Cookie Crumbs, Volume 1 - The Path Taken Tour (Spring/Summer 2007)

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Bob Helm (aka Cookie Bob) is closing in on his 150th Cowboy Junkies shows. He introduced himself to us about ten years ago when he knocked on our bus door proffering a tin of ginger snap cookies. He was immediately dubbed Cookie Bob. Bob is not only an inveterate concert goer he is also a very discerning listener and an avid “taper”. We have asked Bob to tap into his archive of Junkies “bootlegs” and put together a series of “best of” collections from the tours that he has attended. It’s an arduous, time consuming task so check back every now and then as he slowly adds a few more crumbs.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 1 - The Path Taken Tour (Spring/Summer 2007) “Cookie” Bob is an inveterate concert goer, avid “taper”, discerning listener and a good friend of the band. He has attended over 150 Cowboy Junkies shows. Cookie Crumbs is culled, by Bob, from his extensive Junkies archive of live recordings Hi All. Cookie Bob here. I got to see 11 shows on the Spring / Summer 2007 Tour, and I thought the band was playing as well as I've ever seen them perform. After reading the Tour Diary & "Last Night In" forums,plus getting some first-hand reports,I'm convinced that I saw an unusually high ratio of the best shows this tour. Mike has asked me to pick some of my favorites from the shows I attended,so here goes...

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1. CUTTING BOARD BLUES (acoustic) - Baltimore,MD. 6-20-07: Technical difficulties onstage at the outset serves to build compression within the band. That compression is vented during the instrumental section here,and the band is barely able to rein it in by the song's end.

2. ANNIVERSARY SONG - Camden,ME. 6-15-07: How many bands care enough about their fans to discuss which prominent audience members are absent from shows where they're expected?

3. SPIRAL DOWN - Woodstock,N.Y. 6-9-07: Jeff emulates an accordion with his harmonica. Anticipating Garth tonight,Jeff?

4,5,6. RAKE -> FLYING SHOES -> MARIE - Brownfield,ME. 5-18-07: The new Townes' trilogy was criminally underplayed this tour. Cowboy Junkies are the best interpreters of Townes' material,and I'll stand on Steve Earle's coffee table in Dylan's cowboy boots and say so. They perfectly capture the sadness inherent in Townes' lyrics. I especially like the way Mike has reconcilled the two very different tempos between Rake and Flying Shoes.

7. SOMEDAY SOON - Phoenixville,PA. 6-10-07: Listen to Jeff's bass (!) playing on this one. His Ashbory bass has a nice fluid sound that fits this song well.

8. TO LOVE IS TO BURY - Camden,ME. 6-15-07: Too long out of the repertoire for this one! Every version I heard was solid,but I picked this one for subtleties in Margo's phrasing. I'll forever miss Jeff's fiddle on this tune.

9. STILL LOST - Phoenixville,PA. 6-10-07: For those of you who don't know me, Margo introduces me here. Margo had been experimenting with how long she could hold her note on the word "lost" on the chorus. This was the night she nailed it.

10. BROTHERS UNDER THE BRIDGE -> - Camden,ME. 6-15-07: "One minute you're right there,then something slips" It slips here,alright. Listen to Jeff's deconstruction on his mandolin shortly after that line. Perfectly underscores the lyric.

11. BREAD AND WINE - Camden,ME. 6-15-07: I really like the spacey interlude in the middle of this. Mike and Jeff both are playing well,and Margo's scat singing plays off of Jeff's mandolin riffs.

12. I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY - Brownfield,ME. 5-18-07: A letter perfect rendition of this by all band members. A reminder that Cowboy Junkies remain the masters of understatement,in case you forgot.

13. LAY IT DOWN - Phoenixville,PA. 6-10-07: Mike plays a style of guitar that I've come to think of as "staccato Picasso". I think you'll understand what I mean when you hear this. A major shredfest builds to a glorious cacophony.

14. MOUNTAIN - Northampton,MA. 5-20-07 Late Show: Anyone with ears can hear that Al is the pulse and lifeblood of this tune - he owns it. That doesn't mean that Mike and Jeff won't playfully try to wrest control.

15. WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT - Northampton,MA. 5-20-07 Late Show: Mike is all over this one!Behind the vocal,during the solo - everything he plays is on fire!

16. BRAND NEW WORLD - Ridgefield,CT. 6-14-07: Excellent version. The whole band is galloping along at full speed and once again,barely able to stop. Margo gets in a fine shriek,too.

17. CARMELITA - Toronto,ON. 7-3-07: Another tune that doesn't quite get played enough. A strong version this night. Don't forget to check out Fred Eaglesmith's original.

18. MY LITTLE BASQUIAT - Toronto,ON. 7-3-07: Although the band admitted to being tired at this show,they held back nothing on this version. I guess having Anna in the audience really does get them excited. Another song that Al rules.

19. BLUE MOON REVISITED - Woodstock,N.Y. 6-9-07: Margo changes her phrasing on this one to good effect. Garth Hudson guests on accordion. Enough said.

20. FOLLOWER 2 - Phoenixville,PA. 6-10-07: Pete really drives this version of Follower 2. I think this will be a very strong song for the band for a long time to come.Margo sees how long she can sing the word "rain".

21. MURDER,TONIGHT,IN THE TRAILER PARK - Northampton,MA. 5-20-07 Late Show: Someone yells "rock it out" and the band proves it's up to the task. Margo exits the stage early and the boys just tear it up!

22. BLUE GUITAR - Camden,ME. 6-15-07: This Blue Guitar was the highlight of the tour for me. I took in a hillside view of Camden's beautiful harbor prior to the show,and that image was much on my mind during this song. I've been calling this the "rock & bird" version of Blue Guitar. Mike and Al stay firmly anchored and rock solid with Mike loudly extolling the joys of his guitar. Jeff Bird,like his namesake,is content to musically soar overhead for awhile before succumbing to his friend's invitation to jam. Pete's a team player,with his drums supporting Mike & Al,while his cymbal splashes and colorings seem to be engaging Mr Bird. A stunning jam ensues,making this one of the best-ever versions of Blue Guitar,right up there with the classic Elgin or Petaluma versions,in my opinion. Back to the same hillside after the show with a group of friends capped a great show and a perfect evening.

23. CUTTING BOARD BLUES (Electric) - Somerville,MA. 5-16-07: I thought I'd include an electric version for contrast. The swift tempo of this one gives Margo a lot of lyrics to get out in a short time. She rises to the challenge and succeeds admirably. The whole band charges through this one like a runaway train. Highly energetic!

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 2 - Blowin’ and Driftin’ (Ontario March 2003)

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The March 2003 tour was a favorite of mine, especially when you factor in the camaraderie aspect. Nine shows within a reasonable drive of Toronto were announced,and hardcore fans the world over responded.Our friend Marsh is to be commended for acting as concierge in Toronto for so many of us. John Olson demonstrated his legendary hospitality by securing excellent \r\naccommodations for those intrepid travelers who trekked five hours up to the North Bay show.Of all the shows I've attended,North Bay is the most legendary. Many conflicting stories,rumors and lies have been told about events surrounding the North Bay show. All are true.

The band was aware that many fans would be attending most or all of the shows on the tour,so they offered a wide variety of old favorites,new songs and a generous amount of rarely played gems. I believe it was the first time that they played an all acoustic first set. Audiences responded by being exceptionally quiet and receptive (or maybe they were just frozen!). As a result, the subtleties of the acoustic songs played out quite nicely.When I was making selections for the acoustic part of this volume, I tried to recapture the feeling of the bitter cold outdoors contrasted by the gentle warm music inside the theatre.When I played back the finished results on a cold fall morning over a cup of coffee, I felt like I had succeeded. I hope you agree.

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North Bay 3-5-03 - I admit there are no bad versions of Mining For Gold,but this one is perfect! Margo instantly mesmerizes the entire audience,who are so enthralled that not one person applauds between the two songs. Listen to her voice reverberate and decay in the hall; reminiscent of Trinity Session. This is my all-time favorite live version of Mining For Gold. Misguided Angel falls into place to complete a spectacular opening to this show.

2. AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW: Port Hope 3-8-03
Although not a perfect performance, I love this song so much that I had to include it. This version is just a tad faster in tempo than other live versions I've heard,yet still retains the sense of loss and resignation that the song demands. Only played twice this tour, this version had the better emotional commitment of the two. Even the chord changes feel sad.

