Bruce Cockburn:
Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu

  Consider me a new Bruce Cockburn fan.  Now, I had been familiar with him for a long time, but was unimpressed with his cover of Mark Heard's "Strong Hand of Love." I was exposed to his CCM-accepted Dancing in the Dragon Jaws and thought it was a great album.  Dart to the Heart was even better.  But none of these albums made me a die-hard Bruce Cockburn fan.
   One night on the radio, I heard "Last Night of the World."  Oh bliss.  Songs like this only come by once or twice in a lifetime.  It is a coherent wandering of thought, inspired by Sam Phillips, and it took about four years before the song was complete.  Every line is etched in thought and with smirky wittiness.
   Other songs on the album that are worth buying the album for include "Blueberry Hill" with Margo Timmons (Cowboy Junkies), and the instrumentals: "Down to the Delta" and "Deep Lake." While the Canadian's new release is close to a classic piece of work, "Isn't that What Friends Are For" with Lucinda Williams is really lame. And I adore Lucinda Williams, so it's not like I don't like her. Cockburn just tends to have a brief moment of weakness and the unability to express his feelings eloquently in "Isn't that What Friends Are For." "Use Me While You Can" transports you to an Arabic setting, which is not all that fascinating. He "talks" in this song, which is not unusual for Cockburn to do, but this is another mediocre point on the album. One of the other great highlights, however, is a song in which he does talk: "Look How Far." It's beautiful; it's magnificent. It makes you wonder why more people don't like Bruce Cockburn's music.
   "Let the Bad Air Out" is really cool, with Cajun based influence musically, but isn't the coolest song if you're a Christian, because it's kind of a song about a whore. Another offensive song may be "Mango" about female sexuality. The music is nice, but the words can get really annoying. I should not mention what I think of the opening cut, "When You Give it Away", because I hate to downplay Cockburn's brilliance. But it sounds a lot like his song "Dancing in the Dragons Jaws" that he wrote about twenty years ago.
   I would have to say that Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu is his best release yet. It is his twenty-fifth album, yet he is constantly maturing as an artist and developing his creativity, which makes this album fresh and interesing. If you haven't yet discovered his music, give it a try. If you are a Cockburn fan, you will not be disappointed.

-Allison McCulloch