Just as it's no doubt near impossible for the globe-hopping Bruce Cockburn to address the question "So, been anywhere interesting?", it's hard to know where to start when talking about his 40 years in the music business. It may very well be that his career is as seamless as careers get, but, for me, it will always have phases, albeit of my own creation and based on my experiences with the Canadian Music Hall of Famer's music.
First, there was his appearance on Saturday Night Live in the spring of 1980, singing the quirky, folk-jazzy, FM staple-in-waiting "Wondering Where the Lions Are." Who knew that this guy had been releasing records for 10 years? Definitely not this at-least-a-little-buzzed, non-Canadian 19-year-old who caught the episode in upstate NY and proceeded to hum the tune for the next month.
Next was hearing "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," the sound of a pacifist pushed to his limit, half folk-rock and half reporting from the trenches. And then hearing it again and again, courtesy of a college roommate for whom Stealing Fire is a desert island disc.
Live shows followed, including a spectacular ArtsCenter show around 1990 where, for the first time, I witnessed Cockburn's musicianship and quietly arresting showmanship in person. A mid-'90s show at Cat's Cradle in support of the T Bone Burnett-produced Dart to the Heart found Cockburn in a lighthearted mood. Most recently, there was Cockburn sharing the stage with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Tift Merritt when the Landmine Free World Tour stopped at Meymandi Hall, his political activism in full bloom. And just out is album No. 29, Life Short Call Now.
So, been anywhere interesting?
Bruce Cockburn is at Cat's Cradle on Saturday, Sept. 2. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 the day of the show. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the music starts at 8:30 p.m.