3. LEAVING NORMAL: St. Catherines 3-9-03
Another personal favorite. I think this should have been a hit single. I love the buoyant groove and the clever lyrics.

4. IKEA PARKING LOT: Barrie 3-4-03
This tune really evokes the party atmosphere that the Cowboy Junkies are known for. Ikea was a new song that was being worked up for One Soul Now,but didn't make the album. It's probably best not to play "Ikea" and "End of the Rainbow" back to back if you're not in robust mental health.

5. HE WILL CALL YOU BABY: Brantford 3-1-03
Very deliberate pace. This acoustic version seems a little less threatening than the electric ones.

6. TIRED EYES: Barrie 3-4-03
Mike and Margo are so perfectly locked together that even Jeff and Jaro sound like interlopers.

7. WHITE SAILl: Oakville 3-6-03
Excellent playing by the entire group. Although it's somewhat in the background, I like the choppy rhythm Jeff is playing.

8. SMALL SWIFT BIRDS: Brantford 3-1-03
Another song I'd pick for a single if I was a program director. This song has such a well-written chorus and Margo's voice just soars here.

9. THOUSAND YEAR PRAYERr: Markham 3-3-03
Jeff's light touch is perfectly complementary on this delicate song.

10. PALE SUN: St. Catherines 3-9-03
The acoustic format seems to shed a different light on this song.Somehow it's like viewing the same scene,but at a different time of day. The story and characters remain familiar,but the perception changes. To me, the acoustic version feels like it occurs at dusk, while the electric version happens in broad daylight.

11. DECEMBER SKIES: Brampton 2-28-03
Jaro adds just the right amount of melancholy while Jeff is properly ominous.

12. COLD EVENING WIND: Markham 3-3-03
I took an instant liking to this new song, which has not been dimished by time. I was very pleased to hear it return to the repertoire in 2007. Margo still mentions how this song brings back fond memories of this very tour.

13. WITCHES: Markham 3-3-03
Only played once on the entire tour! Margo commands your attention,but just listen to the beauty of Mike's guitar.

14. POWDERFINGER: North Bay 3-5-03
Also played just this once. Jaro's contributions are always so welcome on Powderfinger. It's uncanny how naturally the Junkies are able to assimilate Neil's tunes.

15. CLOSE MY EYES: Toronto 3-10-03
Pay attention to the alternate early lyrics.There's a brief pause after the line "cracked a wicked smile" and I remember Margo doing just that at that precise moment.

16. HUNTED: Oakville 3-6-03
This is a pretty exciting version. Pete keeps the song moving right along and Jeff plays a dynamic solo that builds to an eruption. Pete's cymbals behind Jeff's solo are perfect.

17. 'CAUSE CHEAP IS HOW I FEEL: Toronto 3-10-03
It feels strange to include a song due to a mistake,but I couldn't resist. Margo's "re-interpretation" of the lyric is classic - even she cracks up.

18. I DON'T GET IT: North Bay 3-5-03
Al & Pete really swing the rhythm. Margo responds with a fluid vocal. The whole band sounds like they're having fun.

19. NOTES SLOWLY FALLING: Toronto 3-10-03
One of the best songs on One Soul Now. A somewhat quicker version than normal, yet the band sounds relaxed and manages to retain the spacey aspect of the song. Jaro & Jeff contribute a lot of subtle atmosphere.

20. THE SLIDE: Brampton 2-28-03
Still an embryonic version. A little different rhythm than what was eventually settled on. Margo phrases differently here too.

21. COME CALLING (HIS SONG): Toronto 3-10-03
Come Calling wasn't played much on this tour, but when they did it sounded stronger after getting a rest.

22. ME AND THE DEVIL: North Bay 3-5-03
I agonized over this choice more than any other on this volume. Most every version had something unique to recommend it. Al drives this one with a sense of urgency. Mike fires off an opening solo that quickly gets your attention. Jaro plays an outstanding solo - not a wasted note!

23. STARS OF OUR STARS: Brantford 3-1-03
Happy 25th wedding anniversary to John & Nic Olson on this song. What better way to spend the day than at a CJ concert?

24. ONE SOUL NOW - Port Hope 3-8-03
Still a new song at this point but tonight Margo fell into her comfort zone with it. Her confidence soars along with her voice.

25. TOWNES' BLUES: Oakville 3-6-03
Mike's strong rhythm guitar combining with Pete & Al's loose groove forms a perfect bed for Margo's sassy vocal. Fun version!

26. MY WILD CHILD: Port Hope 3-8-03
In putting together these collections the one thing I've noticed is that often when a song is dedicated to a friend in the audience. The song seems to be played particularly well. Coincidence? Probably not. This was dedicated to our friend Julie, who came from Scotland for these shows. Well done Julie!

27. MILES FROM OUR HOME: North Bay 3-5-03
This old warhorse was trotted out only twice this tour. This was the spunkier of the two.

28. WHY THIS ONE: Toronto 3-10-03
Good dynamics. Jeff's squalling solo stops on a dime.

29. LOST MY DRIVING WHEEL: Port Hope 3-8-03
I just don't seem to get tired of this song. Listen to this and you'll hear why.

30. 3 GIRLS (A SMILE TO MY EYES): North Bay 3-5-03
Margo sounds relieved to be singing an actual happy song. This rollicking version is one of the best I've ever heard.

31. HELPLESS: North Bay 3-5-03
Certainly the farthest north in "North Ontario" that I've heard this song played.Dedicated to a Crazy member of the audience. Once again, the Junkies do Neil proud.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 3 – Waltz Across America Tour (October 2000)

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October 2000 found me on a brief five show Midwest run. A tour of contrasts - two ugly geese-infested rawk clubs (Cleveland,Columbus) and three shows in beautiful,modern theatres (Elgin, Il. and two shows in Toledo). The band at this point included Karin and Linford, who were by now fully assimilated and the whole band was at the top of their game. Linford, in my opinion, is the most copasetic keyboard player ever to play with the Junkies. His brooding organ meshes well with the songs from this period.

The Elgin, Il. show has long been a favorite of mine. When reviewing the tapes for this volume,I ultimately decided to use the entire concert,since the lion's share of my picks came from this show anyway. I also included other highlights from most of these five shows.

The Elgin show was special because the band sounds so comfortable with each other. They play with a great deal of confidence, yet the show is relaxed and unhurried. Mike selects a good flow of songs, usually altering a slow quiet song with a rocker, which keeps the energy level high. Blue Guitar from this show is probably my favorite Cowboy Junkies moment - ever!

Tracks 1 - 18 are all from Elgin, Il. 10-14-00

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1. NO BIRDS TODAY: The band hits their groove as soon as they walk onstage. No Birds is so together you feel as if you've entered the show mid-set. Gone is any tentativeness or a need to "settle in" .

2. I SAW YOUR SHOES: Rocks! Margo sounds to be in a playful mood.

3. WHERE ARE YOU TONIGHT: Karin and Linford add much to this song. I like Linford's keyboard interjections during the verses and Karin's subtle yet highly effective backing vocals.

4. COME CALLING (HIS SONG): The way Karin echoes Margo on the word "calling" gives emphasis to the longing of the lyric.

5. CLOSE MY EYES: This was only the third time this song was played,but it emerged fully formed. I love the vocal give-and-take between Margo and Karin over the closing choruses.

6. FIRST RECOLLECTION: The tightness of the band is on display as it perfectly screeches to a halt on Pete's final snare shot.

7. BEA'S SONG: No Karin on this because Margo sings it perfectly and there's nothing to add.

8. SMALL SWIFT BIRDS: Maybe I listen too closely. My favorite part of this song has always been Linford's four note ascending piano riff in the line "we've tasted the tears that fall when saying... (four note riff) ... goodbye forever". It really gives the song some lift. I was disappointed when that part didn't make the studio recording.

9. YOU CAN BE LOVED TOO MUCH: Another song with lyrics that invoke the breath/lungs/breathing motif that is a continuing thread during many "Open" era songs. Still brand new at this point,this was the first night that I felt it had solidified as a song.

10. A FEW SIMPLE WORDS: The girls try to keep up with the breakneck tempo.

11. DRAGGING HOOKS: Great tone on Mike's guitar! The verses here are more restrained than on other versions,which creates a greater dynamic overall. This version is so vivid that it takes little imagination to visualize the dark, menacing waters. Mike and Pete both simultaneously charge into the final chorus,which is quite lively.

