Bruce Cockburn – Slice O Life

January 01, 1970



Hard to believe that Bruce Cockburn is coming to the end of
his fourth decade of recording, especially if-like most people outside
Canada-you never heard of him until his minor 1979 hit “Wondering Where
the Lions Are” or 1984’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” and
“Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” songs that became anthems to college
students protesting U.S. policy in Central America (Bono even lyric-checked the
latter in “God, Pt. 2” on 1988’s Rattle
and Hum
). Given that he spends half his touring time doing solo acoustic
shows, it’s even harder to believe that this is his first live solo album. 


Cockburn makes up for lost time by making it a doozy, a
double-disc set that focuses mostly on material from the last 25 years, and in
the process neatly sums up his strengths as both a political and personal
songwriter on a par with Jackson Browne and an acoustic guitarist who can stand
toe-to-toe with Richard Thompson. “See You Tomorrow” and “The
End of All Rivers” are cases in point, with Cockburn’s fingerpicking
creating cascading, hypnotizing rushes of sound, while the “12 String
Warm-Up” (from a soundcheck) goes from frenetic to tranquil and back


The aforementioned “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”
and “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” are as timely as ever and lose none
of their power in the translation to the solo format, and “If A Tree
Falls,” which comes across as overwrought agitprop in its original
full-band version, gains clarity and strength from a rougher vocal delivery and
the insistent strumming here.


None of this is surprising to anyone who’s followed Cockburn
closely, but the sequence that bridges the cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s
“Soul of a Man” at the end of disc one and a slowed-down “Wait
No More” the new “City Is Hungry,” and “Put it in Your
Heart” at the beginning of disc two finds Cockburn riding a deep, Otis
Taylor-esque trance blues groove. It doesn’t exactly force a reconsideration of
Cockburn as a bluesman per se, but it’s rare that a live recording sheds this
kind of new light on an artist’s oeuvre.


Standout Tracks: “Put
It In Your Heart,” “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” ERIC SCHUMACHER-RASMUSSEN


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