O Sun O Moon is Bruce Cockburn’s latest studio album and is a collection of 12 new original songs that demonstrate the songwriting and guitar-playing skills that come from more than 55 years of artistry. Guests include Shawn Colvin, Buddy Miller, Allison Russell, and Sarah Jarosz.
Exquisitely recorded in Nashville with his longtime producer, Colin Linden, O Sun O Moon exudes a newfound simplicity and clarity, as Bruce Cockburn focuses on more spiritual than topical concerns this time around, looking back and taking stock. “I think it’s a product of age to a certain extent,” he explains, “and seeing the approaching horizon.” Then, lightening the tone, he adds with a laugh: “I think these are exactly the kind of songs that an old guy writes.”
Old or not, Cockburn exhibits a palpable urgency on the opening “On a Roll,” playing a driving resonator guitar with all the vigor of his veteran blues heroes. Similarly, “To Keep the World We Know,” one of the album’s few explicitly topical numbers, bristles with Cockburn’s buzzing dulcimer as he and Inuk music star Susan Aglukark, with whom he co-wrote the song, sing about the growing threat of global warming.
As with so many Cockburn albums, the musicianship on O Sun O Moon is superb. Along with usual suspects, Linden on guitar, Janice Powers on keyboards and Gary Craig on drums, the album features bassist Viktor Krauss, drummer Chris Brown, accordionist Jeff Taylor, violinist Jenny Scheinman and multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke. And Cockburn’s guest vocalists include Shawn Colvin, Buddy Miller, as well as mellifluous singers Allison Russell, Jarosz and Ann and Regina McCrary, daughters of gospel great Rev. Samuel McCrary, one of the founders of the Fairfield Four. The McCrary sisters shine brightest on the title track, whose full name is “O Sun By Day O Moon By Night.”
Never one to rest on his laurels - even when, as he notes, “time takes its toll,” Cockburn keeps finding and conquering new challenges, never repeating himself in the process. “I just don’t want to ever keep doing the same thing,” he says. “I’m grateful that I can keep on doing anything at this point,” he adds. “My body doesn’t hold up and perform the way it once did.” That may be so. But the legendary musician has just made his 38th studio album. And it may stand as one of his best of his long and storied career.