Published Sep 17, 2019Bruce Cockburn's best songs always featured lyrics that felt like effortless poetry, but it was the combination of his words and music, together, that made them truly memorable.
Yet, even when the words are taken from his mouth, as they are on this 11-song instrumental LP, it doesn't remove any of the distinctions or signifiers of Cockburn's songwriting — acoustic, droning bass string, intricate modal finger work, percussion. Play almost any of the songs here, like "Sweetness and Light," "April and Memphis" or "Bells of Gethsemane," and your mind can't help but be filled with paintings of dewy grassed folk festivals, political strife and spiritual awakenings. To his advantage and detriment, his sound remains intact.
This is precisely why the middle song, "The Mount Leroy Waltz," stands out amongst this collection — because it doesn't sound like Cockburn, or at least not like any of the songs on this album. A jazzy, loose number that feels less a song and more a conversation between Cockburn's electric guitar and Ron Mile's cornet. When the other compositions start to melt into each other and the background, like many instrumental albums, this one snaps your ear back to attention. A re-reminder that the Canadian folk troubadour is also a virtuosic player, as a listener there's something reassuring and beautiful about that thought. This is effortless musical poetry. (True North)