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A Look Back At…..At The End Of Paths Taken (review)

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Over the coming many months we will occasionaly be dedicating a month to celebrate and look back at one of our albums. This month we are spotlighting At The End Of Paths Taken. Make sure that you check out our Facebook page for more photos related to the making of the album.

This review was written by Dave Bowler when Paths Taken was released back in 2007. Dave is writing a bio of our studio albums and we feel that he has a pretty good grasp of our ouvre (so to speak)…

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COWBOY JUNKIES – AT THE END OF PATHS TAKEN

More than twenty years in to a career, there aren’t many artists that are going anyplace. You are what you are what you are. You buy a book, watch a movie, hear a record by somebody who’s been at that that long, you’re putting on familiar shoes. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that either, a little security in a fast changing world.

And yet and yet.

Creation is all about change. You want to keep creating, you gotta keep changing, that was Miles’ philosophy, and pretty well every time you got a new Davis disc, you got a charge of electricity that raced up the spine and knocked your wig off, for good or bad. Not many of those guys about.

You find another one, you better relish that, better cherish it, because those are the artists that are worth having around your house, in your ears, taking space in your head. They’re the ones that are going to wake you up, challenge you, maybe tell you something instead of reinforcing what you already think you know, better yet, make you ask yourself some questions, or help you strip away some dirt from the answers that were there all the time.

You probably think you know what the new Cowboy Junkies record sounds like. You don’t. Yes, the trademarks are there. How could it be otherwise after two decades? But they’re all twisted, re-evaluated, renewed. Songs no longer draw life from the understated, almost unheard pulse of Alan Anton’s bassline, a sound that now propels undulating melodies on “Mountain” or “My Little Basquiat”. Anton almost switches places with Margo Timmins, still the most arresting voice in the game, yet buried deeper inside these songs, songs which create a surround sound universe of their own, be it from plaintive acoustics like “Someday Soon” or the kitchen sink overload of “Mountain”, where all hell breaks loose. Tomorrow never knew.

There are changes here that Junkies purists may baulk at. Drummer Pete Timmins is no longer the easygoing engine. Instead he’s embraced edgy percussion, thoughtful rhythms that knock you off kilter, make you listen more carefully. There’s nothing obvious, or easy going on here. Outside studiophile / musician Joby Baker has added a mesh of instrumentation and sounds that take this record a long way from the skeletal nature of “Whites Off Earth Now!!” Strings play a heavy, dramatic role on several songs. And drama is the keynote in a record which you could loosely call a concept album if the term didn’t bring to mind visions of hobbits, pinball players and wizards on ice.

Yet this is a concept record of sorts. A concept record for grown ups. Like his colleagues, songwriter and guitarist Michael Timmins has dispensed with standbys and certainties, thrown everything in the air, and begun to rework his craft. Echoing the pacifist sentiment that was the core of their last effort, the quickly recorded “Early 21st Century Blues”, “At The End Of Paths Taken” muses on a particular theme, that of family, the way patterns are repeated from father to son to son and back again, the way the greatest joys bring with them the heaviest burdens, the way the outside world can devastate the closest familial relationship, and the way in which we are all helpless to do anything about it. It’s a record that continues to work through themes of war and peace, a hangover from “Early 21st Century Blues”, looking at how the macro can militate against the micro. It’s a record that looks at the biggest betrayal, the one none of us can avoid, the betrayal of mortality. It’s a record that’s simultaneously about surrender, about giving oneself up to the journey while raging against the pain that creates. That duality, that life is hard, confusing, painful, but still the best thing we’ve managed to come up with so far has long been a core Junkies theme, but on this record, it’s been honed to perfection.

Where Michael Timmins was a short-story writer in song, on this album, he’s a spare, sparse poet, betraying a distinct e.e.cummings influence in lyrics that are impressionistic yet cutting, forensic but embracing, emotional but without a trace of sentimentality. The first track, “Brand New World”, sets the tone, Margo Timmins intoning the list of cares that 40somethings carry about their neck, day after day, “Mouths to feed, Shoes to buy, Rent to pay, Tears to dry”.

The first half of the record covers the darkest fears, that we won’t be up to the job as parents, that we will fail our children or that someone, somewhere will fail all our children, that a madman in the White House could blow us all apart, that a nutcase with a suitcase could take everything down with him. There’s the wonder of fatherhood on the loping, grooving, vaguely sinister “My Little Basquiat”, counterbalanced by the fear of what the world is going to do to those kids when you’re not around to stop it.

