Small Source of Comfort, Bruce Cockburn's 31st album, is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn's characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock. As usual, many of the new compositions come from his travels and spending time in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn to the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, jotting down his typically detailed observations about the human experience.
As always, there's a spiritual side to Cockburn's latest collection, best reflected on the closing "Gifts," a song written in 1968 and but recorded here for the first time, and "The Iris of the World," which opens the album. The latter includes the humorously rueful line, "I'm good at catching rainbows, not so good at catching trout."
That admission serves as a useful metaphor for Cockburn's approach to songwriting. "As you go through life, it's like taking a hike alongside a river," he explains. "Your eye catches little things that flash in the water, various stones and flotsam. I'm a bit of a packrat when it comes to saving these reflections. And, occasionally, a few of them make their way into songs."
Those songs, along with his humanitarian work, have brought Cockburn a long list of honours, including 13 Juno Awards, an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a Governor General's Performing Arts Award and several international awards. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Officer in 2002. Last year, the Luminato festival honoured Cockburn's extensive songbook with a tribute concert featuring such varied guests as jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti, folk-rapper Buck 65, country rockers Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, country-folk singers Sylvia Tyson and Amelia Curran, pop artists the Barenaked Ladies and Hawksley Workman, and folk-pop trio The Wailin' Jennys.