"I included this song because I guess I was in a festive mood. If you're not, well ... piss off."
Fifteen years ago, the CBC hosted a Bruce Cockburn concert. It was broadcast a week before Christmas, and he'd just released his Christmas CD. Sentiments like the above were expressed with his usual rueful grin, and pleasurably received in kind. Colin Linden backed him up, and offered his own seasonal song, which gave some insight into how a Jewish kid (or one in particular) views the whole Santa Claus scene. Near the end, Hugh Marsh delivered a devastating rendition of "Amazing Grace" on his electric violin.
"Over the years as people have asked me to play this song, I've variously replied with, 'I'd rather not' to 'I hate that fucking song.'"*
And so it went: 50 tidy minutes of Cockburn's salty reverence. What I really desire is a proper recording of that concert. Unfortunately The Corp ain't offering it, and neither is True North. So I settle for this album, year after year.
If you, like me, would be happy just listening to Bruce play the nose-harp, then this collection contains nothing but pleasure. If, on the other hand, Bruce is a taste you've had difficulty acquiring, this is unlikely to make the difference one way or the other. He only works with material that interests him, so we get a grab-bag of cultural miscellany: an old Spanish carol, the expected Huron carol, and some call-and-response melodies from South Carolina. The CD is worth purchasing for Cockburn's commentary on each selection (e.g., "If there were a contest for the title of spookiest Christmas carol, this ought to win hands down"), but if the curious were to opt for some download selections I would recommend "Early On One Christmas Morn" "I Saw Three Ships" "Iesus Ahatonnia" and "Mary Had A Baby".
That should hold you until the concert, by some miracle, is once again made available to the public.
*The song referred to here is "Wondering Where The Lions Are." And he sang it like he meant it.