Idol Chatter

brucecockburnsliceolife.jpgI returned to folk artist Bruce Cockburn’s music a couple of years ago when he released“Life Short Call Now,” one of the best recordings I listened to that year. Now Cockburn has a new two CD live set called “Slice O Life” that introduces new material and takes me back to some of his greatest hits, but this time with fresh yet sparse new solo arrangements.

Cockburn’s lyrical images have always had a hauntingly dissonant quality as he wrestles with images of faith and the harshness of injustice. His honesty about uncertainties in spiritual matters while still maintaining with certainty that the spiritual is absolutely crucial to our next breath is what makes his music unsettle me in ways that few artists can. New songs like “The City is Hungry” resonant with Cockburn’s continued desire to shed light on the oppressed, while older songs like “See You Tomorrow” reveal his quest to better understand the nature of God.
Yet what stands out on the live CD is Cockburn’s outstanding guitar playing. His masterful strumming and picking give new life to his classics like “Wondering Where the Lions Are” and he really shows off on some improvisational moments in “12 String Warm Up.” The recording also features some great, funny anecdotes told in concert that prove Cockburn is so much more than an angst-filled former hippie stuck in the 60s. Even though it would be great if there were a few more original tunes in the collection, the new musical and vocal arrangements make “Slice O’ Life” seem like it is not a rehashing of the old, but rather it has plenty of new gems for his fans to appreciate. In fact, the album is exactly how Cockburn’s music should be experienced: live, uncensored, raw, and full of unpredictable energy.

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