Home Influences Bruce Cockburn’s Speechless

Bruce Cockburn’s Speechless

by Larry

I have decided to start a new “series” of sorts, here at Guitar Musings.  Along with giving you my thoughts and recommendations on new CD’s that I have purchased, I will also grab some music from my collection and let you know what I think.  Why should all recommendations come from new releases when there is so much music to explore that has been around for years?

My first selection is Bruce Cockburn’s “Speechless.”  I chose Bruce because it was his playing that inspired me to study fingerstyle guitar  with his signature alternating bass lines with that unwavering thumb and his melodies continue to make my draw drop.  Speechless came out in 2005 and is a collection of his instrumentals throughout his almost 40 year career.  I think every song on this release is wonderful but here are some of my favorites.

  • Rouler Sa Bosse: He has been performing this live quite a bit now.  Took me over a year to get that sucker down.
  • Sunrise on the Mississippi: Great blues tune. A great example of how his thumb is independent from his entire body. Make you feel like you’re on the front porch down south  with some of the old greats.
  • Deep Lake: Slow meditative song that reminds me of a trip I took to the English River in Canada.
  • Water Into Wine and Sunwheel Dance: Both of these songs are perfect examples of his mastery of fingerstyle guitar. There is so much happening in these songs, you sometimes wonder if there is someone playing with him.
  • Mistress of Storms: Another “thumb” song but he adds vibes to this for a more jazzy feel.  If you can get a hold of him doing this live, get it!  His improv is incredible.

Links of Interest:

Cockburn Project

Rounder Records

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Amish Guitar July 3, 2008 - 3:46 pm

Thanks! I really appreciate your doing this. As much as I enjoy reading the reviews of new stuff by yourself and others, there is a whole slew of albums that came before that I no nothing about. And, just being the guy I am, I tend to prefer the tried and true over the new and now.


Amish Guitar July 3, 2008 - 3:54 pm

Good Grief! Make that “came before that I know nothing about.”

I’ll go hang my head in shame now.


Daniel July 4, 2008 - 4:21 am

I’ve been wanting to learn “rouler sa bosse” on guitar (I’m an experienced electric guitar player, but novice acoustic finger-style player). But I’ve looked everywhere for sheet music, and can’t find it. I’m particularly interested in the transcription of the clarinet part (my wife plays clarinet, but with sheet music only, whereas I can try to learn the guitar parts by ear).

Anyone know where to find that song in music notation? Preferably legally, but I would even consider kludged home-made transcriptions (this is just to play for fun, not for any commercial endeavor).


Larry July 5, 2008 - 1:28 pm

The sheet music that I used to learn this song was in the “All the Diamonds” song book. It’s a great transcription but it doesn’t have the clarinet part. You might be able to figure that out yourself on guitar and transcribe to clarinet.
The songbook ISBN is 0-919141-03-x and runs around $25(that’s what I pl. Below is a link to information on how to get the songbook.


RainforestRobin July 8, 2008 - 7:05 pm

WOW!!! Bruce Cockburn’s “Speechless” is incredible. I cannot believe it. It sounds like two guitars playing at once. How utterly amazing. I will have to get that CD. I love that you let us hear some of it; that way I know I like it.

I was wondering what you would recommend for a beginning guitar? I know most of the basic chords and can do some plucking and yet I’ve not played in years….I think I mentioned that one other time. But I want to learn again or at least pick it up and see where I go with it. Is steel string better? What else should I consider. Do you have any posts on this. I’ll have to have a look through and see.

Your site is very professional as are you in your relationship with the guitar. It’s really quite amazing. I am hoping for the day when I can hear some of your playing here on your site.

Thank you; you do an excellent job.
RainforestRobin 🙂

Larry July 9, 2008 - 6:19 pm

Thanks for the comments!!! Bruce Cockburn is one of my favorite songwriters and I’ll be sharing more of his music in the future.

As far as a guitar recommendation, it depends on your budget and what kind of music you want to play. I love both nylon and steel string but I’m partial to nylon. Mainly because of my love for classical guitar and Mariachi and other Mexican folk music. I love the warm sound that nylon gives you and it’s definitely easier on the fingers.

If you want a strumming guitar for campfire song type stuff, I would say a steel string would work best. Try out some at pawn shops or music stores and you will know when you play it. Not to sound too cliché, let the guitar pick you. : )

Larrivee Guitars Lover July 11, 2008 - 1:34 pm

Why should all recommendations come from new releases when there is so much music to explore that has been around for years?


Excellent point. I wrote my MA thesis on folk music and am usually about twenty to thirty years behind current music.

Do you know whether any of the songs are played with Cockburn’s cutaway Larrivee guitar? Check out http://www.12fret.com/VintageGallery/larrivee_first_cutaway_1975_pg.html

Larry July 11, 2008 - 2:06 pm

that’s a cool article. I don’t think that he played it on this album. He plays Manzer guitars now and songs like “Train in the Rain” and others were probably played with his National or chromed out Dobro. He also has a couple of other guitars that he had made recently by a Luthier who’s name escapes me. It was used a couple of times in the “Life’s Short, Call Now” CD.


Cools info on his gear. Doesn’t cover the more recent stuff.


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