Bruce Cockburn | Slice o Life: Bruce Cockburn Live Solo

Rounder (2009)
By BANNING EYRE  |  March 30, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars

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It's been 40 years since Cockburn debuted as a silken-throated, nimble-fingered, quasi-Christian-mystic poet troubadour out of Canada. The outpouring of new songs and new shadings on his persona has never really ceased as he's gone electric, gone jazzy, gone back to acoustic, and created musical travelogues everywhere from Nicaragua to Mozambique, Mali, and Nepal. For all that, this two-disc live set — just Cockburn and his guitars — may qualify as his one indispensable offering.

Revisiting his most trenchant songs, and adding a few fresh ones, he pares it all down to essentials in as fine a marriage of voice and acoustic-guitar picking as any "bearded folksinger" has produced. From horn-like croon ("Wondering Where the Lions Are") to sneering political rant ("If a Tree Falls"), Cockburn's voice has added nuance with the years. And his guitar playing is magic throughout.

That busy picking thumb and those instantly recognizable melodic flourishes have never sounded better. Key songs — like "World of Wonders" — blossom into timelessness when freed from the elaborate production and orchestration that may or may not have seemed hip at the time. And Cockburn's edgy, slyly self-depreciating banter is always a kick.
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