Having introduced listeners to new soundscapes, dissonant sounds, powerful emotional terrain, the second half of the record builds and builds, increasingly personal, intimate but wholly identifiable. “Follower2” is a centrepiece, tracing the evolution from father to son, to son becoming father, scraps from Michael’s childhood, inklings from his future, one relationship becoming the other. “I can’t bear to hear his breathing, simply knowing what’s to come”. Is that the breath of a dying father, or a sleeping son, a life full of trials behind or before him? The closing, “Here you will always be, behind me, and you will not go away. Here I will always be, behind you, and I will never go away” is a perfect summation of the handing down of the generations, something picked up on again in “Mountain”, something they used to call a sound collage, mixing the Timmins’ father reading from his memoirs, all kinds of studio samples and sounds, wrenching strings, Margo Timmins wailing “How’d this mountain get so high?” into the abyss. If they hadn’t already come up with the phrase “sensory overload”, you’d have to invent it for this.

But there’s still a peak to come, “My Only Guarantee”. It’s the final twist of the knife, but to say more would be like telling you whodunnit before you started reading a mystery novel. Get the record, set an hour aside, put the headphones on and listen. Really listen. Because the only reference point I can give you to a record this complex, this intriguing, this overloaded with sounds, yet so simple, is one that came out 34 years ago. The effects, the sounds, the overwhelming scale are obvious comparisons, but that’s too facile.

The common ground is that “At The End Of Paths Taken” is a record that somebody needed to make, one that you have to live with from start to finish, one that unfolds, washes over you. It’s a statement of humanity in a dehumanising time, in a time where you’re only supposed to feel what Oprah tells you to feel.

“At The End Of Paths Taken” is a record for those of us who know we don’t know. Take the journey. We’ll meet you on the dark side of the moon.

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A Look Back At…..At The End Of Paths Taken (released 2007)

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

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In the Fall of 2005 I rented a small house in the Horseshoe Valley (about one hour North of Toronto) a tiny little cottage on a beautiful piece of land that backed on to 40 acres of woods. Running through the woods was a stream that was still used by salmon during the autumn spawning season. I called the house 48 Mill Pond Rd. This is where I escaped to work on the songs that would eventually become At The End Of Paths Taken.

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I rarely sit down with the objective of writing a set of songs based on a single theme. Usually the theme or themes suggest themselves as the songs are developed. But for this album I set out to write an album that dealt with “family” and all of the complex relationships that are suggested by the word. Those relationships and how they continue to echo down through generations is something that, as a parent of three young children and as a son of aging parents, had been playing/preying on my mind for the previous few years. As the writing progressed, the songs began to pull in more complex directions. “Family” remained a dominant theme but events of the larger world and how those events, subtly and not so subtly, influence the “family” relationship began to creep in to the songs. It was like the themes that we explored on “Early 21st Century Blues” (violence, fear, greed, war, loss) had not been fully exorcised and were insinuating themselves in to these very intimate songs about the dynamics of personal family relationships. I’m not sure if it is my age or the age we live in, most likely its a combination of the two, but the songs began to hint at themes of inevitability, finality, not exactly predetermination, but a sense of running out of choices, a sense of being at the end of paths taken.

When I brought the songs home from 48 Mill Pond Rd. it was time for us, as a band, to start to develop them. Some made their way to Margo’s Farm where we moved our studio and did an intensive two week session to kick start the project; some ended up in Victoria, BC where Joby Baker added a handful of magic touches; some were completely reworked using bass-lines supplied by Alan; and then there were the strings supplied by Henry Kucharzyk. Here are some of the songs in their various states of being, listen as the songs meander down their separate paths..

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Ontario Summer Tour

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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We hope our friends to the South had a fun time yesterday celebrating the 4th. We spent it across the river, in Windsor, having a rockin' night performing at the downtown Court and Fork festival. Thank you to all of you who came out and cheered us on.

We have a series of shows throughout cottage country in Ontario this summer. They are in an area of the province that I would probably rank as being one of the top ten places on Earth to spend time in the Summer months. If you've never been to the area and are looking for a Summer road trip that includes a few Cowboy Junkies concerts, then look no further. I promise that you wont be dissapointed…this is a very special place.