12. MISGUIDED ANGELl: The beauty of the girls' entwined voices completely justifies Karin's presence in the band.

13. HOLLOW AS A BONE: The acoustic version of "Hollow" always seems more luxurious than the electric ones.

14. I'M SO OPEN: Pete sounds a bit undecided in his drum fill following the bridge, but quickly pulls it together and powers into the final chorus. Nice recovery, Pete!

15. MILES FROM OUR HOME: The second of two rockers in a row, Miles allows the band to get their ya-ya's out so that the coming Blue Guitar can flower into perfection.

16. BLUE GUITAR: This is my favorite song of all live Cowboy Junkies performances I've ever heard! The band shows off it's ability to perfect a spontaneous improvisational performance of great artistic creativity. Al, Linford and Pete lay down an essential groove for Mike and Jeff to build on. You almost take the rhythm section for granted because they're so reliable. Mike proceeds to demonstrate a wide and varied range of his abilities from conversational solos to the majestic,and all are very satisfying. Jeff takes on the role of wizard,and it's his job to control the chaos streams that eminate from his mandolin. The creative peak is when Jeff fashions his chaos to sound like the rushing wind, while Mike articulately plays over the top of it all. Virtuouso playing by all involved!

17. POWDERFINGER: Powderfinger is the perfect song to follow in the afterglow of the prior Blue Guitar.

18. HUNTED: Jeff still has one furious solo to unleash to end the show.

19. SOUTHERN RAIN - Toledo,Oh. 10-15-00 Early Show: Mike and Jeff both get snarly on simultaneous solos.

20. 200 MORRE MILES - Toledo,Oh. 10-15-00 Early Show: Linford is very supportive with his honky-tonk piano fills.

21. OREGON HILLl - Toledo,Oh. 10-15-00 Early Show: This song is an all-too-infrequent visitor to the set list, despite the fact that it's almost always well-played. This is no exception.

22. CRESCENT MOON - Toledo,Oh. 10-15-00 Late Show: The band gives an excellent performance to complement Mike's superior lyricism.

23. BLUE GUITAR - Columbus,Oh. 10-13-00: This version was recorded at the Newport Music Hall, quite possibly the most heinous toilet in which I have ever suffered a concert. Upon arrival, you immediately notice the not-so-subtle fragrance trilogy of stale beer, stale vomit and stale urine. Perhaps this is what attracts the alcohol-addled geese who frequent this dive. This version could not be more different than the Elgin version. Subtleties are lost on on the inattentive audience, so Mike and Jeff turn the volume up to 11 and use their axes to bludgeon the geese. It's quite exciting. The audience showed their appreciation by screaming "who let the dogs out" at the top of their lungs throughout the next song (mercifully not included here).

24. DEAD FLOWERS - Toledo,Oh. 10-15-00 Early Show: I love the blending of Margo and Karin's beautiful voices.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 4 - "In The Time Before Tapers"

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I titled this volume as I did because the songs this time were taken from "stealth" recordings,made covertly prior to the band granting permission to record their shows. CAVEAT EMPTOR: The sound quality of these recordings is generally not as good as my usual offerings,and varies substantially from song to song due to the nature of the way they were recorded. I believe the performances are worthy of being heard,and hope the pleasure of the performance makes up for the lesser sound quality.

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1. State Trooper - London, Ontario 4-11-96 Sometimes the geese bring out the most amazing playing from Mike. Pete and Al's firm foundation and drive allow for some "psycho-delic" guitar work as Mike tries to silence the unruly crowd. Check out his slithering slide at the beginning and his ballistic second solo!

2. The Good and the Bad - London, Ontario 4-11-96 I've only seen this song performed live once,and this is it.It's a Ted Hawkins cover that unfortunately had a short shelf life with the Junkies. Great song - check out Ted's original on his album "The Next Hundred Years".

3. Anniversary Song (acoustic) - Northampton, Ma. 9-18-96 Late Show I really enjoy what the guitar leads and fills add to this song. I'm thinking it must be Jeff's playing that I hear. I wish I had a better recollection of who played what,but it was 13 years and many shows ago.

4. First Recollection (acoustic) - Northampton, Ma. 9-18-96 Late Show This song takes on a completely different mood when played acoustically.Margo sings it a bit more fluidly, contrasting with the slightly clipped lines she sings when the song is rendered electric. I love that little tambourine burst that Jeff uses to accent the end of the verses. Quite succinct,but just enough.

5. Murder, Tonight in the Trailer Park (acoustic) - Northampton, Ma. 9-18-96 Early Show You just don't hear an acoustic version of Murder very often.It's just as powerful stripped down as it is with the full band.All the elements remain for a vivid vision of the screaming sirens and bold headlines that the song suggests.

6. Blue Moon Revisited - Northampton, Ma. 9-18-96 Late Show Margo delivers a loose and swinging vocal that borders on playful. This same mood seems to influence Mike and Jaro's solos as well.

7. Darkling Days - Northampton, Ma. 9-13-98 Margo, Karin Bergquist and Terri Templeton's voices intertwine beautifully on the end choruses. It's as if each voice is a strand of a cord or rope. I like it when Margo sings with backup vocalists,although I know that some folks do not. This is one example of why I enjoy it so much.

8. Just Want To See - Toronto, ON. 12-15-98 Oh boy,you gotta hear this! Without a doubt my favorite rendition of this song. It's as if Mike discards his pick mid-solo in favor of a razor blade,then proceeds to shred his guitar. Listen to the tone he gets! Great.

9. Sweet Jane - Buffalo, N.Y. 9-21-98 I love the short,economical bursts that Mike uses to such an engaging effect on this song. Beware of the "Notorious Drunk Buffalo Blonde" that feels compelled to loudly remind Margo what her name is during this tune.

10. Something More Besides You - Buffalo, N.Y. 9-21-98 Cowboy Junkies are the only band I can think of who construct songs out of spiderweb and helium,daring them to defy gravity,much like a soap bubble.

11. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Buffalo, N.Y. 9-11-96 This song,perhaps more than any other,perfectly showcases what a beautiful vocal instrument Margo is blessed with. We are all so much richer for her willingness to share it.

12. Ring On the Sill (acoustic) - Buffalo, N.Y. 9-11-96 Jaro stays close to Margo's vocal and provides excellent support,with help from Jeff.

13. Working On A Building - Buffalo, N.Y. 9-11-96 Jaro is definitely the MVP on this one,although the entire band is fully engaged in making this a most memorable jam.Everyone starts off sounding quite at ease,and gradually builds a slow,simmering groove. Then the spirits start dancing in and out of Jaro's accordion. Is there a better version of this song? Not likely.

14. today show story / A Common Disaster - Toronto, On. 9-22-98 I chose this because the preceeding "disaster" story is the best (and longest) story I've ever heard Margo tell on stage.

15. Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning - Toronto, On. 9-22-98 Margo convincingly inhabits her character on this night. She makes you believe that the events of the song are her own.

16. Blue Guitar - Toronto, On. 9-22-98 This early rendering of Blue Guitar is a bit more subdued than later performances,but sometimes less is more. Al's bass provides the momentum,while Linford's sustained chords build tension.Karin beautifully ghosts Margo's vocal. Mike's solo sound as if it's full of questions,rather than the strong statements that occur later in the song's development.

17. Lost My Driving Wheel - Toronto, On. 9-22-98 Jack Henderson from Over The Rhine joins in on this one. Listen for his guitar interjections beginning about mid-song.The textures he adds greatly benefit the overall feel of the song.

18. Hunted - Toronto, On. 9-22-98 Jeff and his electric mando get center stage here,and he plays an exciting solo.But pull your attention away from Jeff and notice how Pete adds accents on his drums during Jeff's solo that provide the energy and excitement for Jeff to build upon.

19. Bea's Song - Peterborough,On. 3-26-99 Al and Pete are so solid and together here that it's as if a single person is playing both bass and drums.

20. No Birds Today - Peterborough,On. 3-26-99 The band sounds like the've settled in to this relatively new (at the time) song. It's still new enough that they need to pay attention,yet they're comfortable enough to relax and play this real nice version.

21. Townes' Blues - Rochester, N.Y. 9-23-98 Margo sings a line of the last verse a little late,then quickly doubles up the next line in an awesome recovery. My friend got a great photo of Mike with a huge smile at this very moment.

22. Five Room Love Story - Toronto, On. 9-1-99 Pete's playing is so good on this. He adds mostly shadings here,which I believe is his greatest strength.

