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Canadian Folk Rocker Bruce Cockburn Is Brilliant and Reflective in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The combination of Bruce Cockburn and Dar Williams at the CMA Theater in Nashville, Tennessee on June 17, 2023 made for an engaging and intellectual evening of music. The two acts who have both traditionally mined the folk and acoustic rock genres have been on tour together for the first half of the month mainly on the East Coast. The concert in Tennessee marked the penultimate night of their trek together with Atlanta, Georgia scheduled as the last and southernmost stop for the pair before they would part and go their separate ways.


Bruce Cockburn in Nashville - older, wiser and still sounding great.

Bruce Cockburn is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist. The Ottawa-born musician has won 12 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award. He is well-respected for his artistry and 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. Bruce pens lyrics that capture the faith, fear, joy and pain of life while tackling serious topics such as ecclesiastical truths, imperialist lies and more in compositions that reflect folk, jazz and rock influences.

Bruce was warmly greeted at the CMA Theater as he took a place among his guitars. He opened with the ballsy "The Blues Got the World By the Balls" flowing into the insightful "Soul of a Man" (Blind Willie Johnson cover). Continuing his serious musical commentary with the solemn "The Whole Night Sky". Next, Mr. Cockburn mentioned his new album O Sun O Moon before performing two potent pieces from that platter, "On A Roll" and the dark story of "King Of The Bolero". Going way back he played the introspective "The Rose Above The Sky" countered by the slightly more up-tempo and stunning "Orders" also from the latest release.

After presenting the dramatic "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" someone in the audience asked who did you write that for? Bruce replied that it was for his oldest daughter. It reflected his concerns about the upheaval in the world at the time she was growing up. Interesting, it was penned before Y2K and 9/11 when we may have all thought things were more innocent but proving we have been living in scary seasons for decades. That song and the next one - "Last Night Of The World" - are just as relevant today as ever. The set continued with more meditative tracks from Bruce's extensive catalogue that includes more than 350 songs on 34 albums over a career spanning 50 years. The show ended with an encore performance with guest artist Colin Linden a fellow Canadian on "Onto the Now" and "Stolen Land".


Bruce Cockburn's latest release - 2023's O Sun O Moon.

Hailing from New York State, Dar Williams broke out in the mid-1990's with her eclectic blend of alt-rock, folk, jazz and slam poetry. She toured extensively behind her first album The Honesty Room and has been growing a fervent following ever since with her compelling compositions paired with a voice that just draws you in. Dar also aptly uses her guitar to punctuate her potent prose.

At the CMA Theater she just came out and started singing and strumming "Time, Be My Friend" from her most recent collection I'll Meet You Here from 2021 that is finally getting proper tour support after being delayed by the international reaction to the pandemic. Afterwards she shared that "it was a joy to be here". Dar mentioned that she enjoys walking around cities and gleans song ideas from her strolls which was the inspiration behind the simple yet stirring "The Beauty of the Rain". "The Babysitter's Here" was a hit with its childlike view of a hippy who looked after a young Williams. Later, "Little Town" which painted a visual picture of a place was a winner as was "When I Was a Boy" that closed her set with a perceptive view of upbringing while addressing gender issues.

Although, Bruce and Dar come from different countries and times they are in some ways cut from the same cloth. They both fearlessly tackle serious subjects in their music while supporting causes and activism with each personally involved in doing what they can to make the world a better place. At the CMA, they both excelled in an educational and entertaining way.


Dar Williams at the CMA Theater in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on BRUCE COCKBURN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Bruce Cockburn | Bruce Cockburn Ignites the Crowd at Nashville's City Winery | Dar Williams | CMA Theater


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