Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu is Bruce Cockburn's twentieth studio album. Over thirty years, he has firmly established his artistic identity; as a result, the songs on Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu don't break any new ground. Lyrically, Cockburn doesn't stray from the impressionist poetic lyrics that he's honed over the years, nor does he stray from his favored topics: travelogues, including those drawn from his trips to Third World nations that emphasize his social concerns; reflections on the dynamics of relationships between men and women; and a spiritual mysticism rooted in Christianity. Musically, too, there's a consistency to his folk-jazz-rock amalgam. The album features the vocal contributions of a rotating cast of three women who appear through the album. Jonell Mosser sings on two songs, including the single "Last Night of the World." Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies lends her breathy pipes to two songs: the sultry "Mango" and a cover of the Fats Domino nugget "Blueberry Hill" that turns up the "rock" and de-emphasizes the "roll." Most important, Lucinda Williams appears on four tracks. The standout track on the album is "Isn't That What Friends Are For." This tender song of friendship is made more poignant by Williams' voice, which always manages to convey a deep sense of hurt. While the lyrics are sure to be enjoyed by those who are willing to listen and think, fans of Cockburn's guitar playing won't be disappointed, either.
There are two instrumental pieces, both band efforts, which feature Cockburn's acoustic guitar. "Down to the Delta" is an up-tempo tune, while "Deep Lake" is a quiet, more reflective piece that is close to the impressionistic style of Michael Hedges--except, of course, that Cockburn has been playing this sort of thing since 1971's High Winds White Sky.
Martin Monkman, All-Music Guide
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