23. Highway Kind - Toronto, On. 9-1-99 This feels like a warm night ride on a desert highway. Jeff perfectly evokes the feel of wide open spaces. Every time the Junkies play this song they play it well.

24. River Waltz - Toronto, On. 9-1-99 Nice uptempo groove brings out the waltz rhythm.

25. Miles From Our Home - Toronto, On. 9-1-99 The "too much coffee version". Miles is played at a very quick tempo. The chorus is drawn out forever at the end,like the band is playing a joke on Margo and Karin to see how many times they're capable of repeating the title line.

26. If You Gotta Go, Go Now - Toronto, On. 9-1-99 Pete is in the driver's seat for this high-flyin' show closer. Strong showing by all.

27. Helpless - Toronto, On. 7-11-98 Margo & Mike are invited up on stage with Blue Rodeo to perform the first live version of Helpless that I ever heard Margo sing.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 5 - Empire Theatre - Bellville, ON 5-7-09


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The Empire Theatre in Belleville should be a destination for anyone who loves music. I've been to more than my share of music venues in North America,and the Empire has the best acoustics of anyplace I've visited. A theatre for the audiophile. Cowboy Junkies did their best to provide quality of content as well. A thoroughly enjoyable show beginning to end. The first 19 tracks are the show in it's entirety. Among the additional songs there's a double Murder so you can contrast two exceptional versions. Enjoy!

Display Individual Track Descriptions

1. Crossroads - The band has come to play,and that is evident from the start.It's much like watching a sports team score on their first drive. Margo is locked in right from the outset.

2. A Common Disaster - I've seen this song performed a lot,and on occasion it can have a "phoned in" air about it. Not tonight. Margo sounds fully engaged and the band is right there to support her.

3. 200 More Miles - This moves along a little faster than normal; perhaps still riding the energy of Common Disaster. I love this song because I can identify with it so well.

4. Black Eyed Man - Jeff has a lightness about his harp playing that sounds almost happy,in contrast to the sobering lyrics.

5. The Confession of Georgia E - This relatively new song appears to have emerged fully formed and ready for the album. Something about the mood gives me the feeling that it would have fit well on One Soul Now.

6. Hunted - A highly energetic version with a very good Jeff Bird solo.

7. Once I Was - An excellent choice of cover song that flows well with the band's repertoire. It's written by Tim Buckley. Unfortunately, it may have had a short lifespan with the band, as it hasn't been played much since this tour.

8. Sing In My Meadow - Mike recently got a new resonator guitar and wrote this to play on it. The dirty slide sound and slinky groove drive this song. It's always nice when they add a new voice to their arsenal.

9. Working on a Building - Everyone in the band is playing at their peak. Pure enjoyment. Listen to Pete's cymbals.

10. Fairytale - The essence of this song just shouts that it is a Michael Timmins composition, from the nod to Townes to the recurring theme of standing on higher ground. If I had heard a cover version of this prior to hearing the Junkies' version, I'm certain that I'd have known that Mike had written it.

11. Renmin Park - Another promising new song. I enjoy the chord progression. This would be a single if I had any say about it. First time played,but then where did it go?

12. Baconator - no comment

13. This Street, That Man, This Life - Every once in awhile you find yourself in an environment that is conducive for a certain kind of music. The Empire is a listening room,and this song worked so well. What's evident here is the craft of what the Junkies do. Exquisite beauty drawn from sadness is what they do best. Flawless performance.

14. Still Lost - A slightly different mood is evident on Still Lost compared to other versions. Margo sounds a touch more world weary and contemplative tonight. Jeff offers up some nice cascading riffs.

15. I Don't Get It - The contemplative mood is now past. This swings!

16. Intros

17. Crescent Moon - It was a nice surprise to find Crescent Moon in the unusual slot as set closer.

18. Encore - Misguided Angel - Margo often is able to find ways to change up her vocal a little bit which helps to keep this often-played song interesting.

19. Walkin' After Midnight - This is taken at a relaxed pace,with a bit of a funky strut. Mike supplies some inventive solos and fills.

20. Murder, Tonight, In the Trailer Park - Dakota Tavern - Toronto, ON 4-7-09 Knowledgeable Cowboy Junkies scholars CJ Bob and Chuck think that this version featuring Tony Quarrington dueling with Mike is among the finest versions of this song,and it's hard to argue. There is certainly much to support that theory in this high-energy rendition.

21. Don't Let It Bring You Down - Erie, PA 6-21-09 I'm always amazed at how powerful this song is, and it seemed to be that way from the very first time it was performed. This was the opening song this evening and it was a dramatic show of force making everyone sit up and take notice.

22. Shining Moon - Erie, PA 6-21-09 If you listen closely you can hear the boys making "bluesmen noises" that crack up Margo prior to the beginning of the song. Jeff excels on his harp solo.The whole song has a casual looseness that was fun to experience.

23. Simon Keeper - Erie, PA 6-21-09 There's something that draws me in to this song that's hard to pin down. It may be that the confluence of subtleties is greater than the sum of their parts. Pete adds all the colors of the rainbow.

24. Working on a Building - Erie, PA 6-21-09 If you've followed these Cookie Crumbs volumes, you've probably noticed that I tend to include many of the songs that contain a fair amount of improvisational content. I think the Cowboy Junkies are generally underestimated by the general public in regard to their their jamming abilities. This song shows off some of those talents. The band feels free to venture off into deep space with Al acting as a secure anchor with his reliable bass line. Very nice.

25. Moonlight Mile - Ogunquit, ME 6-24-09 This was only the second time this song had been played live. I had been very eager to hear this cover after Mike had mentioned they were working on it. I enjoyed the first night,but they had grown in confidence by the time this show was recorded. I hope this one sticks around in the set list for awhile. I think it has great potential. Maybe I'll buy Margo a couple margaritas and try to induce that drunken swagger that Jagger does so well on the original.

26. Helpless - York, PA 6-19-09 You almost have to wonder if Neil wrote this specifically for this band to cover. The respect the Junkies have for Neil is evident in the sincerity they bring to the integrity of the song.

27. Murder, Tonight, In the Trailer Park - Newburyport, MA 4-3-09 I was floored by this song when it happened. Margo kicks in some extra enthusiasm at the "cross town at the Waterton" verse and the boys rush in to support her. Margo then takes things over the top with Jeff taking the role of co-conspirator to drive the band to a frenzied climax. Fun, fun, fun!

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 6 - The Genesis


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Volume 6 is the first Cowboy Junkies show that I ever recorded. After my first show,I knew that I needed some live CJ recordings. I bought a ticket to this show for a taper friend so that he could record it for me. Steve was reluctant to give up his master tape,so he brought an extra tape deck for me to use to record my own master. That night the seed was planted and I've never been the same. If you told me at the time that my recording from that night would one day end up being a legitimate Cowboy Junkies release, I never would have believed it! This was the only time I've witnessed Ken Mhyr perform with the band,and therefore many of my comments refer to how his playing enhanced the band's sound. The overall sound quality is on the bright side,and there's an occasional interruption of the flow that's inherent to recording on cassettes.

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1. Crescent Moon: There's some embarrassing beginner's errors as I learn how to surreptitiously set proper recording levels. Although this was still a new song at the time,it had already evolved into a dynamic powerhouse.

2. Ring on the Sill: The musicians relax a bit after the successful opening song and deliver a solid rendition. You begin to notice that it's not Mike playing lead guitar.

3. 'Cause Cheap is How I Feel: Nice slide solo from Ken and acoustic mandolin from Jeff. Ken shows that he has his own voice,not merely mimicking Kim Deschamps original slide solos.

4. Oregon Hill: Big enthusiasm spikes in the bridge sections.

5. Hunted: Ken tears it up right out of the gate and is certainly not shy throughout. Taken at a slightly slower tempo than we're used to these days.

6. Anniversary Song: The freshness of this song is evident in the boisterous playing of the entire band. Mike,Pete and Al drive the song's rhythm. Real joy in Margo's vocal.

7. This Street, That Man, This Life: Ken's subtle shadings are very sympathetic,almost comforting in the wake of the lyrical content.

8. Townes' Blues: Pete causes this one to swing,and Margo responds with a fluid vocal. Ken's solo,oddly enough,sound a little like what Kim Descamps might have played,had he performed on this song.

9. Lost My Driving Wheel: Jeff provides some melancholy harmonica to underscore the longing of the lyric. Pete's playing is strong and confident.

