For iconoclastic Canadian singer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn (pronounced k’-bûrn), life and art have been described by a series of hyphens: “Canada’s Bible-belting folkie” (Rolling Stone) and “agitrock-Latin-Afropop” (Musician). Other catchy descriptions include folk-and jazz-rocker and poet-pop artist. But New Internationalist magazine may have described him best: “a brilliant guitarist, a talented lyricist, and a radical Christian who is deeply committed to the struggle for justice in Latin America.”

Now Cockburn’s latest and seventeenth release in a prolific 17-year recording career, “Waiting for a Miracle,” provides a new opportunity to reassess this artist and his work.

Cockburn On Himself

The album, a chronological collection of Canadian singles (20 on disc and cassette, 31 on CD) plus two new songs, gave Cockburn a chance to consider his own identity. “Unfortunately,” said the 42-year-old artist in a phone interview, “I don’t have a convenient label to apply to myself. It would save a lot of people the necessity of coming up with those hyphenated terms. But I’m just a guy who writes songs. I’m a guy who is living through a bunch of stuff and talking about it through song.”

Musically, his work has evolved from simple acoustic folk numbers to complex, multicultural sounds. Lyrically, he has journeyed from pastoral paeans such as 1970’s “Going to the Country,” to dark political prophecies, like 1985’s “Call It Democracy.” (“One day you’re going to rise from your habitual feast / To find yourself staring down the throat of the beast / They call revolution.”) ...

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