After 2001's Ten New Songs, Cohen returns with a stunning new album, which clearly show than certain artists in their seventies, thankfully, are far from done with honing in their well-crafted wisdom.
Unlike his last album, Sharon Robinson's production allows Cohen's voice to carry the heft of these poems, whether sung or spoken. Actually, where Ten New Songs was more a collaboration than Leonard's solo album, Dear Heather finds her providing great vocals -specially in the The Letters- and more measured in the use of female back-up singers.
As far as I'm concerned, this is the work of a man who has meditated on mortality and found peace and reasons for gratitude, and yet remains unsentimental although more tender about his life. Here, Cohen's poignant and breathtaking poetry achieves a clarity only matched by its courage.
The first two examples which come to mind are Because Of ("Because of a few songs / Wherein I spoke of their mystery, / Women have been / Exceptionally kind / to my old age."), and The Letters (The wounded forms appear: / The loss, the full extent; / And simple kindness here, / The solitude of strength"), which are gorgeous expressions of a man settling accounts, whether thay may need to be apologies or gratitude.
Ultimately, this album shows more hope than somberness. Although Cohen could be called an elder of the dark and brooding song, he's, beneath it all, struck by beauty and loyal to a richer soul. This is an album about a vibrant life bared for examination, and the lesson is love, love above all else.
As he says in Villanelle For Our Time, a Frank Scott poem he musicalized:
"From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart."