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By David Werther.

Bruce Cockburn, Life Short Call Now (CD ISBN #1161-3244-2) Rounder
           Bruce Cockburn's twenty-ninth album, Life Short Call Now, begins with the title track and ends with the instrumental "Nude Descending a Staircase." The contrast is extreme. The title track is acoustic and passionate; the concluding track is electronic and at best bland. "Nude Descending a Staircase" begins with sounds of static, electronic beeps (as in phone numbers being punched), and garbled voices, followed by irritating "on hold" elevator music. This "music" symbolizes the emptiness of a call never completed.
           In "God II" on U2's Rattle and Hum Bono mentions hearing "a singer on the radio last night. Says he's gonna kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight." The reference was to Bruce Cockburn, and the singer's self-description is still accurate, as evidenced in the three songs at the heart of Life Short Call Now: "Slow Down Fast," "Tell the Universe," and "This is Baghdad." "Slow Down Fast" is a rhyming, rapid-fire state of the world address.
            Oil wars water wars tv propaganda whores
            Fire alarm met with snores no one gets what's gone before
            Slow down fast
In "Tell the Universe What You've Done" Cockburn vents his anger over U.S. foreign policy, and envisions a cosmic courtroom
(cf. Deuteronomy 30).
            Tell the universe where you've been
            With your bloodstained shoes and your dunce's grin
            Got to notify your next of kin
            Tell the universe where you've been
           "This is Baghdad" is a lament made more poignant by a very effective use of strings. The song is a reflection of Cockburn's 2004 visit to Baghdad. In an interview with Rounder Records Cockburn offered this perspective on the song: "You can convey the emotional content of a situation in a way that mainstream news reporting does not try to do. By its very nature, the news tries to be objective; I don't have that burden. My job is the opposite: This is what it feels like for a guy from Canada to be sitting in Baghdad talking to Iraqis."
            Uranium dust and the smell of decay
            Sewage in the street where the kids run and play
            Not enough morphine and not enough gauze
            Firefight in darkness like the snapping of jaws
            This is Baghdad

           In the penultimate song, "To Fit Into My Heart," Cockburn finds some solace in creation.
            Spacetime strings bend
            World without end
            God's too big to fit into a book
            Nothing's too big to fit into my heart
Those with ears to hear and eyes to see won't wait to respond to God's call in creation. Others will be oblivious or indifferent and wait until the only thing left to hear is elevator music.

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