The concert that we performed on March 14th at Glen Gould Theater is now up on their website for all to enjoy. As usual the techies at CBC did a great job recording the concert. Check it out.
Canada steps up again with an excellent national review throughout the Post Media chain. The album is now on sale and there are all sorts of bargains out there, including here on our own website and on Amazon. Also, if you live in the US mid-west make sure that you check out the upcoming Tour dates. we have also just announced a cross-Canada Tour opening for John Mellencamp (we’ll be adding our own shows to that tour in the next few weeks).
The Wilderness – The Nomad Series: Volume 4
Considering the self-imposed time restriction, the Nomad Series – four albums within less than two years – has been distinguished by a startling lack of filler. It has also been distinguished thus far by sturdy conceptual frameworks; going by that criterion, The Wilderness is the weakest of the lot, connected with tenuous threads of loneliness and existential quests (according to songwriter Michael Timmins) that could apply to almost any Junkies disc. But taken as a standalone release, this is one of the discography’s crown jewels, featuring some of the group’s purest expressions of melancholy. Especially in light of the 5-month-old Sing in My Meadow’s cacophonous jamming, The Wilderness feels like a return to the quietude of the band’s early days, although the peppy comic relief of F—, I Hate the Cold makes it very clear that the Junkies aren’t bound by their history.
A very nice review from our national newspaper of record….
You say wilderness; Cowboy Junkies say life – sorrow, beauty, fragility, bleeding, anger, the search and, at some point, the truth. The Wilderness is the final component of the veteran alt-country band’s ambitious four-album project, The Nomad Series. Nomad, as in moving from style to style, with this fourth disc a return to its classic form: Languid, hazy, thoughtful and acoustic, with the downcast, motherly purr of Margo Timmins working its comfortable effect. “But I live in this world, what do I do,” she asks on the bittersweetly fiddled Staring Man: The answer: “Stand ground and you take what comes, and every night check on your desire to run.” Lovely stoicism, from the Junkies, again. B.W.
This is an album for people who still think Trinity Sessions stands as the Cowboy Junkies’ best recording, but also for those who want to hear how that sound has expanded and matured over the years.
Arriving, as it does, as the final chapter in a stirringly ambitious four-part opus called The Nomad Series, The Wilderness had a difficult task in tying everything together, much less matching that seminal 1988 breakthrough. Yet, this new project succeeds with a confident grace — deftly blending both the delicate folk stylings that helped give Trinity such meaning and substance (“Damaged from the Start,” songwriter Michael Timmons’ devastatingly frank “Unanswered Letter”) with the itchier, more rock-inflected attitude (“The Confession of Georgie E,” “Fuck I Hate The Cold”) that propelled last year’s psychedelic-blues adventure Sing My Meadow.
That makes The Wilderness, which completes a sprinting 18-month period of creative outbursts, both a fitting denouement and something of a career valedictory. Moving, as the Cowboy Junkies did, from experimental explorations (on 2010?s Renmin Park) to an ardently focused cover project (2011?s Demons, featuring the music of doomed songwriter Vic Chesnutt) to the scronky toughness of Meadow, this group made a lasting argument for itself as one of their era’s most versatile bands.
In other words, something far more than the sum of their haunting, deeply impactful Trinity Sessions, a melancholic combining of country, folk, blues and echoing rock balladry. The Wilderness, due on March 27, certainly references that quietly assertive, deeply atmospheric tone — but it never capitulates to rote imitation. The Cowboy Junkies have grown too much, accomplished so many things, since then.
That’s perhaps best heard on “Damaged from the Start” — this song cycle’s creative and emotional zenith. As it unfolds, Margo Timmons makes a whispered, twilit entreaty: “Let’s just sit here a little bit longer with these bruised and battered hearts. Let’s just say they were damaged from the start.” But they never, ever stopped beating — testament to this group’s abiding faith, and even more abiding ambitions.
It’s taken some time, maybe longer than the Timmons siblings ever would have guessed, but this forthcoming Latent Recordings project is a masterwork success for the Cowboy Junkies — something that both reminds you of, and then finally supersedes, the shimmering decades-old successes of The Trinity Sessions.
Here’s another excellent review of the album. For the full article and a very good interview with Margo please click here. You can pre-order the album today and make sure that you check out our upcoming Tour Dates.