10. Forgive Me: The core quartet again. Another dynamic spike that emphasizes the lyric. Margo's voice sounds slightly thinner than on more current versions of this song.

11. Misguided Angel: Ken supplies some color in the nuances of his fills.

12. Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning: Jeff and Ken weave an interesting ebb and flow backing behind the vocals.

13. A Horse in the Country: Mike's strong rhythm guitar drives this along in a nice loping groove. Ken's last note hangs suspended while Mike begins Pale Sun.

14. Pale Sun: Ken plays a very different type of solo than we're used to. This song's lyrics are so cinematic they could easily be expanded into a film.

15. Intros

16. Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park: Ken lets loose with a full blown squall,as is fitting for the song.

17. Encore - Floorboard Blues: Al's subtle underpinnings hold together what is often just a Margo & Mike duet. Jeff and Ken engage in some imaginative call and response near the ending.

18. Sweet Jane: Jeff's acoustic mandolin is quite pleasing. Ken's solo has a country feel that's unusual for this song.

19. Blue Moon Revisited: Brief but liquid solo from Mike. This gentle rendering concludes the show with a warm afterglow.

20. Hunted - Peterborough, On 3-26-99: We're back to the more familiar tempo here. Mike's rhythmic authority and Pete's excellent drum pattern keep this percolating.Mr. Bird manages to wring out a few licks,too.

21. Blue Guitar - Peterborough, On 3-26-99: Still new,this hasn't yet evolved into the extended jam it will soon become. Short but sweet Mike solo.

22. Just Want To See - Peterborough, On 3-26-99: Al's low frequency slide starts this out in an ominous mood. Mike solos with a scalpel sharp tone on his guitar.

23. Blue Moon Revisited - Peterborough, On 3-26-99: Margo changes up the meter of her vocal. Pete and Al generate a lumbering groove that's odd,unique and quite interesting.

24. Lay It Down - Buffalo, NY 9-11-96: Still a new song at the time of this recording,and Mike handles all the solos;no jam with Jeff.Mike begins with a signature solo that could come from no one else and builds it to a thrashy climax.

25. Just Want To See - Buffalo, NY 9-11-96: Contrast Mike's solo here to the earlier one. There's a wonderful ebb and flow to his solo that I find very appealing. The dynamics of his playing here are more subtle than some of the hard-edged solos he plays on occasion.

26. Anniversary Song - Buffalo, NY 9-11-96: Pete's immediacy on the opening beats seems to encourage the entire band.

27. Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park - Northampton, Ma. 9-18-96 Late Show: Jeff is back in his familiar role of lead "squallist" that Ken filled on the earlier version in this volume.Margo is making strides toward becoming the more assertive vocalist she has evolved into today. Jaro conjures that disconcerting feeling you would have if someone was murdered on your street.

28. Working on a Building - Northampton, Ma. 9-18-96 Late Show: This is so cool! Mike's fleeting guitar interjections set the mood early on. Jeff's organ continues to fuel the brooding theme. Jaro's otherworldly accordion leads you to believe that the building in question is being worked on after dark,in late October near Halloween. Spooky,but not "haunted" as most reviewers would have you believe.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 7 - Rockland,Me. 4-17-10 / Somerville,Ma. 4-18-10

Release Date: 2010

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"Cookie" Bob is an inveterate concert goer, avid "taper", discerning listener and a good friend of the band. He has attended over 150 Cowboy Junkies shows. Cookie Crumbs is culled, by Bob, from his extensive Junkies archive of live recordings.

Two shows from the April leg of the tour were special times indeed. Pleasant days spent surrounded by friends both new and old made for some moments when all felt right in the world. The band drew from the strength of earlier shows to summon power that coalesced into these two fine back-to-back concerts.

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Tracks 1-18 are all from Rockland,Me. 4-17-10

1. A Few Bags of Grain: Al glides into the riff and we're off.I've found that Al's bass riff has been stuck in my mental jukebox quite often lately. Brief but intense Aaron solo.

2. Southern Rain: The return of a pedal steel to the band provides a welcome link back to the band's early sound. The steel guitar reinforces the traveling rhythm of the song.

3. Shining Moon: Jeff Bird tried to blow his own head off with his harp solo every night,and this is no exception. His solo fuels the band for the rest of the song.

4. Sit Sadly By Your Side: Margo's husky whisper draws you in. A chance to catch your breath after the Shining Moon blowout.

5. Stranger Here: Insidiously catchy song with a trademark Mike Timmins rhythm. Interesting "Tomorrow Never Knows" drum break from Pete.

6. I Don't Get It: Lots of brief moments of glory near the end. Mike locks in with Al to give Pete a moment of freedom while Bird solos.

7. Moonlight Mile: Aaron's pedal steel puts the ache of longing for home into the mix,strengthening an already excellent choice of cover song.

8. Escape is so Simple: Margo's vocal is considerably more subdued than many current songs and reflects her delivery in times past.

9. Sir Francis Bacon at the Net: Pete and Al get the funky groove going that's making this become an unlikely Cowboy Junkies dance number! Dr. Sample still looking for his proper place in this early version.

10. Something More Besides You: There's a lightness to Mike's playing absent from other versions that causes this to levitate.

11. Lungs: Mike and Jeff's gentle acoustic backing is in stark contrast to Margo's aggressive vocal.

12. Renmin Park: I have yet to hear a mediocre version of this song,which I'm certain is destined to become a CJ classic. The sparse instrumentation allows for a wealth of feelings to develop and grow. This tune reveals more upon each new hearing.

13. Don't Let It Bring You Down: Neil's tune always buoys the energy of the show,regardless of it's place in the set list. I like the way it builds tension until it's released by the bridge,only to be built back up again.

14. Misguided Angel: Aaron's steel quietly harkens back to Trinity Session days. Misguided sounds more assured than the early days,yet somehow remains unchanged in essence.

15. Intros

16. Walking After Midnight: This rolls like a Cadillac. It cruises at a reserved tempo,yet you can feel the power in reserve. Margo sings it with a stately grace,and Aaron accounts for the streamlining. Enjoy the ride.

17. -Encore- Sun Comes Up,It's Tuesday Morning: So begins a dual Caution Horses encore. This unrushed version establishes the aura of the morning hours.

18. Powderfinger: Margo,Michael and Jeff offer us a nitecap of Neil,and everyone left feeling relaxed and satisfied.

Tracks 19-26 are all from Somerville,Ma. 4-18-10

19. Hold On To Me: Our friend Kath wisely attended this show to gather strength for her Marathon run the next day. Margo sends her off in style.

20. No Expectations: Junkies select a melancholy Stones cover to make their own. I guess I wouldn't expect them to cover "Rocks Off" or "Rip This Joint". Margo is completely convincing,yet not quite as world-weary as Mick.

21. Blue Guitar: I love this song! Mike's strings bleed wild electricity. Mike & Jeff's interplay is relatively brief,but what a conversation!

22. Tired Eyes: CJ's do this so well that I'm beginning to forget what Neil's version sounds like.

23. This Street,That Man,This Life: Mike's lighthearted rhythm is in sharp contrast to the sobering lyrics. I like his playing here,and judging from the reaction,so does the crowd. Margo occasionally speaks a line rather than singing it,which enhances the storytelling aspect of her performance.

24. Hunted: The band has consistently played Hunted with passion this year. Margo and Jeff turn in especially inspired performances.

25. Those Final Feet: Aaron's subtle work seems to alter the mood of this song from depression to acceptance of the inevitable.

26. Sweet Jane: Jane rises out of Those Final Feet on a wash of fuzz and feedback. Mike seems to be searching for something with his solo - maybe the power increase that's just about to occur.

27. Dark Hole Again - Syracuse,NY 4-20-10: Jeff travels to an outer space black hole to draw out the notes from deep within it for his intro solo .Al's bass line is indispensible to the song. A welcome return to the rotation for this song that deserves more time in the spotlight.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 8

Release Date: 2011

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"Cookie" Bob is an inveterate concert goer, avid "taper", discerning listener and a good friend of the band. He has attended over 150 Cowboy Junkies shows. Cookie Crumbs is culled, by Bob, from his extensive Junkies archive of live recordings.

