Speechless: The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn
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Bruce Cockburn
Speechless: The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn
Rounder (www.rounder.com)

Full disclosure: I've never been a fan of Bruce Cockburn, and couldn't name even one release. So the arrival of this instrumental compilation (15 tracks recorded 1973-2005) hardly raised a musical eyebrow. Indeed, it languished on the bottom of the "maybe never" pile for some time. A chance rediscovery shortly before the visit of an old friend and guitar fiend since elementary school days got it onto the CD player, and quite unexpectedly, it quickly became a family fave. Speechless reveals Cockburn as a consummate master of North American guitar styles, on par (and resonant in different ways) with the eclectic likes of John Fahey, Peter Lang, Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder, Bill Connors and Bill Frisell. From a flawless mix of old and new, previously unreleased material includes "Elegy" (a pensive National Guitar ballad, anything but bottleneck style), "King Kong Goes to Tallahassee" (a stripped down, consummate slow blues solo), "The End of All Rivers" (an airy, harmonic-dappled, overdubbed studio solo with Cockburn on guitar, Tibetan bowl, Navajo flute and baritone guitar), and from a Japanese-only release (plainly, his reputation travels), a circular "Rise and Fall" (with Cockburn's guitar and bells complemented by George Koller on bass and Ben Riley on drums). Other highlights include a brilliant 1996 duet with vibraphonist Gary Burton (these guys need to do more together), "Rouler sa bosse" (a plaintive 1974 jazz-inflected duet with Jack Zaza on clarinet), 1999's expansive "Deep Lake" (Koller on bass and dilruba, Rick Lazar on percussion), and "When It's Gone, It's Gone," from a 1991 outing featuring Mark O'Connor (mandolin) and the inimitable Booker T. Jones (organ). Cockburn fans may say they told you so, but for any other instrumental guitar aficionado, this is a gem. - Michael Stone

Available from cdroots

CD available from cdRoots

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