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One Track Mind: Bruce Cockburn, "Pacing the Cage" (1996)

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By Tom Johnson

Some people just have a gift for the odd twist of phrase that makes a song mean so much more than just a bunch of words or even just a mood. Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian sorta-Christian singer/songwriter is one such guy, and in “Pacing The Cage," from 1996's beautiful The Charity Of Night, he takes what could be a simple it's-hard-being-a-musician story and turns it into something everyone can identify with.

There may be lines like “I never knew what you all wanted" that bely its self-oriented origins, but there are also lines like “sometimes you feel like you've lived too long/Days drip slowly on the page" that elicit a resigned yeah-I-know-that-feeling sentiment in everyone.

And then there are lines like this, that make me wonder how someone could come up with such an engaging and beautiful way to say, simply, that he's been around: “I've proven who I am so many times/The magnetic strip's worn thin." To top it all off, the song contains one of the most beautiful bass solos I've ever heard, a short but powerful emotive burst from upright bassist Rob Wasserman.

It, just as the song itself, is exquisite.

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