally published in Eugene Weekly, April 22, 2010

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