Something about the Cowboy Junkies just seems right lately. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve been writing and recording music endlessly for the past 25 years. After a quarter of a century, the Junkies have perfected their oddly soothing take on folk-rock, contrasting the ethereal and the distorted. The masterfully focused energy of the just-released The Wilderness is remarkable, considering this is the Junkies’ fourth release in 18 months. The album’s opening track, “Unanswered Letter,” foreshadows everything that will be heard in the 42 and a half minutes to come. Singer Margo Timmins’ hauntingly angelic vocals waltz between a flurry of disorienting soundscapes. Strangely, the track is loosely held together by noteworthy lyricism – a wonderfully constructed illusion – until comfort sets in with an upbeat rhythm almost halfway through the track. “Idle Tales,” driven by Peter Timmins’ slow-marching snare and elevated by a buried angelic hum, belongs on a sleepy-time playlist or the background score of a movie scene where the tragic hero has a life-changing epiphany after a punishing bout of depression. “Fairytale” sounds like the band found the lyrics scribbled on some parchment, almost imperceptibly peeking out from a bookshelf in the remnants of a long-forgotten abbey. Michael Timmins’ guitar work brilliantly accompanies his sister Margo’s gentle lullaby vocals. “The Confessions of George E” is an entrancing narrative, with lyricism reminiscent of early 70s Dylan, one of the band’s favorite songwriters. The instrumentation however, is pure Junkies, while Margo’s delicate vocals gradually summon a sense of urgency. The Wilderness concludes with the upbeat rockin’ track, “Fuck, I Hate The Cold.” I can only imagine how glorious this song must sound live with Michael wailing on his axe and Margo entering powerhouse mode. Phawker got to speak with Margo on one of her free afternoons and it should be noted – she is just as kind, affable, and genuine as her vocals. She talks to us about her family, the band on the road, her favorite albums, and how the hell the Junkies managed to do in 18 months what takes other bands 10 years to do. – TONY ABRAHAM
Here is a really nice review from our friends at Paste Magazine. Pre-orders for the album (with heavy discounts) are still available. Also, we’ll be starting the second leg of The Nomad Tour in a couple of weeks.
For the culmination of their four-volume Nomad series, the Cowboy Junkies provide a satisfying set that is aptly reflective of the 18-month journey, and their 25-year career.
The series represents a wellspring of varied material—a collection that provides a lasting primer for the band’s sound and range. Taken together, the four discs display the often-overlooked diversity of the group.
Each release covered a different facet of the band’s personality. You’ve got the experimental one (Vol. 1, Renmin Park), the covers album that consisted entirely of songs by Vic Chesnutt (Vol.2, Demons) and the fuzzy, raucous one (Vol. 3, Sing In My Meadow).
The Wilderness is the quiet, atmospheric one, the anguished introspection of winter to Meadow’s joyous ramble of spring. Not death exactly, but a definitive ending. Plans are underway for the four discs to soon be released as a box set, with a bonus disc and companion book published by Enrique Martinez Celaya, whose paintings inspired the series and served as the cover art for each release.
The Wilderness also merges those other facets explored in the previous installments. But this is the Cowboy Junkies in their comfort zone, doing what they do best. That’s taking Michael Timmins’ carefully crafted songs and breathing life into their nooks and crannies with lush instrumentation and haunting, evocative vocals by his sister Margo.
The album starts with a sonic wash of strings and reverb—an ethereal incantation that transplants you into a different world. Ten songs later, you’re plucked right back out with a jaunty little number that tells you exactly who your tour guide has been. In the middle, there’s shrewd scrutiny on nearly every track.
Whether it’s skewering religious doctrine (“Idle Tales”), delving into a doomed relationship (“Damaged From The Start”) or pondering a suicide (“Unanswered Letter”) Timmins’ songs on The Wilderness are biting. That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom. There is beauty in the grace of stillness in “Angels In The Wilderness.” There is a swooping mischief in “The Confession of Georgie E.” And there’s a hell of a groove on the upbeat, sly album-closer, “Fuck I Hate The Cold.”
The Cowboy Junkies may never step out of the shadow of their seminal Trinity Sessions” recording, but there’s no reason the ambitious opus of the Nomad series couldn’t otherwise serve as their masterwork. It’s a sweeping epic that touches on the full range of their prowess. The series is all that they are—accomplished, graceful, thoughtful and poignant. And The Wilderness is its fitting conclusion.
