Bruce Cockburn: Kicking at the Darkness
For 40 years, this Canadian musical legend has been capturing in song the essence of human experience – while fiercely striving to make it better.
One of Canada’s finest artists, Bruce Cockburn has enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while travelling to such far-flung places as Guatemala, Mali, Mozambique, and Nepal, and writing memorable songs about his ever-expanding world of wonders. “My job,” he explains, “is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper and the pulling of notes out of metal.”
That scratching and pulling has earned Cockburn high praise as an exceptional songwriter and a revered guitarist. His songs of romance, protest, and spiritual discovery are among the best to have emerged from Canada over the last 40 years. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, has placed him in the company of the world’s top instrumentalists. And he remains deeply respected for his activism on issues from native rights and land mines to the environment and Third World debt, working for organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth.
Throughout his career, Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song. Whether singing about retreating to the country or going up against chaos, tackling imperialist lies or embracing ecclesiastical truths, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight. “We can’t settle for things as they are,” he once warned. “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re going to get worse.”
For his many achievements, the Ottawa-born artist has been honoured with 12 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada. But he never rests on his laurels. “I’d rather think about what I’m going to do next,” says Cockburn. “My models for graceful aging are guys like John Lee Hooker and Mississippi John Hurt, who never stop working till they drop, as I fully expect to be doing, and just getting better as musicians and as human beings.”
His commitment to growth has made Bruce Cockburn both an exemplary citizen and a legendary artist whose prized songbook will be celebrated for many years to come.
As co-founder and lead vocalist of Hot Rize and Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers, West Virginia’s Tim O’Brien is a legend in the world of contemporary bluegrass music. His songs have been covered by Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks and he has recorded with Steve Earle and Mark Knopfler. As if that illustrious resumé wasn’t enough, O’Brien is a master multi-instrumentalist and Grammy Award winner to boot. timobrien.net
Old Man Luedecke
Old Man Luedecke is the real thing, a modern-day people’s poet and travelling bard and balladeer. He’s played around the world to a loving and increasing fan base, and won two Juno awards in the process. His latest album, Domestic Eccentric, was recorded in a cabin in the Nova Scotia woods. It’s the third collaboration between Old Man Luedecke and Tim O’Brien, two like-minded artists in love with folk and roots music, playing at the height of their powers. oldmanluedecke.ca
This indie-folk trio from Whitehorse, featuring Jérôme de Pasquale, Cécile Légaré and Scott Maynard, is at times soothing and at times intense. Singing in English and in French and featuring guitar, keyboard, drums and trombone, the songs feature both whispers and primal screams.
This original rock & roll band from Whitehorse has been rockin Yukon festivals and dance halls since the 90’s with their positive message based tunes. The 5pc band featuring Laurie Malo – Vocals/Guitar, Hal Jordan – Guitar/vocals, Delmar Washington – Drums, Steve Philp – Sax and Darcy Weavers – Bass/ Vocals will be sure to entertain.
The high energy vaudevillian-jazz-gypsy-circus music of Victoria’s Blackberry Wood will be making its triumphant return to our corner of the world. With a tickle trunk full of whistles, fiddles, horns and costumes, this six-member band can turn even the faint-hearted into the footloose. www.blackberrywoodmusic.com
Described as hearfelt, outsider blues and noisy pop, Ghostkeeper’s music can be best understood through the distinctive Northern Alberta origins of Shane Ghostkeeper (vocals, guitar) and Sarah Houle (drums, vocals). While traditional influences remain at the very core of Shane’s songwriting, a healthy irrelevance towards standard song structure and an idiosyncratic storytelling voice results in something undeniably Ghostkeeper. ghostkeeper.bandcamp.com
Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer
Armed with an arsenal of harmonicas, a mess of foot percussion, and a road-worn Telecaster, the Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer’s sound is smothered in greasy, gritty soul and imbued with funk. Shawn Hall provides the rousing, rugged vocals and blues harmonica, while Matthew Rogers rips on the guitar and pounds the skins with his feet. It’s the blues played the way it was meant to be played. harpoonistaxemurderer.com
Since winning top prize at the Calgary Stampede Talent Search in 2014, Layten Kramer has been on the road, showcasing his sparkling melodies and way with words. Coming up next for the Canmore, AB native is his first full-length album, featuring experimental song structure and lush soundscapes, all the while maintaining intriguing lyrics and catchy, clever hooks. laytenkramer.com
Manfred Janssen & Krankshaft
Manfred Janssen is no stranger to Yukon audiences. He has shared his music across the country and internationally. Manfred had the honour of playing his song Highwind as a tribute to Terry Fox at the opening of Vancouver Para-Olympics and the song was recently performed by the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
A lover of the blues and founding member of Blues Cargo with Ed White (Fat Head), his latest incarnation – Krankshaft, features a gritty blues edge with Jordy Walker, Micah Smith and Marc Paradis.
Combining the soulful power of Tracy Chapman, the uniqueness of Bruno Mars and a voice that can silence a room, NEFE is a burgeoning talent sure to take the industry by storm in the coming years. Born Sarah Jea Felker, NEFE hails from Guelph, Ontario. She may be soft spoken, but she is loud on the inside, with a rich soul, expressing her voice through her music. nefemusic.com
Old Cabin is the pseudonym of Jona Barr. In the last few years he has brought his music from the Yukon wilds and shared it with fans across Canada, playing house concerts to festivals and everything in between. Good news for his fans: Old Cabin’s second full-length album will be released this spring. We expect great things! Jona will be appearing with his full band: Jordy Walker, Micah Smith, Fiona Solon and Kyle Cashen. oldcabin.bandcamp.com
Crafting delicately arranged folk-pop that drips with bittersweet melodies, soaring harmonies, and an awful lot of passion, the Olympic Symphonium have been sharing their quiet world with us since 2005. They are and always have been a collaborative effort between three multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, and friends: Nick Cobham, Kyle Cunjak, and Graeme Walker. theolympicsymphonium.com
With more aliases then a stagecoach bandit, Ryan McNally is everywhere. Whether he’s playing with his own solo band or other various outfits, he can’t be kept off Canadian stages. Ryan puts most of his energy in his passion for studying acoustic traditional blues, jazz and old time music. This led him to spending a winter in New Orleans where he wrote the majority of the material featured on Steppin’ Down South. This album is saturated with the sounds and rhythm of New Orleans streets. ryanmcnally.ca
No stranger to Atlin and Yukon audiences, Sarah MacDougall has been crisscrossing the globe since releasing her latest album Grand Canyon. With songs about identity, love, fear, hope, growing up, rootlessness, forgiveness. They are written from the point of view of the hopeful outsider, trying to figure out their place and make sense of the world. sarahmacdougall.com
When Scott Maynard packed up his things and relocated to Whitehorse from Toronto, he brought with him a whole bag of tricks. He’s played with many local bands, taught home recording and vocal techniques and has hosted open mic at the Gold Rush. Lucky for us, he has also continued to play his own innovative and inspired music. ndsmyd.wix.com/k-scott-maynard