Bruce Cockburn : Nothing But A Burning Light

Bruce Cockburn Nothing But A Burning Light album cover When Nothing But A Burning Light was released, way back in 1991, I liked the music I was listening to have a bit more punch and drive, so I didn’t give him and his music the attention it definitely deserves. Having left the ‚Rock’ period more or less behind the past few years, I can see now that he is an amazing guitarist, an extraordinarily gifted songwriter and politically on the ‘right’ side, which for me is the left. He’s long been active and supportive of humanitarian and ecological causes, as well as a supporter of Native American causes (he was, for a time in the 1960’s, a member of Abundance To Revolution with Duke Redbird, whose song Silver River (with Shingoose) can be heard on Native North America Vol. 1 (read my review here). Which neatly brings me to one of the standout tracks of this record, Indian Wars. Fittingly, it’s a somber, sparsely produced song with only him on acoustic guitar/vocals and Jackson Browne on a resonator guitar together with violin/mandolin player extraordinaire Mark O’Connor. The result is a dignified, slow and gorgeous songs with touching, poetic lyrics such as this: ‘treaties get signed and the papers change hands but they might as well draft these agreements on sand’. O’Connor’s contributions can’t be praised enough, on here, as well as on One Of The Best Ones, his graceful violin/mandolin accompaniments are simply wonderful. Also exceedingly excellent is Child of the Wind – a song with  a title like this could be very much kitsch in lesser hands, but on here it’s utterly beautiful (this time with Cockburn on a resonator guitar, having one of those played on a song is always a plus). Speaking of arrangements, the album is produced by probably the best man for this kind of music, T Bone Burnett. Burnett contributed his skills to many of my favorite records such as Counting Crows’ August and Everything After, as well as albums by The Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan and Gillian Welch (just to name a few). In the recent past he’s become legendary of course with his musical directions for The Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou?’ and Inside Llewyn Davis. On here you hear a sound which is, for that time period, outstandingly good, a bit thinner than nowadays maybe, but there’s mainly acoustic instruments and the sound is both rustic and naturalistic – just as I like it. There’s also two lovely instrumental songs, one, Actions Speak Louder is the theme to a documentary called The Greenpeace Years. The slightly too commercial for my taste Great Big Love most probably was intended as a hit single (the album was released on Columbia Records after all), but for me is the least convincing song on the album. Album opener A Dream Like Mine which sounds similarly catchy (it’s one of the few slightly more uptempo songs) fares much better in comparison. Second track Kit Carson and Mighty Trucks Of Midnight sound exactly like the titles suggest, breathing the spirit of empty North American trails and highways, with the latter touching on problematic issues such as US American companies leaving the country to do their manufacturing down in Mexico. Soul Of A Man, a song by Blind Willie Johnson sounds exactly like you would expect it to (which is a good thing, naturally). Somebody Touched Me in contrast, sounds light and airy with a rather nice organ by Booker T. Jones. I’ve just been rediscovering this CD among my records a few days ago, I didn’t even know anymore I had it. I am very glad I did, it’s an amazing record by an artist at the prime of his career, with a producer on board that knows exactly how to produce this kind of music, a match made in heaven. And, most importantly, a bunch of great songs. Here’s a rather beautiful video/slideshow to ‘ Indian Wars’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t1a5DLmR8U

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One thought on “Bruce Cockburn : Nothing But A Burning Light

  1. Pingback: Bruce Cockburn : Pacing The Cage | Back Road Bound

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