While assembling this volume,it occurred to me that the theme would have to be "friends",as that was what continually came to mind as I listened.This past year of touring as a whole reminded me of the River Trilogy in a way. Things started out well,touring with good friends and meeting many others,both old and new along the way. Sadly,by the time the year ended I had lost a close friend,Chris Lukaszewski,who passed away prior to the November Toronto show. The bulk of this volume is taken from the concert in Great Barrington,MA. on May 15, 2010. This show was the culmination of my touring days with Jason and Ed,after which we parted ways (only for now,I'm sure). Fortunately for all who were present,the band played one of those shows where they could do no wrong. This volume is dedicated to the late Chris Lukaszewski,and to my friends Crazy Ed and Jason - no better touring partners exist!

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Tracks 1-18 are all from Rockland,Me. 4-17-10

1. Blue Guitar: Things get under way with one of my favorites. It's obvious at the outset that no amount of power will be held in reserve. Mike and Jeff spar in their solo sections,with Mike eventually coming out the victor. Both Mike and Jeff sharpen the tone of their respective instruments.

2. Hunted: Driving,no nonsense version. Margo bites into the lyrics viciously,barely giving the boys time to get out of the way.

3. I Don't Get It: This begins a little less aggressively than other versions.Pete swings the rhythm in a lighthearted groove. Mike inserts some aggressive solo bursts between the verses.

4. I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side: I keep forgetting that this is not a CJ original. The band's ability to take widely diverse material and place their stamp of ownership on it is one of their great strengths.The perfect cohesion of (translated) lyric to music is just beautiful.

5. My Fall: A happy melody driven by Mike's rhythm guitar,with uplifting soloing from Jeff and sympathetic backing fills from Aaron. I just love the lift of the hook in the chorus,where Margo's voice ascends to the heavens.

6. Hard To Explain: Aaron Goldstein sets aside the steel guitar in favor of lead guitar duties.You instantly notice a different guitar style in Aaron's fills behind the vocal and his intro solo.

7. Bea's Song: Rendered flawlessly. Aaron peeks in with some very appropriate fills.

8. No Expectations: One of the most cohesive versions that I've heard. Margo is most generous with her intro,in keeping with the "friends" theme of this download. Aaron's solo reflects the bittersweetness of separating from friends and family for a season.

9. Sir Francis Bacon at the Net: Mike's rhythm scrubbs and Pete's rim shots suggest,rather than state,the funkiness of the groove. Less is more sometimes when your canvas is silence. Good Bird interjections behind the vocal.

10. Tired Eyes: I played Neil's version of this recently and came away much impressed by how Mike and Margo developed a melody for Neil's mostly spoken narrative.

11. A Few Simple Words: Once again in keeping with the friends theme, my friends Chris and Peg get namechecked in the intro dedication. Happy Birthday Peg!

12. Renmin Park: Margo has said that this was a difficult song to get right in the studio,but now that she's got it down it seems to flow effortlessly from her.

13. Don't Let It Bring You Down: Tonight's version lacks the urgency of other ones I've heard,but that reveals a different texture to the verse sections that I hadn't previously noticed.

14. Me and the Devil: Early in the song,the band sounds like they're pacing the cage. Listen to the barely contained chaos when they are finally let loose toward the end! I recall my new friend Rick was blown away by this song after the show,with good reason.

15. Intros

16. Misguided Angel: Aaron's steel weeps behind Margo. Something about the placement of this song late in the setlist that makes it more appealing to me. It may only my own perception,but it seems to me that Margo becomes more animated when this tune comes late in the show.

17. -Encore- Good Friday: Ok,maybe this isn't the most technically perfect version that's ever been played,but it still contains a very fun surprise ending.

18. A Common Disaster: Mike forgoes his usual solo in favor of a new improvised one with a bit more bite.

19. Escape Is So Simple - Ridgefield,CT. 5-14-10: The Ridgefield show opened quietly with this number. The band trusted the audience to be quiet and listen,and they do. The musicians gel immediately,and deliver a version as liquid as a gently flowing stream. A very pleasant way to start a show.

20. Cutting Board Blues - Bellows Falls,Vt. 5-9-10: Mike drives the rhythm hard,pushing Jeff and Margo to inspired performances. The interplay between Jeff and Mike is exceptional. Don't miss the little trills that Jeff plays at the end of his solo.

21. River Waltz: - Bellows Falls,Vt. 5-9-10: Everyone just plays so pretty! There's not much more to be said about it. My friend Jason enjoyed this Bellows Falls show more than most others that he went to. The three songs I've included will show you why.

22. Bea's Song - It just felt right to add another version of Bea's Song right after River Waltz,completing two parts of the trilogy. Aaron shines here,complimenting Mr. Bird's hues.

23. Working On A Building - Bellows Falls,Vt. 5-9-10: Mike plays offense in his solo time,not giving Jeff time to offer much.Mike continues to dominate even when Jeff solos,then sits out when Margo re-enters. Keeps things interesting.

24. Walking After Midnight - Providence,R.I. 5-12-10: Mike solos with abandon. The "other" lead guitar voice you hear is Aaron Goldstein. Some of the staff here treated Margo shamefully,which is why she says "see you later - somewhere else". Perhaps that's where some of the frenzied energy came from. If you ever get the chance to visit the High Hat in Providence, DON'T!.

25. Murder, Tonight in the Trailer Park - Syracuse,N.Y. 4-20-10: My friend Ed loves a hot version of "Murder" so this is for him. Margo's belting,Mike slashes out the rhythm and Jeff is absolutely blazing;he sounds like Jimi smashing his guitar.

26. Dreaming My Dreams With You - Toronto,on. 11-19-10: Chris Lukaszewski was a good friend who I had planned to see at this show,and he was well known to the band as well. Margo makes a fitting mention of him before this song,but the real tribute is the hitch in her voice when she sings "those that I am fondest of".

27. Those Final Feet - South Burlington,Vt. 5-11-10: Final Feet seemed like an appropriate finale to this volume. Time was winding down.Lyrically melancholy yet musically hopeful with an articulate Jeff Bird solo.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 9

Release Date: 2011

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I had intended to create a compilation of different shows for this volume of Cookie Crumbs. I began by listening to this show for songs I could extract,and fell in love with the whole thing. It was a fun night,the last show of that leg of the tour,and the band played a marathon show. Usually at tour's end they're eager to hit the road for home,but we got a two hour plus show,including the Folk Fusion Quartet opening set. Good stuff. You're gonna like it.

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The Sphere - Buffalo,NY 9-17-04
- Folk Fusion Quartet (Margo,Mike,Jeff and Jaro acoustic) -

1. Powderfinger: A risky opener. The Sphere (currently named the Town Ballroom) has three levels in this former small theatre,and each level has it's own bar. The band runs the risk of being ignored in favor of alcohol induced socializing,but Powderfinger grabs the crowd's attention,quiets them and things work out ok.

2. I'm So Open: A rocker comes second,just in case the crowd still needed taming. Starts out tentatively,but ends strong with Margo providing a lot of the momentum in the absence of Pete and Al in the the engine room.

3. A Horse in the Country: Margo offers a glimpse into her personal life. A little bit of homesick slips in to color the song.

4. Cold Evening Wind: I miss this song big time. Jaro,too. He has a way of taking his warm-hearted playing and conjuring up an image of that cold wind. How he does it I don't know,but he pulls it off well.

5. No Birds Today: The electric versions always have an air of mystery about them. No so here. The sparse acoustic variant has more of a "early morning" feel to it,slightly more approachable than the "late evening" mood of the electric portrayal.

- Infomercial -

6. Notes Falling Slow: This strikes me as an odd choice to do acoustic. Maybe I just miss Pete steadily keeping time on his cymbal. Again,the acoustic rendition changes the mood of the song,giving it a more skeletal aspect.

7. The Slide: The Slide in waltz time. Margo and Mike begin by sketching the song in shadows of black and white. Jaro and Jeff swoop in at just the right moment,bringing in a wash of color.

- Full band electric set -

8. Those Final Feet: Al and Pete make their presence known as the power increases exponentially. Listen as Mike sneaks in this great little dirty riff after the "you got to walk down every road" line.

9. Sir Francis Bacon at the Net: Mike's rhythm scrubbs and Pete's rim shots suggest,rather than state,the funkiness of the groove. Less is more sometimes when your canvas is silence. Good Bird interjections behind the vocal.

10. Ring on the Sill: Margo introduces a subtle pause mid-line that underscores the moment that her character fully recognizes his guilt of missed opportunities for a loving caress. "He sees the light from the window caress her like (pause) he knows he should"

11. One Soul Now: What a dramatic change from the timid verses to the hurricane roar of the chorus! Mr. Bird sounds like he was ready to launch into an extended jam near the song's end.

