When Bruce Cockburn’s most recent album appeared in September of 2019, my initial response was disappointment. Crowing Ignites is a collection of instrumental pieces. While I do admire Cockburn’s musicality – he is, in my opinion, one of the most accomplished guitarists of my lifetime – this is not what draws me to him. It’s the combination of music and voice and words that pulls me in. It’s the indescribable alchemy of these elements.
In interviews at the time of Crowing’s release, Bruce explained the album’s content by affirming there were enough words floating about. Our days, in fact, were overcrowded with words and something other might be more appropriate to the moment. As much as I agreed with this sentiment, I still missed the presence of vocals and lyrics in the tracks. As a result, after only a few listens, the album was stored away and almost forgotten.
‘Almost forgotten’ is an important qualifier here. For I was never quite able to shake some of the words Cockburn did offer in publicizing his latest work. “There’s so much blather out there,” he told Andrew Hughes of the South Bend Tribune, for instance, “that I’m not sure more words are the point.”
In the midst of this global pandemic, words are important. It is crucial, in my view, to have access to reliable sources of these entities. I’ve been turning to The Guardian as my source of international coverage; CBC has continued to be my national go to; and the online Oak Bay News has been great for local updates. Together, these are providing just enough for me right now. Just enough information. Just enough sense of things. Just enough words.
Sometimes, however, I find myself shifting from ‘just enough’ to what Cockburn describes as “more words” (my italics). I impulsively click on this link and that. Soon I’m overwhelmed with differing opinions and conflicting accounts, dizzy with movement from page to page to page. The screen before me dissolves into a meaningless blur – a blather, one might say. And my ability to connect with and appropriately relate to anything is diminished. Not a desirable outcome in any circumstance, but especially right now.
So words are important and I hope all of us are finding ‘just enough’ for ourselves these days. As for ‘more words’, I’ve been trying to ensure time away from this tendency every day. With practice, of course. With walks and naps. And with a little more instrumental listening than usual: Antonio Vivaldi has become a regular; Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue; and Bruce Cockburn’s latest, Crowing Ignites.