The journey continues
BEAVER CREEK – With haunting guitar skills, powerful lyrics and a marked political tone, Bruce Cockburn has earned a loyal fan base following over 40 years in the music industry. He brings his songs to the Vilar Center for the Arts on Wednesday, joined by fellow Canadian folksinger Sarah Harmer as the opening act.
Cockburn kicked off his career with immense success in Canada, transcending his popularity to the states with the release of the politically charged album “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaw” in 1979. The disc is still a landmark of acoustic-based pop, with intricate lyrics, great sonics and outstanding guitar work. “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” the hit single from that album, became popular in the U.S., and landed Cockburn on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”.Throughout the two decades that followed, Cockburn’s style became first more urban, then more global and ultimately and most famously more politicized. In 1984, Cockburn produced the hit song, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” with an accompanying video depicting conditions in war-torn Central America. The video gained a fair amount of MTV play, and rose awareness in the states of the artist who was already hugely popular north of the border. Cockburn’s later 1980s’ work took on a more streamlined rock sound, and his political agenda was weighted toward environmental concerns, as well as oppression. Cockburn penned hit tune “If a Tree Falls” to raise awareness of the decimation of not only rain forests in South America, but of the natural landscape across this nation as well as many others.
His political activism continues to the present: Cockburn has traveled to many countries, played benefits and written many songs on a variety of political subjects ranging from the International Monetary Fund to landmines. His interest in international culture is also reflected in the “world music” touches found in his music, from reggae beats to notes of clearly Latin influence.
In 1991 Intrepid Records released “Kick at the Darkness,” a tribute album to Cockburn, named for a lyric from his well known tune “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” In 2001, Cockburn was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and in 2002, into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. His work has been covered by the likes of Barenaked Ladies, Jimmy Buffet, Ani DiFranco and the Jerry Garcia Band. (Garcia loved to cover “Waiting for a Miracle.”)The folksy, down home, bluegrass tunes of Harmer will start the evening. Harmer, like Cockburn, is also known for her political songwriting. She penned “I am a Mountain” about a portion of Canada’s rocky Bruce Trail, which was endangered by the expansion of a quarry onto the terrain. Harmer and her band even took to the trail in the summer of 2005, playing shows and raising awareness of the plight of the land, which borders the farmland on which she was raised.
The album of the same name her third CD – has earned Harmer critical acclaim, though she has been making music since she was 17. Her voice has been described as “beautiful,” “hauntingly mournful,” and “nimble.” In reviewing the band’s most recent release, British music critic Johnny Black said that “after 15 years of releasing acclaimed CDs, Harmer and her band still sound like sprightly young things blown away by the sheer joy of making music.”Harmer will kick off the evening at 8 p.m., followed by Cockburn. Tickets are available at the Vilar Center box office, online at http://www.vilarcenter.org, or by calling 845-TIXS (8497).
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