“I’m a stubborn man / ‘cause I believe love will conquer hate...”
A quote attributed to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche states: “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” A perfect example of the resolute handful Nietzsche was generically referring to is the Vancouver-based singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, Buckman Coe. A passionate activist and believer in the power of music and art to help shape a brighter future, Coe chose his path long ago. And as he follows it, he will remain in stoic pursuit of his goal to effect positive change for as long as there is breath in his body.
Plucked from the sweet pop-reggae cut "Stubborn Man", from the January 2013 EP release, Crow’s Nest (Tonic/Fontana North), as far as Coe is concerned the lyric above is no naïve hippie idealism. Based on the inspirational musician’s faith in the human spirit to prevail in these tense, uncertain times, it is a plain-as-day truism and typical of the optimism Coe brings to his acclaimed music. Sun-kissed folk-rock; gospel-tinged soul; intoxicating world-beat melodies, and a decidedly West Coast psychedelic pop sensibility all play a part in providing the sonic platform for Coe’s socially conscious lyrics.
His fourth release since debuting with the Windhorse mini-album in 2005, over five tracks running 25 minutes, Crow’s Nest displays a diverse range of Coe’s musical influences and talents. In the epic closer "Kingdom Come" alone, a driving reggae beat meets flamenco guitar motifs and Middle Eastern melodies to underpin a dramatic vocal performance. Like 2012’s full-length, By the Mountain’s Feet, the EP is crisply produced by Jason Kechely and features Brian Minato (bass/guitar), Michael Rush (upright bass), Chris Gestrin (keyboards), Jon Roper (electric guitar) and Sam Cartwright (drums) in rock solid support. Of the lyrical inspirations for Crow’s Nest, Coe says: “I wrote these songs in response to the threat the Pacific Northwest faces with proposed (oil) pipelines, an old friend's story about Japan after the Tsunami, and of course with a little bit of time dedicated to love, growing food and getting spiritually psychedelic… It's about taking control of our lives and the world around us through compassion, joy and a kick-ass attitude based on a stubborn commitment to righteousness and compassion.” There’s that word again.
Coe's music and message derive from his experiences studying the ecological and psychological effects of globalization in England and Colorado, and from his time back in Canada living as a yogi and counsellor, and as an ecological and social citizen. While his music is compared to folks such as Michael Franti, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, and informed by the spirits of Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and George Harrison, music is one of many facets of this spiritually-driven artist.
At present Coe is creating two major partnerships that in tandem with the message of his music provide an illustration of the artist’s commitment to his goal. Firstly, he has been working with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation (raincoast.org) on two projects centred on the potentially catastrophic consequences of the proposed and highly contentious Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline: Art for an Oil-Free Coast, and the Groundswell documentary project. Coe will be taking the documentary on his upcoming cross-Canada tour, as well as related footage and imagery to backdrop his live performances. The aim of this collaboration is, in his own words, to “provoke thought and stimulate discussion concerning the issues in question, but in a non-confrontational manner.” Secondly, Coe is working as a volunteer with Urban Ink Productions (urbanink.ca) in Vancouver, on a fundraising mini-festival to assist in the creation and implementation of music, dance, theatrical and other creative workshops for Aboriginal youth.
With his involvement in these initiatives and the release of the Crow’s Nest EP, Buckman Coe kicks off 2013 by taking giant strides forward on his chosen path. Nietzsche would have been very impressed.