12. 200 More Miles: The boys do an excellent job of framing Margo's vocal. Always there to guide,never in the way,like curbs along the highway.

13. Sun Comes Up,It's Tuesday Morning: The whole band sounds fully absorbed in the song,as though it's merely the tenth time they might've played it instead of the thousandth or so.

14. Pale Sun: Interesting and spacey Jeff Bird intro. Listen as Jeff and Jaro weave behind Margo's vocals,masterfully complementing her and each other.

15. Why This One: - A smooth segue from Pale Sun soon turns into the fury of a mounting tornado. Jeff plays lead buzz saw. As if Al wasn't powerful enough on his own,soundman Rob Howick used to like to turn the lowest frequencies of his bass all the way up and make our chairs skitter across the floor. Unfortunately,my recording fails to capture that aspect of the show,but it sure was fun when you were there!

16. 32.20 Blues: Mike and Jeff spar in the relaxed intro. Jaro,Mike and Jeff turn out churning,tumultuous solos,reflecting how you might feel if you found yourself in the situation described in the lyrics. Great jamming!

17. Simon Keeper: The calm after the storm. Jaro streams into the song like a sunrise.

18. Lungs: When I see Lungs in the set list,I don't usually think of it as a rocker. This version challenges that perception. The boys and girl turn up the amperage in this somewhat rare full band version. Pete rocks!

intros: I don't usually comment on the band introductions, but Margo shows off a touch of class that bears mention. When introducing the crew,she realizes that she hasn't yet learned the name of the man filling in as monitor mixer. She takes the time in the middle of the intros to find out who he is so she can introduce him by name. Class act.

19. Lost My Driving Wheel: Driving Wheel is the perfect way to end a show. It offers an overview of all the band does well,both quiet and loud. Jeff and Jaro build the energy early and give Margo the freedom of not having to be the driving force of the finale with her vocals alone.

20. -Encore- I Don't Get It: This swings! Margo is sassy,Mike kicks out an explosive burst and Jaro plays a happy,celebratory solo. Good stuff.

21. Sweet Jane: Jaro's solo is all sweetness and light, while Jeff contrasts with rhythm mando chops that sound like a dog straining at the lead.

22. -Johnson City,NY 9-16-04- State Trooper - I really like this, although it's hard to find the words to explain why. Mike plays the kind of trademark solo on the intro that doesn't allow you to mistake him for anyone else. Mike,Jeff and Jaro all retain the subdued mood rather than try to take it over the top. There seems to be an unspoken agreement to see what they could do within the boundaries of a more restrained setting.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 10: Underdogs

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I wanted to do something slightly different for Vol. 10. I've decided to construct a volume that focuses on some of the songs that the band rarely plays,or hasn't played in a long time. I feel there are some excellent songs that fall out of the rotation and don't return as often as I'd like. Obviously the band has a wealth of material to choose from when deciding what to perform,and to their credit they vary the set list a great deal. Despite that fact,there still seem to be some songs that are marginalized, true underdogs. This volume lifts up those undersung heroes.

I've departed from the norm a bit by using some old soundboard and fm broadcast recordings that have been in the public domain. Some of the songs I wanted to use predate my tenure as a taper, so I asked for, and received, Mike's blessing to use this material. This one's been a lot of fun to assemble,reminding me of those days of searching for that "one song" only available on a promo single or foreign pressing of a cd. I present them largely in chronological order,to lessen the impact of varying recording quality.

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1. Dust My Broom - Halifax, Nova Scotia 5-16-87: Mike's urgent and aggressive slide playing pushes Margo toward a vocal performance considerably less timid than others of this vintage.

2. Never Get Out of These Blues Alive - Halifax, Nova Scotia 5-16-87: This is a showcase for Mike. His style is fully developed even at this early stage.Pete and Al hold things steady while Mike's guitar comments at every opportunity. Fewer instrumental voices in the band at this time allow Mike more room to play.

3. Forgive Me - Halifax, Nova Scotia 5-16-87: Al is the impetus that keeps this rolling along at a moderately brisk pace.

4. 32.20 Blues - Washington, D.C. 1-18-89: Margo somehow manages to sound younger than on the previous songs from two years earlier. Interesting subtle interplay between Kim and Mike on the intro. Jeff and Jaro get spooky on fiddle and accordion,respectively.

5. My Father's House - Washington, D.C. 1-18-89: Margo & Jeff go it alone. Because no more is needed.

6. The Coast of Peru - Frankfurt, Germany 6-19-89: This a capella sea shanty couples perfectly with ...

7. Mariner's Song - Frankfurt, Germany 6-19-89: An example of the "quiet" perception of the band that reviewers have saddled them with which they still struggle to overcome.

8. Hot Burrito #1 - London, England 3-6-92: The band is sounding very polished,largely due to Spencer's keys. One can only imagine the possibilities had Margo only had an opportunity to sing with Gram.

9. Leaving Normal - Lund, Sweden 3-11-92: I've loved this song from the first time I heard it! It has a great melody,the "rhythm of the road" that makes it a great traveling song,and a killer bridge. Extremely well written! Notice the change in sound as Ken Mhyr plays the lead guitar.

10. Witches - Toronto, On. 4-12-96:This is one tune that always manages to silence the audience.

11. The Good and the Bad - Ottawa, On. 4-9-96: This is probably the second greatest underdog of the set. Despite this being a very successful cover,the band dropped it like a hot potato after relatively few plays.

12. Carmelita - Chicago,Il. 4-25-96: A fine example of how the Junkies assumes the essence of another writer's song. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for bringing Fred Eaglesmith to my attention!

13. Simon Keeper - Brampton,On. 11-26-99: This is the first time this song was ever played,and it made such an impression on me that it has become the version by which all others are judged. I recall being riveted by the stark, eerie representation of this character. It's all fiction,right Mike? Tell me it is.

14. Dark Hole Again - Guelph,On. 11-27-99: Second time played. Mike's psychedelic musings perpetually increase in intensity. This early funky groove paves the way for those that show up later in the Nomad Series.

15. Beneath The Gate - Guelph,On. 11-27-99: The contributions of the entire band are subtle and restrained,in the interest of serving the song. The result being that the sum becomes greater than the individual parts.

16. Cowboy Junkies Lament - Winooski,Vt. 3-4-00: Different arrangement than on Black Eyed Man. Here we find the rhythm and groove of the song draws from the Dylan song "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", a most excellent juxtaposition! I had always hoped that a segue into the Dylan song would appear as well,but the band unfortunately dropped this song altogether.

17. Hollow as a Bone - Saratoga,Ca. 6-9-00: This version was burned into my brain as it happened. The air in the California hills was crisp and clear,and Margo's voice was sharp and crystalline as never before. Even though she tends to surge ahead of Mike once in awhile,I still love this version.

18. Upon Still Waters - Santa Rosa,Ca. 6-10-00: I like the conflict of the tension and release,and how they contrast with the calm of Linford's "churchy" organ sound.

19. You can be Loved too Much - Toledo, Oh. 10-15-00 Late Show: Another great song with a short shelf life.The body of the song has a "chugging" Southern Rain rhythm which beautifully dissolves into the tender coda.The problem with Mike being a prolific writer is that songs like this fall by the wayside. (A situation remedied by the Nomad series)

20. Sad to see the Season Go - Glenside, Pa. 6-29-01: The song I asked for on the occasion of my 50th show. I've loved this song since I first heard it on the "30 Hour Famine" disc (the version I still prefer over the Rarities one). Mike concisely sums up my Cowboy Junkies experience in one line: "the fruit of his heart he gave willingly for her song".

21. Thirty Summers - Glenside, Pa. 6-29-01:Margo & Jeff lovingly caress this song. Jeff's melodica playing is heartfelt,and reminiscent of Jaro's accordion.

22. River Song Trilogy (River Waltz, Bea's Song, Dragging Hooks) - Glenside, Pa. 6-29-01: While these songs are often played regularly,it's quite rare that the Trilogy is played in sequence. The storyline flows along as seamlessly as the transition from River Waltz to Bea's Song. Al's roiling bass in Dragging Hooks depicts the turbulent waters as Mike and Jeff get sinister.

23. Highway Kind - North Adams, Ma. 9-29-01: Unquestionably my favorite version of this song.

24. Seven Years - Washington, D.C. 5-12-02: Jeff has the "squonk" on his mando turned up to 11! I love the way this builds from insidious quiet to full cacophony.

