Reviewed by John Cheek
A Canadian evangelist was once introduced to me. I mentioned that one of my favourite artists was a fellow son of his native land, Bruce Cockburn: "A lot of people in Canada have problems with Bruce", he said, ". . .but still a Christian, y'know." A sentiment which sums up Cockburn's journey, aptly. Previously censored by Radio 1, the controversial troubadour was once identified as Bono's favourite singer and courted critical success across north America. Cockburn continued to pen agit-prop protest songs and gradually looked and sounded like an old sage, world-weary and hanging onto faith. For this, his first album in four years, Bruce intended to change direction, introduce distorted guitars and go a bit 'rough'. It hasn't happened, but it's good that he's still out there, not forcing it. With some of this material reminiscent of old glory, 'One Of The Best Ones', and long-time cohort Colin Linden producing meandering, almost cinematic soundscapes, Bruce indulges his muse and subsequently conjures up the hilarious "Call Me Rose", which imagines efforts to rehabilitate the image of disgraced Richard Nixon, "I'll perform my penance well/Maybe the memoir will sell", by way of a sex-change on the president: "It's not what I would have chose/Now you have to call me Rose". With four (admittedly, fine) instrumentals, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Bruce otherwise has little to say; there's also "Gifts" from 1968, never previously recorded. If this is all he feels like sharing at this stage, these small crumbs of comfort will still amount to major feasts for many artists.
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