Boundless - Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn catches you off guard on his new album Small Source of Comfort (True North Records). He transitions quickly from the light guitar work and folk-style vocals about the “iris of the world" and always loving someone on the opening track to the second song, “Call Me Rose,” that begins with a slowed, more forceful beat and immediate, loud, purposeful lyrics, “My name was Richard Nixon only now I’m a girl.”
Following his tune about rehabilitating the image and soul of Tricky Dick, he falls back into a soft, smooth guitar backbone which stays fairly consistent throughout the album, though “Five Fifty-One” and “Boundless” pop along with more vigor than others. “Driving Away,” a duet co-written with Montreal-based vocalist and guitarist Annabell Chvostek, is a beautiful song, twisted with saddened imagery that questions, “Driving away, blue as the night / mustang, lizard, mud and light / blood and diamonds, fight or flight / right?”
The Canadian Cockburn digs in on electric resonator guitar with “The Comets of Kandahar,” a song inspired by a trip to Afghanistan where he saw jet fighters taking off after dark, invisible except for the glow of the tailpipe flame, and “Parnassus and Fog,” which brings “San Francisco magic and mystery” to life, according to the liner notes.
The whole album is dominated by contrasts: light and dark, delicate and heavy, layers and emptiness. But all demonstrate the versatility and strength of the guitarist, singer and songwriter seasoned by years of experience dating back to his start in the late 1960s. Small Source of Comfort, Cockburn’s 31st studio album, offers more comfort than the title might lead you to believe.
The folk legend will be coming to the Earlville Opera House, 18 E. Main St., Earlville on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. for a solo acoustic show. Tickets range from $30 to $40 and are available at www.earlvilleoperahouse.com. For more information, call 691-3550.
Live at Life is good - Ryan Montbleau Band
Modern storyteller, singer, songwriter, guitarist, feel-good music pro, Ryan Montbleau and his band come across best live and Montbleau’s latest album, Live at Life is good (Blue’s Mountain Records), does the trick in capturing his lively, spontaneous performance. Some artists lean on production to cover their tracks, but Montbleau doesn’t need the crutch. In fact, he thrives without it, letting songs sway with tempos, dynamics and solos.
The two-disc album due out on Saturday, Sept. 24, the day RMB comes to Cazenovia, combines songs from several albums including 2010’s Heavy on the Vine (Blue’s Mountain) and 2006’s One Fine Color (7 Not) among others, but all the jams feature Montbleau’s sweet singing style that rivals fellow singer/songwriter/heart-breakers Jason Mraz and Josh Ritter. Though all three have clever lyrics and a natural knack for songs leaning to the vulnerable side in the most endearing way, Montbleau stands out when he takes the stage with his big band of Matt Giannaros on acoustic upright bass, electric bass guitar and backing vocals, Laurence Scudder on viola and backing vocals, Jason Cohen on piano, organ, clavinet and Moog synthesizer and James Cohen on drums. The layers and textures of the instrumentation surrounding the songsmith give depth and dimension to his live show that others lack. Not to mention, the guy can rip on guitar when he wants to and does on “Honeymoon Eyes” and on one of the best of the album, “Inspired by No One,” a song that lets Montbleau get soulful and frantic on the strings and vocals. The clever lyrics to the “uninspired” song burst out, “Well, she brightens up my day / She’s got a heart of gold, but she doesn’t have a lot to say / And she eases up my mind / Good things and sunshine all the time.”
“Songbird” dives into reggae, “Slippery Road” gets sentimental with storytelling, and “Dead Set” brings Cohen out to play on the organ. The super catchy, sweet “75 and Sunny” will brighten the mood of any listener and the album/show closer, “I Can’t Wait” wraps up the show on a fantastic energetic note and chorus of clapping, shouting and whistling.
Montbleau and the band are dependable when it comes to
reminding their listeners: life is good and the music is great. To see them live and understand for yourself, check out more on Ski Caz Jam 5 here.