When I woke up today we were parked just off the main street of Westhampton Beach way out on Long Island. Streaming past the bus were moms and dads with strollers and kids; small gangs of teenage girls and teenage boys; roving packs of college males; older moms and younger grandmums in their fur coats and older dads and granddads tagging along for the fun. There was a lot of green everywhere and on everyone. It was St Patrick’s Day in Westhampton Beach…one week early but who’s counting. And since it was St Patrick’s Day, there has to be a St Patrick’s Day parade. This was a great way to end this leg of the tour: a beautiful winter day, high blue sky, bright sunshine and a real chill in the air. I made the long trek to the beach, only to discover that I couldn’t get on the beach because I don’t own a piece of it. There was a sign that pointed somewhere down the road to public access but I walked a good 30 minutes and never came across it. Finally I saw a gate that someone hadn’t properly locked so I took it upon myself to do a little trespassing and bolted for the sand. Not one shot was fired. I can see why they are trying to keep people off of it…not a single soul in sight for miles. There is much to love about this country and much to not love so much. Back in town I watched the pipers pipe and the college kids get drunker and drunker .
It was a very nice venue tonight: a small sold-out theater with excellent sound both on stage and in the room. We had a great show, it was tight and focussed and had just the right amount of energy for the room. It was an excellent way to end an excellent run of dates. We head back home tomorrow. We have a live performance at the CBC on Wednesday (taped for airing at a later date); we’ll make time to pet our kids and kiss the dog; pay a few bills; plant a few bulbs and before you know it we’ll be out on the road again, heading West. Unfortunately it looks like Joby Baker who has been out with us on keys won’t be with us for that leg. He has studio commitments that he can’t wiggle out of, but we hope to entice him to come back out with us on some future runs. It has been a joy to play with him every night and we can tell that he is just beginning to settle in. Thanks to all of you who attended these shows, above all it has been a lot of fun. The Tour Diary will resume in a few weeks, in Ann Arbor, where Skippy is already prepping the meal.
It was a very fun night tonight. Thank god, because last night was torture. We drove through the night, up and down and across and over and around the Allegheny Mountains . I lay in my bunk for hours trying to counteract the G’s. I even tried some kind of homeopathic sleeping pill but that only made things a little foggy. I should have taken a real one. No sleep…it’s such a leveler. So I stayed as stationary as possible today, outside of visiting Jared’s groovy new studio/clubhouse. Fortunately, Skippy was in town on a business trip and he set-up a makeshift sausage stand out back of the venue, so I didn’t have to go far for dinner. Besides being close, the food was no doubt better than anything any of the restaurants on the square could have offered. Man, that dude cooks an awesome sausage. He was also cooking salmon and a couple of other things on what looked like a Hibatchi…he is unbelievable…I couldn’t hang very much because I was so exhausted and needed to preserve the little energy that I had. Showtime was easy….the audience was fantastic and immediately infused us with their enthusiasm. We had lots of little technical glitches on stage but the energy from the audience was enough to keep us on track. Another night of fun. Thank you Boston (or Somerville or wherever the hell we were).
I slept till 1pm. There is definitely something stalking me….I only need to keep it at bay for a few more days. Kind of a nothing day. The Keswick Theater is a nice old venue but it’s in a very non-descript suburb of Philly and there isn’t a whole lot to do or look at or walk to while one waits for the work day to begin. I commandeered one of the theater staff and made a run up to an outlet beer store and bought a case of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA and a case of Red Hook Long Hammer to bring back home. Due to the draconian liquor laws that we live under in Ontario, we can’t get any of the beer brewed by all of these great independent breweries down here. Occasionally they will allow one or two brands to be sold in our government controlled liquor outlets but usually at about a 50% mark-up. So I stock up whenever I can. At showtime my insides were under siege, the battle had begun. It made for a very difficult show on my end. I think we played ok…it was a little laid-back, but that’s not always a bad thing. The audience seemed to be having a good time and that is the ultimate goal. This was our last of three shows with Joe Purdy opening up. It was a pleasure listening to him and hanging out with him each night. I’m sure we will cross paths again somewhere down the road. Back up 95 for one more show.