Take a look at the tour page to check out the dates and ticket info and then start planning your trip….I'll be the one with the fishin rod. We hope to see you soon.

World Cup update….terrific awesomeness.

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Where were you when The Kennedy Suite was staged? – Part VII

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Over the next few weeks we'll present a series of 14 short videos inspired by the TKS stage show and album of songs composed by Scott Garbe and produced by Mike Timmins and Cowboy Junkies.

VIDEO: If you were there in the room you'll recall this extraordinary performance by Cowboy Junkies — replete with haunting vocal by Margo Timmins channelling the narrative perspective of Jacky Kennedy…

View this and others at vimeo.com/thekennedysuite

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Where were you when The Kennedy Suite was staged? – part VI

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The Kennedy Suite continues to unfold. Check out LeE HARVeY OsMOND's performance of "Parkland" featuring the men from Cowboy Junkies.
 

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Where were you when the Kennedy Suite was staged? – part IV

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Over the next few weeks we'll present a series of 14 short videos inspired by the TKS stage show and album of songs composed by Scott Garbe and produced by Mike Timmins and Cowboy Junkies.

VIDEO: In "Dallas Youth Auxiliary", three love-struck sisters steal their father's car and head off to greet the President as he touches down at Love Field…

Watch it on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/95977926

To listen to the entire album please visit: http://latentrecordings.com/thekennedysuite/

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Where were you when the Kennedy Suite was staged? – part lll

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Over the next few weeks we'll present a series of 14 short videos inspired by the TKS stage show and album of songs composed by Scott Garbe and produced by Mike Timmins and Cowboy Junkies.
 

In "Secret Spy Decoder Ring", a young paperboy unwittingly witnesses Lee Oswald preparing his rifle in his neighbour's garage, then regrets being too young to be taken seriously or drive to the rescue of the President… with video excerpted from Harlan Pepper's stage performance on 22/11/13 at Toronto's Elgin Winter Garden Theatre.

Watch it on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/95977926

 

 

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Where were you when the Kennedy Suite was staged? – part II

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Over the next few weeks we'll present a series of 14 short videos inspired by the TKS stage show and album of songs composed by Scott Garbe and produced by Mike Timmins and Cowboy Junkies.

Framing the scene ahead of JFK's arrival in Dallas, the ominous "Bullet For You" is sung from the narrative perspective of six different possible assassins… with video excerpted from The Kennedy Suite Singers performance on 22/11/13 at Toronto's Elgin Winter Garden Theatre.

 

The Kennedy Suite — II. Bullet For You from The Kennedy Suite on Vimeo.

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Jerry Leger – Nobody’s Angel

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

"His voice would ring true in any number of decades; the 2010's will do just fine." The Globe And Mail

“What we hear on Early Riser is the sound of a good singer-songwriter making the leap into great territory… one of Canada's best” 8/10 Exclaim

“Early Riser is a commanding and astounding listen …deserving of any laurels and accolades thrown its way.” Pop Matters

Early Riser is Jerry Leger’s best album yet. Sure, we said something similar about his last one, Some Folks Know, but they just keep getting better.” NNNN NOW Magazine

“Jerry Leger has emerged as a talent to be reckoned with.” Cashbox

If you haven't had a chance to listen to Jerry's album, produced by….me!….please do so…you can find it here. Here is a live performance video of the song Nobody's Angel that we shot at our studio (The Hangar)…it's a beautiful song, sounds like the Junkies could do a nice version of this one. Enjoy.

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California Tour

Friday, April 25th, 2014

We are heading West in June for a quick run through California.

One of the highlights of the tour will be a performance of The Trinity Session at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. This is a great venue, in a great city….sounds like the makings of a road trip for those of you not living in the San Francisco area.

We’ll also be playing two shows at the oh-so-hip Largo at the Coronet in LA. The first show sold out immediately, the second show is now on sale so don’t hesitate, it’s a small venue.

We’ll also be visiting one of our favourite old haunts, The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. This is a legendary music club and it’s been many years since we’ve played a gig there. It will be a lot of fun to get back on that stage.

There are a handful of other gigs in the San Diego/LA area and within driving distance of the Bay Area so please check out our Tour Page to see how close we are coming to your front door and for all show and ticket details.

We hope to see some of you out there…we are looking forward to some plus sixty degree weather.

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