Canadian legend to offer ‘comfort’ in Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to music, Bruce Cockburn is the great equalizer.
“You want a balance between lyrical and musical content,” he said. “Sometimes songs have really catchy, great music, but when you actually listen to the lyrics, they’re pathetic, and then that ruins the music for me. Not for everyone, a lot of people don’t care what the lyrics say, but if I don’t like the lyrics, I lose my taste for the song even if I happen to like the music.”
That could be because the singer-songwriter has a lot to say. On his 31st studio album, “Small Source of Comfort,” Cockburn muses about karma for a disgraced politician and pays tribute to fallen soldiers.
On “Call Me Rose,” the 65-year-old sings, “My name was Richard Nixon only now I’m a girl/ You wouldn’t know it, but I used to be the king of the world/ Compared to last time I look like I’ve hit the skids/ Living in the project with my two little kids.”
“I just woke up one morning and almost the whole song was in my head, and I thought, ‘Where on earth did this come from’?” Cockburn said during a phone interview from San Francisco.
“Shortly before I wrote the song, there was a campaign mounted by someone presumably in the Bush administration or the Republican Party to bring back the image of Richard Nixon,” he continued. “It had all the earmarks of a failed PR campaign; when the budget ran out and it hadn’t been successful, that was it. So I feel that must have set me thinking of what I thought the redemption of Richard Nixon would look like.”
While the guitarist includes five instrumentals on the new disc and offers a witty look at trying to connect with a friend on “Called Me Back,” Cockburn takes time to pay his respects.
“‘Each One Lost’ came from this trip to Kandahar. It attempts to convey the feeling of being part of what is called the ramp ceremony, a term that doesn’t seem to have much currency in the United States but in Canada it’s a very familiar term because we see our dead soldiers coming back on TV, and anytime it happens there’s a news report and it shows the coffins of the dead being brought off the planes,” he said.
“We happened to be at a place called Camp Mirage, which the Canadians run as a base in the Middle East, that was a staging area for getting in and out of Afghanistan. That base closed actually a few months ago, but it was the main point of access to Afghanistan. So we’re there waiting to get on our flight, and a C-130 came in with the bodies of two Canadians who had been killed that day and were being shipped home.
“There was a ceremony on the tarmac to honor them performed by all the personnel on the base. It was at night, they’re all assembled on the tarmac in formation, and there’s a tape of bagpipes playing because they don’t have any pipers there. It just was an incredibly poignant and moving experience.”
Cockburn has moved a lot of people during his career. The Canadian Music Hall of Fame member is known for “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “A Dream Like Mine” and “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”
“Ultimately, I want [people] to love me,” he said and laughed. “There’s that, presumably, some inner compulsion that seeks that, but I think if people are touched by my songs, even if they don’t like them, then the song has been successful in some way. If they like them, that’s all the better.”
The Canadian icon will play two sold-out shows May 19 and May 20 at The Ark in Ann Arbor.