Nothing but a Burning Light

Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn is the voice of concern: Even his melodies seem to have furrowed brows. There are times on Nothing but a Burning Light when the smoky-toned Cockburn, who has been churning out socially and politically conscious material for more than 20 years, sounds suffocatingly sincere. Even when you know he’s dead right, his finger-wagging can be a bit much — particularly on songs like ”Kit Carson,” which recounts how that frontiersman accepted his President’s tyrannical request (”Take my best four horsemen, please/make my great lands barren for me”). Still, Cockburn’s music keeps him from being just another pious folkie — at times, his seductive melodies (and simple, ingenious arrangements) are almost carnal. On ”Mighty Trucks of Midnight,” for example, Cockburn favors a lonely, eerie, blues-based guitar sound that conjures heat waves quivering over desert sands. And with the riveting instrumental ”Actions Speak Louder,” he laces his surf-guitar playing with dread; the strings speak his concern more powerfully than words ever could — and somehow, miraculously, it swings. B

Nothing but a Burning Light
  • Music