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Idol Chatter

I’m not sure the mainstream music industry has ever given Canadian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn his due along side the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor, or even Bob Dylan. And I know that the Christian music industry has never known what to think of his politically charged lyrics mixed with a faith in God that isn’t easy to pigeonhole. And while I haven’t listened to Cockburn since my college days, consider me a prodigal fan returning to rave–no, gush–about his recent release “Life Short Call Now.” It is not only the best CD I have listened to this year, but also is a work of art to be reflected upon for a long time to come.

Cockburn’s political musings–the songwriter has always been an ardent pacifist–are still at the forefront of some of his songs, such as “This is Baghdad” and “Tell The Universe.” In these, he skillfully puts a human face on the devastation of war and on the destruction of our planet, and calls all of us to accountability. His prowess as a guitarist is displayed on instrumental tracks like “Jerusalem Poker” and “Peace March,” while the prophetic nature of his songwriting is especially evident in the searing lament found in “Beautiful Creatures” and in the warnings of the urgent “Slow Down Fast.” Woven together, all of these songs reveal a restless, questioning spirit searching for truth and beauty but discovering them harder and harder to find in a chaotic world unconcerned with the divine.

But it is the paradoxical yet whimsical portraits he paints of his faith in God that truly take my breath away. In “See You Tomorrow,” Cockburn sees God in a beautiful woman’s walk as well as in his own sin stalking him. In the song “Mystery,” he joyfully comments that “infinity always gives me vertigo and fills me up with grace.” And in “To Fit In My Heart,” Cockburn sums up his assurance in the vastness and agelessness of God’s nature as he quietly proclaims, “Spacetime strings bend, world without end / God’s too big to fit in a book / But nothing’s too big to fit in my heart.”

There is so much more I could say about the layers and nuances of Cockburn’s songs, but they need to be experienced individually to be appreciated. So don’t waste any more time. Your life is short, and you’ll definitely want to give Cockburn’s “Life” a listen. Now.

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