True North 2019
Review by David Bowling
This one has been on my desk way to long, so shame on me.
Bruce Cockburn’s career is closing in on the half-century mark. He built his reputation as an excellent songwriter who produced incisive and melodic pop and folk music. He took a surprising turn in 2005 when he released the all-instrumental Speechless album to critical acclaim and commercial success. It contained older material and cover songs and received a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumental Album.
Now he has returned with an all new instrumental release. Crowing Ignites is an album of all original compositions and enables Cockburn to step forward as one of music’s most accomplished acoustic guitarists.
Albums without vocals are a different breed. They take a alternate route to hold the listener’s attention be it though emotion, energy, atmosphere, melody, or expertise on a given instrument.
Cockburn travels in a number of directions and explores several different styles. Blues, Jazz, and folk form the center of the album. He also travels outside of conventional music forms with “Bells Of Gethsemane,” which combines Tibetan cymbals, chimes, and bowls into an imaginative masterpiece that does not follow any particular structure.
“Easter,” (composed on an Easter Sunday) , and “Sweetness And Light” are just Cockburn on the guitar. He is able to create a story without words or accompaniment as his ability to pick out a melody is on display.
“Blind Willie” is an ode to bluesman Blind Willie Johnson where he ramps up the energy as he trades guitar licks with dobro player and producer Colin Linden. “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” is close to a classic jazz piece as he is surrounded by a bass, drums, and cornet. “Seven Daggers” is another conglomeration of instruments and sounds as 12-string guitar, kalimba, dulcimer, chimes, plus Colin Linden on baritone guitar all join together to create textures and layers of sound.
If you have not heard from Cockburn since his “Wondering Where The Lions Are” days or you are just looking for some different and excellent guitar-based music, then Crowing Ignites is an album for you.