Silver rain sings dancing rhyme

Back in the 70’s what I most cared about was music. They say the more things change the more they stay the same. One of my very favourite musician / songwriters back then was Bruce Cockburn from Canada. A line like “Silver rain sings dancing rhyme” could only be him.

“Wondering Where the Lions Are” was a huge song in 1979 and even though it was about some cold war thing which I never got it had huge cut through and that album was a global hit even on radio Hauraki in little old NZ.

Bruce was this virtuoso guitarist – a musicians musician with a rare fluency for the kind of dream lyric sequences where words and images merge into a stream of sound.

When you hear something like that you know it has a special alchemy. An idea I love is the theory of songlines mentioned by Bruce Chatwin a few years back. In my book songs are the ultimate creative way of mapping the universe.

In the songline metaphor a song is both map and creative process.

Gifts

Silver rain sings dancing rhyme
Sunlight on blue water
Rocky shore grown soft with moss
Catches all our laughter
Then sends it back without its edge
To strengthen us anew
That we may walk within these walls
And share our gifts with you

Bruce Cockburn
Toronto – March 15, 1968

Bruce is now 67? and this song is off his 31st album called “Small Source of Comfort“. It is not really that memorable an album except for the last track gifts. It caught my ear because the guitar tuning and the lyric flow is out of sequence with the rest of the album.

Sure enough its a song from 1968 – right from the very beginning. It is one that he used to perform at various concerts and I think I have heard it before in the 80’s although when someone has this many songs in their catalogue it is hard to be sure.

I think it is like chalk and cheese compared to the other songs on the album. It doesn’t fit this album particually but it is a kind of benediction that is universal and transcends time and space. Having 44 years to think about the arrangement is also a great thing.

Tell us about the baritone guitar that you used.

That was made by a guy named Tony Karol from Toronto. I acquired it when we were doing the last studio album, Life Short Call Now. He had left it in the studio for me to try and I ended up using it on the record. You can hear it on “Lois on the Autobahn” and on “Gifts.” It’s tuned a fourth lower than a standard guitar, so when I play an open C chord it sounds as a G. On “Gifts,” along with the baritone I play a regular six-string with a capo way up the neck, so that I can also play a C fingering in the key of G. The music sounds more interesting that way.

Read more about Cockburn album -Small Source of Comfort:

The video below is another song that has been neglected – from 1986. Lily of the Midnight Sky.

Update: 2017. Was listening to this album again recently and very struck by the song “Call Me Rose” which re-imagines Richard Nixon as a solo mum living in the projects with two kids. A song that is even more pertinent in 2017 when we have a US President who is at least as Machiavellian as Nixon and certainly the orange trumpet has led a privileged life without empathy.