Cowboy Junkies

The Trinity Session (RCA ‘88) Rating: A-
This is the album that first brought the Cowboy Junkies a measure of acclaim, and it remains the album that most people associate with the band. Recorded with a single microphone live at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, Canada, The Trinity Session is all the more special and unique for its echo-laden sound and skeletal arrangements. Dominated by Margo Timmons’ beautiful but ghostly whisper of a voice and incorporating a strange mixture of fiddles, harmonicas, mandolins, accordions, and mournful pedal steel guitars, these songs barely have a pulse but possess a quietly affecting intensity. The band sacrifices excitement for moody late night atmospherics, and the plodding country and blues flavored arrangements of originals such as “I Don’t Get It” and “200 More Miles” sit snugly beside melancholic readings of classic songs such as Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” (which Lou Reed called the best Velvet’s cover ever), and Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.” The desolate soundscapes of these sad songs are all of a piece, and at their best the band can be completely entrancing. However, I wish that they had come up with a few more melodies as stunning as “Misguided Angel” and “Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis),” easily the album’s high points along with “Sweet Jane.” Still, "To Love Is To Bury" and “Walking After Midnight” come fairly close, and clearly this is a case where the album's overall ambiance takes precedence over individual songs. Either way, this is a consistently strong set of songs, and kudos are in order for such an original recasting of well worn musical forms, though be forewarned that these late night mood pieces can be sleep inducing when listened to in the bright light of day. Note: "Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)" (partially a cover song of course, recorded by Elvis Presley, The Marcels, and others) and "Working on a Building" weren't included on the original vinyl version of the album but were added to the CD.

Lay It Down (Geffen ’96) Rating: A-
Returning to the hushed late night ambiance that the band is best at, Lay It Down consistently delivers top-shelf material. Though Margo’s sad yet soothing voice remains the band’s most identifiable feature, this album reminds me what a fine guitarist and songwriter her brother Michael is, as “Lay It Down,” “Hold On To Me,” “Lonely Sinking Feeling,” “Angel Mine,” and “Bea’s Song” are all undeniably lovely songs. Though variety has never been this band’s strong suit, they successfully speed up the tempo (somewhat) and turn up the volume (somewhat) on “A Common Disaster,” “Come Calling,” and “Speaking Confidentially.” But the band continues to be at their best when delivering melancholic mood music, and though they can lull you to sleep, sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered.

send me an email

Back To Artist Index Home Page