Bruce Cockburn honours the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King with the animated video for his poignant new song April in Memphis, showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Written earlier this year, the moving, sombre piece is the latest preview of the Canadian singer-guitarist and folk icon’s upcoming instrumental album Crowing Ignites.
“The piece came into being on MLK Day 2019,” Cockburn explains. “It pretty much formed itself in the course of a practice session. It took the shape of a lament, more than a celebration, which set me to thinking of King’s murder, and the loss of a voice of wisdom, compassion and respect that we could really use about now. Hence the title. I think the video conveys the right sense of the poignant beauty, of the dignity, of the man and the spirituality that fueled him.”
That video was produced and directed by none other than fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Kurt Swinghammer, also an acclaimed visual artist.
“Creating an animation for Bruce’s moving instrumental was an inspired opportunity to reflect on the loss of the most important spiritual leader of the last century,” Swinghammer says. “Fifty years after MLK’s assassination, we clearly still need to hear his message.”
Crowing Ignites was produced, recorded and mixed by Colin Linden, and recorded at the Firehouse in San Francisco. It showcases 11 all-original compositions by Cockburn, who plays acoustic guitar throughout, backed by a stellar cast of sympathetic musicians. Cockburn will support the new disc with a summer/fall tour schedule throughout the United States and Canada.
It’s not his first instrumental flight. In 2005, Cockburn released Speechless, a collection of instrumental tracks that shone the spotlight on the singer-songwriter’s exceptional acoustic guitar playing. The album earned a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and underscored his stature as one of the world’s premier pickers.
Already, The New York Times had credited Cockburn with having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business,” adding that he “materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music’s pulse and its foundation — at once a deep Celtic drone and the throb of a vigilant conscience.” Acoustic Guitar magazine was similarly laudatory in citing Cockburn’s guitar prowess, placing him in the prestigious company of legends like Andrés Segovia, Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt.
Now, with the intriguingly titled Crowing Ignites, Cockburn has released another dazzling instrumental album that will further cement his reputation as both an exceptional composer and a picker with few peers. Unlike Speechless, which included mostly previously recorded tracks, the latest album — Cockburn’s 34th — features 11 brand new compositions. Although there’s not a single word spoken or sung, it’s as eloquent and expressive as any of his lyric-laden albums. As his long-time producer Linden, puts it: “It’s amazing how much Bruce can say without saying anything.”
The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto “Accendit Cantu” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.”
More than 40 years since he embarked on his singer-songwriter career, Cockburn continues pushing himself to create — and winning accolades in the process. Most recently, the Order of Canada recipient earned a 2018 Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for Bone on Bone, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Peoples’ Voice Award from Folk Alliance International and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Cockburn, who released his memoir Rumours of Glory and its companion box set the same year, shows no sign of stopping. As Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.”