So what has
Cockburn left to prove? Surely being a world revered singer songwriter,
guitarist, political activist, seeker for meaning, and all round good bloke
should be enough. Do we need another album, indeed a collection of mainly
older pieces reworked in a live setting?
Well the answer after listening to Slice O Life is undoubtedly yes. This
solo live cd is an intimate side of the artist that we have not been privy to
outside of his gigs for a long time. What keeps coming through on this is
despite the awards that have been bestown on Cockburn throughout the world - especially outside of
the UK - that we have a person whose talents are bigger than his ego. Also he
has a guitar style that even allowing for the marvels of modern digital delay
and echo still sound at times that there suggest that he is not alone. It
sounds like the man has gone almost full circle - if it were not for the
obvious size of the audience through the volume of applause that greets each
number - Bruce could be In a folk club. But I assure you, he aint.
He is now nearly 64 years old now has a look that suggests that his age is
something that he is coping well with. When many folk of that age are looking
forward to the bus pass and an easy time Bruce seems to be enjoying himself.
Whilst that sense of humour has always been there for those of us who have
been able to catch his live shows, I think the humour has always been
evident,sometimes though due to the subjects of the songs, it has not always
been evident on albums. The one example that does knock this argument is when
he closes Bruce Cockburn Live from his 1989 tour with the Monty Python anthem
'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'
He seems totally at ease with
the audience and enters into ready conversation and a quick retort and banter
to the comments that we are able to pick up on through the recording.
For Fans new and old there are plenty of goodies on this selection. 'Lovers
in a Dangerous Time' sounds as fresh with this solo version as a fresh thing
just picked from a fresh place. It seems very poignant that we are still in a
dangerous time - just a different danger than when Bruce first released this
track after in 1988 on the Stealing Fire album. The story goes that he wrote this and the
powerful 'If I Had a Rocket Launcher' (also on this collection) a year
earlier, after visiting refugee camps that were attacked before and after his
visit by Guatemalan military helicopters. His political activism continues to
When Cockburn sings 'Tibetan Side of Town', not only can I picture the
environment, he is exploring, but I want to be with him going drinking. If I
was to, I suspect that a good time would be had by all.
I guess it is true for most guitarists who trace their roots, but I feel that
Bruce is just one step ahead of the blues. Not in a corny twelve bar, three chord fashion, but in a
sophisticated feeling way. As a guitarist, he is
considered among the world's best. The New York Times called Cockburn a 'virtuoso on guitar', while Acoustic
Guitar magazine placed him in the
esteemed company of Andres Segovia, Bill Frisell and Django Reinhardt. With Slice
O Life, all of Cockburn's formidable
gifts are on full display.
But on this album we get to hear some things that we would not hear at a gig.
There are some extracts from soundchecks. A brave and commendable inclusion.
So If you think that Slice O Life is going to be akin to a slice o cake, a quiet sit
down and let Bruce reach for that bus pass. Bad luck. Slice O Life will grab you and move you,
and make us think Cockburn is reaching for the boarding pass
© Alan West