For the past couple of years I’ve been doing some recording with Hamilton based singer/songwriter Tim Gibbons, who I was introduced to by Tom Wilson (aka Lee Harvey Osmond). He dropped in to our studio one day with just his banjo and sang six or seven songs and I was hooked. There is naturalness to his singing and playing that is all too rare: when he starts to play there is an almost physical transformation that overcomes him, the song envelopes him, he becomes the song. I also love his song writing, it touches on so many of the styles that originally pulled me into music: the folk-blues vibe of Townes Van Zandt; the basic rock-n-roll-blues of The Stones, the soul/blues vibe of singers like Bill Withers. We have taken things slowly. Every now and then Tim would come in and lay down a few more songs, some old ones from his vast repertoire and some new ones, freshly minted. Once we got a critical mass of material together we invited Ray Farrugia (my studio drummer of choice and someone that has played with Tim many times over the years and who has an affinity for his style) to join us and we expanded some of the songs with bass and drums. Tim is one of those guys that can pick up any stringed instrument (and a couple of non-stringed) and play it (I hate those types of guys, but I love working with them), so he went back and forth between banjo, guitar, bass and vocals and backup vocals. We got most of the songs in a day. We then sent a few of the tracks west to Joby Baker in Victoria to lay down some of his soulful B3 grooves. I’m halfway through mixing the material and I’m approaching it with the same relaxed attitude that we took with the recording: squeezing in a song or two when my schedule opens up, going back making small adjustments, trying not to lose the energy and immediacy of the sessions. The entire album should be out on Latent in a couple of months. In the meantime here is a taste of one of Tim’s more beautiful songs, Medicine Girl, in which he channels all of the warmth, passion and weariness of Townes.
Well that was quite the four days. There is no question that this is the best city in the world. I know that it’s a boring choice but it is what it is. Sometimes you just got to give it up and strive for #2. We started the week off with two sold out shows at the City Winery: which is a nice way to start a week. Monday night was a bit dusty. We haven’t played live since November so the set might have been a little careful. Tuesday night we let it out, and remembered why we like doing this so much. During the afternoon I did a bit of browsing at The Strand, which is always a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Rich Wallach attended both shows and very kindly gave me a copy of Kerouac’s, The Subterraneans. As always, it was good to see him. Wednesday we taped the Jimmy Fallon show. It was one those classic TV days. Lots and lots of waiting and then BAM you’re on and BAM you’re off. All of the folks at the show from the stage hands to the backstage staff to the band to Jimmy himself, were exceptionally welcoming. On Wednesday night Al, Pete, I and a long time friend of ours, Mia, went to see Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye perform at St Mark’s Church. It was a benefit for the Poetry Project which has been running out of St Marks for 45 years. The sanctuary has quite the amazing vibe. It has heard the voices of Ginsberg and Corso and Carroll and Burroughs and Ondaatje and of Patti Smith, who 40 years ago to the day (less one), along with Lenny Kaye appeared on its stage, her live debut, in front of all the hip cats of the early 70’s New York scene . She blew them all away and the rest is RocknfucknRoll History. Tonight she blew us all away. She recited some of her early work; read a bit from her book; paid homage to a handful of mentors, most of them dead, many of whom were at that event 40 years ago; and said goodbyes to a few friends recently departed. She even sang a number of songs, just her voice and Lenny on guitar. It was astounding. That gig could not have happened anywhere else in the world but downtown Manhattan (I don’t care how hip Brooklyn gets it will never be home to the ghosts that inhabit the East Village). A wonderful sidebar to the night was the audience. The Old Guard, with their perfectly worn leather jackets, their scraggily grey hair, and their air of belonging, all sat in the first eight or so rows: along the walls sat the next generation, with their perfect skin, their teased, dyed hair, their unknown, exciting futures stretching out before them (god how I envy them and envy is not an emotion that is easily evoked in me). A perfect New York City happening.
Thursday night we participated in a concert at Carnegie Hall. In the afternoon I went for a walk through Central Park. It was cold but sunny, with high blue skies. The park was pretty much deserted and so beautiful. The show at Carnegie Hall tonight was a celebration of Neil Young’s music: twenty or so musicians and bands each performing one song and then getting the hell off stage. These things are always awkward, from both a performance and social point of view. I’m sure that there are some people that really enjoy the socializing backstage, being part of a fraternity, but I hate it. The biggest drag is you don’t even get the opportunity to let off steam on stage because you are limited to one song. But I think there was a lot of good music played tonight (Patti Smith and her daughter Jessie did a very delicate version of Its A Dream) and I hope that they raised a lot of money and that the money gets to where its suppose to go.
I love this city. It an inspiring and invigorating place. Friday we go home and on Monday and Tuesday we’ll continue to work on Sing In My Meadow. I’ll be letting you know how that is coming along. Keep in touch.
We started work on Sing In My Meadow, Volume 3 last Friday night. The live band, live-off-the–floor of our studio. Nasty and dirty and disturbing the cold winter night’s peace. The idea for volume 3 is to create an album of music based around the psychedelic, blues inspired forays that we are so fond of venturing off on, on stage. We are referencing Miles at the Isle of Wight deep in his Bitches Brew phase; Captain Beefheart and his Mirror Man psychoses; The Birthday Party live at the Electric Ballroom circa 1981; Neil and Crazy Horse in the back room at SIR….overdriven and thick with electricity.
Here’s a sampling of A Bride’s Price, which came about as we amused ourselves waiting for Margo to arrive and a version of Continental Drift, a song inspired by the Russell Banks book of the same name. These are playback-mixes, what you would hear if you were sitting in the studio with us listening to what we had just put down. It’s an album about Sex and Violence…….
We’re going to be in NYC all next week and, in case you are too, we wanted to alert you to something cool that you can participate in. Please read the blurb below from the Jimmy Fallon show and feel free to pass it along to anyone that you think might be interested….read on…
On February 9th, 2011 Cowboy Junkies will be performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Here is where you come in…
How would you like a chance to be close to Cowboy Junkies’ performance on the show?
Click on the link below and you will be directed to our “Band Bench” Sweepstakes entry form. Enter for a chance to win seats on our band benches and an opportunity to surround the stage during Cowboy Junkies’ performance.
Please make sure you include the following band code: COW, in your entry form.
We hope to see you there.
Please make sure that you also check out the Demons bundles if you haven’t already.
Margo and I will be performing a short acoustic set at the Revival on College St in Toronto on Thursday Feb 3rd. The performance is part of a fund raiser for the Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital Nursery Schools.
If you are interested in attending you can purchase tickets by calling 416-767-2192 or emailing email@example.com. We hope to see some of you there.