Song: Silver Wheels
Artist: Bruce Cockburn
This track’s from the celebrated Canadian artist’s seventh studio album, 1976’s In The Falling Dark. It’s from his more overtly Christian era, before notions of doubt and grey washes of complexity set in. It’s also before he earned a widespread (notorious, even) reputation for environmental activism and social justice. The occasionally staid earnestness of this period is tempered by the crystalline sound of his virtuoso guitar playing and free-spirited prolificness. As a guitarist, Cockburn rarely gives over to flashy self-indulgence; this cut is no exception. The track is anchored by a simple acoustic riff serving as a spine for what is literally a driving song, one about the endlessly unwinding road, the transitions and zones of demarcation from country to city, the influence of homo sapiens on the natural world - inevitably, haunting questions of morality. In other words, it’s a classic Cockburn tune.
Though his later works would become more overly political even relatively earlier songs like this one reflect the same fundamental concerns and questions seething under the surface. Lyrically Cockburn is masterfully on point and evocative. Fred Stone’s unexpected and invigorating flugelhorn solo break intervenes before Cockburn again dives back into the cauldron, spitting out a breathless reel of rapid lyrical observations playing against that steady, lonely, looping acoustic spine. You can almost feel the pavement rushing underneath as you listen.