(True North Records, 2009)
Slice O Life is a double album of live solo performances, recorded at various gigs across the USA and Canada in May 2008. This is a recording that fans of Bruce Cockburn have eagerly anticipated, this writer included. The choice of material spans Cockburn's critically acclaimed career from his early recordings in the 1970s, through to 2006's Life Short Call Now, with a brand new track thrown in for good measure. There are even a few snippets recorded from the sound checks that further contribute towards the raw, live ambience.
One advantage of this recording is that it allows you to clearly hear Cockburn's distinctive and intricate guitar playing. Always perfectly matched to his lyrics, Cockburn seems to be able play a weeping, melodic backdrop for the more introspective numbers, though most revealing is the spiky anger and agitation that he seems able to conjure up so intensely to underscore his darker or more forceful pieces.
Furthermore, the recording seems to reveal Cockburn as relaxed and genial; happy to share in the banter with his audience and contribute some amusing yet revealing stories. This aspect is something that doesn't often come across in the earnestness of Cockburn's recordings, or indeed his live performances here, but the presence of these amiable interjections brings a more human face to the material and somehow makes them all the more enjoyable.
Cockburn sounds in great voice throughout, with a world-weary vocal that succumbs to the occasional energetic outburst. Singing with an undeniable commitment and sincerity, Cockburn seizes his lyrics with a commanding authority, yet radiates a genuine warmth that urges the listener to sit back and soak up the vivid poetry of his lyrics.
Stand out moments for me include the bluesy saunter of "Mamma Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long," the enthusiastic audience participation on "Wondering Where The Lions Are," a reflective "Pacing the Cage," the edgy anger of "If I Had A Rocket Launcher," and the sheer understated beauty of "Celestial Horses."
For fans of Cockburn, Slice O Life is an unmissable release... for the uninitiated, this is most certainly something you should hear too!
Visit The Cockburn Project online!