Archive for the ‘news’ Category

A Look Back At….The Trinity Session (history – part 1 of 3)

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

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(I'll be posting a series of blogs over the coming days all about the making of The Trinity Session. Check out our Facebook page to see rare photos and anecdotes from me and Margo.)

evolution/inspiration 

We had spent the past year touring Whites Off Earth Now!!around Canada and the United States, grabbing gigs wherever and whenever they were offered. We had sold an incredible (by the Canadian indy standards of the time) 3,000 copies of Whites and had taken the little money that we had made from touring and placed it all back in the band. With a pocketful of change and the inspiration from our travels we began to conceptualize our next recording. 

While touring Whites we had spent a lot of time in the Southern States, especially Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas. For some reason the club owners down there took a liking to what we were doing so we spent a lot of time crossing the kudzu choked highways that ran through the heart of the old Confederacy. Those were the days when having to spend a night in a hotel room would mean the difference between eating the next day or paying for the gas to get us to the next town, so we spent a lot of our time sleeping on the floors of friendly promoters, fans, waitresses and bartenders. One of the best part about being "billeted" was that each night we were exposed to a new record collection and each night we'd discover a new album or a new band or a whole new type of music that was springing up in some buried underground scene somewhere in America. 

A style of music that we were heavily exposed to at that time was country music. It wasn't like everyone we ran into was a country music freak, but growing up in the South, most people had been exposed to a lot more of it than we had growing up in suburban Montreal. There would inevitably be in every collection one or two great country music records that had been lifted from their parents as they moved out. Sitting there between the latest Death Piggy single and Coltrane's Giant Steps would be something like Waylon Jennings' Honky Tonk Heroes, or Patsy Cline'sGreatest Hits, The Louvin Brothers, The Carter Family, Bill Munroe, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and the list goes on. We drank it up. On one of these trips we passed through Washington DC, specifically to go to the Smithsonian Institute shop to buy their Collection of Classic Country Music. Those tapes were rarely out of our vans tape deck and when they were we were scanning the radio in hopes of tuning in some local station playing some scratchy old Lorretta Lynn record. Also at this time Steve Earl and Dwight Yokum had arrived on the country scene and were taking this classic music that we were falling in love with and infusing it with new life and making it seem relevant and modern. 

So when we finally got home and began to think about our next album we not only had a whole new set of experiences set in a very foreign landscape to draw from, but also a whole new musical influence and style to draw upon. We were now thinking in terms of songs about peoples lives and the places where they lived. Into this mix we decided to throw a few non country-influenced originals and covers. The intention was not to make a country album, but an album that dealt, loosely, with the great songwriting traditions, styles and themes that had crept into rock music over the past three decades. So we added a few more originals, I Don't Get It and Postcard Blues, which harkened back to the more Blues influenced material on Whites Off Earth Now!! and added two more covers. Blue Moon Revisited (A Song For Elvis) killed two birds with one stone. It is partly an acknowledgment of the great song writing days of Tin Pan Alley and the great songwriting teams of the era of which Rogers and Hart, who wrote Blue Moon, was one. And it is also our acknowledgment of Elvis Presley who stands alone as a rock music pioneer. Our version of Blue Moon relies heavily on Elvis's interpretation which he recorded for Sun records. 

The last piece to this very abstract puzzle was Sweet Jane. The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed embody what we feel rock music should be about – slightly out of step, intelligent, groove orientated and original. They have to be listed as one of the great rock bands ever and Sweet Jane, for better or worse, is one of their most recognized songs. It was and still is the backbone of cover bands all across America. It has been pitilessly slaughtered countless times on countless nights on countless stages around the world. We thought, "lets take it and see if we can breathe new life into this tired old work horse ". We got our inspiration from The Velvets live album entitled 1969. To be honest it is one of our straighter covers, we didn't change it a whole lot. Originally we had tried to record it for the Whites album, but we never got the right feel. For this collection of songs we chose Sweet Jane as being "our song- this is what we listened to growing up, this is where our musical tastes come from". 

I think the song on Trinity which best sums up that period for the band, the song which defines that time is 200 More Miles. It is about the wanderlust that infected us all during that year. When I listen to it I am placed right back in the van, just the four of us, it is well after midnight, Pete and Marg are asleep in the back seat, I'm behind the wheel and Al is beside me in charge of keeping me awake, neither of us saying a word, alone with our thoughts, nobody on the road but us and the long haul truckers, and the music we are listening to is so piercingly beautiful. 

(coming next: songs and musicians and recording)

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Under Cover (October 2014) – Thunder Road and Only A Broken Heart

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

This month we are starting a new monthly feature called Under Cover. Every month we'll be offering free downloads of two cover songs: one recorded by Cowboy Junkies and another recorded by a Latent artist. We are running this feature off of the Latent Recordings Facebook page. All you need to do is go to the page, click the Under Cover link and follow the prompts. 

This month the two songs are Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road (covered by Cowboy Junkies) and Tom Petty's Only A Broken Heart (covered by Ivy Mairi). They aren't often in the conversation when people talk of the roots of Americana music but Springsteen and Petty, by all rights, should be considered the godfathers of the movement. I would bet that every young (and not so young) so-called Americana band has a Springsteen or Petty song in their repetoire and more than a couple of their albums in their music collections. Springsteen has always been a touch stone for us (we covered State Troper on our first album). I still think that the opening couple of verses to Thunder Road are among the best in rock n roll.
 
Ivy says this about her Tom Petty cover…."Matt Bailey (who plays electric guitar on this recording) leant me a couple of Tom Petty albums a couple of years ago, one of which was Wildflowers. Definitely one of my favourite Petty albums. Only a Broken Heart seems to have been a bit overlooked over the years – a lot of people are surprised that it's by Tom Petty when they hear me play it. The lyrics are so sad, doubtful, and beautiful. Making music with Noah Reid (who sings on the track) is a real pleasure – his singing is so effortless and natural. "
 
If you like what you here from Ivy you should check out her website . She has two beautiful albums out on Latent and she has just self released her third album Nonbeliever which is now also available through her website.
 
Click here and follow the Under Cover prompts for the two songs…they are free…Bono says so….
 
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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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