25. White Sail - Brantford,On. 3-1-03: One of the more delicate moments from PSCM and one of my favorites from that album. Margo always sings this well, and here she keeps the audience in rapt attention. Mike is even able to finish plucking the last few notes without the interruption of applause.

26. Mining For Gold - Brantford,On. 3-1-03: I never get tired of this song. It's what drew me in when I initially heard Trinity,and it continues to have the same effect.

27. At the End of the Rainbow - Barrie,On. 3-4-03: One of the saddest songs in a stable of sad songs. And one of my favorites. Margo never fails to convince you that the grief she sings of is real.

28. Cold Evening Wind - Port Hope,On. 3-8-03: Cold Evening Wind could certainly be in contention for the best CJ song that never made it to an official album.Beautiful song and nearly every rendition is excellent; it's rare to find a mediocre attempt. ( After I had sent these discs to Mike, I noticed that this version was the same one he chose for Acoustic Junk. So shoot me.)

29. A House in the Forest - VH1 "Cowboy Junkies at Home" - February, 1992: We end with Margo whispering a lullaby into your ear

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 11: Somerville Theater - Somerville, MA. 3-8-12

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Cowboy Junkies usually play well in Somerville, due in part to the enthusiastic fan support they enjoy there, as this concert attests. A pleasant day that alluded to the hope of Spring was enhanced by an East Coast appearance of Mr. Skippy Peanut and his famed Sausage Stand. Skippy creates an aura of contentedness and goodwill by transforming an area near the tour bus into the ambience of a good friend’s backyard barbeque. Band, crew, fans and even some passers-by all mingle and enjoy Skippy’s fine food. The good vibe from outside drifts into the theater with all attendees including the musicians. I’ve found that a sausage stand show is almost always musically superior, as you’re about to hear.

Display Individual Track Descriptions

1. Sing in my Meadow: The players all start out sounding relaxed, and soon settle into the groove they’ll ride for the rest of the show. Listen to Mike’s solo and the way Jeff maneuvers around to interact with it. The tempo seems to pick up after this interchange, and we’re off!

2. Dialog

3. Wrong Piano: Jeff has the perfect amount of distortion on his mando. Margo sounds confident and comfortable, at the top of her game.

4. West of Rome: The volume and tempo drop; the intensity does not. The song’s beauty is evident in the restrained power, and the audience is captivated and silent. Margo’s vocal “aah’s” are complemented by Pete’s compassionate cymbal play.

5. 3rd Crusade: Al’s rolling bass line paired with Pete’s insistent snare give this song it’s driving momentum. Mike & Jeff come out with both guns blazing and intertwine in a spirited cacophony. I like Margo’s nearly off-mic “hey” near the end of the song, which calls to mind James Brown’s trademark “hunh”.

6. Late Night Radio: Probably my favorite song from Nomad. Mike has successfully captured the atmosphere of post-midnight. The musical catch and release of the chorus is a potent hook. It seems like the song has the potential to open up into an extended jam piece in the manner of Lay It Down or Blue Guitar. I’ve become enamored of the term “mildly sane” that Mike uses here, and find a great deal of humor in it. For me it’s become a fitting response when someone asks, “How are you?”

7. Damaged From the Start: Jeff’s tambourine truly “shimmers like a serpent” behind Margo’s vocals and Pete responds with tasteful cymbal taps for balance.

8. Angels in the Wilderness: The quiet intensity of only Margo & Mike once again gently holds the audience spellbound, with barely a sound emanating from the crowd.

9. Rake: Despite Margo’s complaint of there being too many words, she pulls it off without error. Cautious on the first verse; much more confidant for the rest.

10. Shoe sale

11. Powderfinger: A return to the familiar and to Margo’s comfort zone. The sound of Jeff’s acoustic mandolin always takes me back to Caution Horses and Trinity days.

12. Bea’s Song: Bea’s begins as fragile as frost on an autumn morning till the band gracefully glides in to illustrate the current of the river.

13. Sweet Jane: The tumultuous intro serves as a disguise to many, but the crowd gets it’s reward for listening to the Nomad set. Mike’s solo adds some much needed fire to a version where the band sounds somewhat bored.

14. A Common Disaster: Joby Baker’s keyboards add some subtle outer space noises to the intro.

15. 200 More Miles: A travel song dedicated to the many llamas in the audience for whom 200 more miles to the next show has become the norm, rather than the exception.

16. Those Final Feet: Final Feet has grown into an anthem, something I wouldn’t have expected when I first heard it on Miles From our Home. The older I get, the more I appreciate this song. Margo belts out the ending in fine form. Joby’s organ sounds swirl and serves to help bind the rhythm section.

17. Working on a Building: Jeff’s harp weaves around Mike’s conversational solo, with a different brand of power than that on display in Those Final Feet. Pete, Al & Joby hold things solid while Mike and Jeff create their maelstrom.

18. I’m So Open: A song often in heavy rotation, Open is a powerful vehicle for Margo’s voice. Because it’s played frequently, it’s also usually played well, as is evidenced by the crowd’s reaction.


20. Misguided Angel: Joby’s organ infuses a little bit of drone that’s reminiscent of Jaro’s accordion.


21. Walking After Midnight: Mike starts the tune with a sinister motif, which gets dispersed by Jeff and Joby’s solo.

22. Fuck, I Hate the Cold: A perfect song to dedicate to Skippy; a dedication well deserved.

23. Square Room - Ridgefield, Ct. 2-26-12: You can tell Margo enjoys Vic’s songs by how well she inhabits them, creating beauty from sadness. Vic’s tunes can’t be all that easy to interpret, given the subject matter and the intimacy.

24. A Bride’s Price – Ridgefield, Ct. 2-26-12: Al, as usual, is the anchor point of the song until the center chorus of Margo’s “yeah yeah yeah’s” at which time the whole song goes elastic, the boys roam freely and Margo’s vocal briefly becomes the anchor. An unusual form for the band; very jazz-like. A feat of genius song construction from Mike, in my opinion.

25. Follower 2 - Ridgefield, Ct. 2-26-12: Margo begins by expressing her love for her Dad, the subject of this song. Perhaps the special relationship they share (including Mike and Pete here as well) is part of the reason why I can’t recall hearing an indifferent version of Follower 2. This has remained a favorite since I first heard it.

26. Summer of Discontent – Ridgefield, Ct. 2-26-12: The first of three request “rarities” to round out this volume. I promised Paul that I would include this on the next volume of CC that I produced. Margo & Mike put considerable effort into getting this right at soundcheck. Not perfect, but very welcome nonetheless.

27. Cowboy Junkies’ Lament – Glenside, Pa. 3-9-12: Certainly on my list of top ten songs that rarely get played. The band did not rehearse this at soundcheck, and it shows. Still, far better than no version at all. Townes wrote few songs that publicly target individuals, yet Cowboy Junkies don’t seek bragging rights by bringing this out very often.

28. Cold Tea Blues – Glenside, Pa. 3-9-12: Joby alters the mood of the song with his “churchy” organ sounds, giving it a more somber feel.

Cookie Crumbs, Volume 12 - BIRCHMERE


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I was very excited when I first heard that the Junkies would play two shows at Birchmere that would encompass all of Trinity Session and Black Eyed Man. I immediately made plans to attend. It seemed like I hit every traffic jam in each of the eight states I traversed on the drive down, but it was well worth the frustration. Trinity was well-rehearsed and fluid, while Black Eyed Man was less so, yet so very welcome as it contains many of my most favorite CJ songs. Winter’s Song alone was worth the trip.

This will be the longest Cookie Crumbs to date, as there was so much good music played over the two days. I’ve included the entire first night’s show plus the BEM set from night two. I had intended to take the Nomad songs that were exclusive to the second night and intersperse them in the first night’s Nomad set, but doing so seemed to interrupt the flow and detract from the overall energy level, so I left well enough alone. Mike is better at set list construction than I am.

I had a real good time at these shows and now you can, too. Special mention should be made of the Birchmere staff, who are consistently welcoming, friendly and do their best to be accommodating.

Display Individual Track Descriptions

1. Wrong Piano – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
The middle of a tour is a desirable time to catch a show. The band has the bugs worked out, is playing confidently, and isn’t tired yet. Wrong Piano starts off strong, any timid playing left behind at earlier shows.

2. Dialog – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set

3. I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
I Cannot Sit Sadly by your Side - I love Mike’s big reverb-drenched chords that follow Jeff’s electric mandolin solo. The howling mando has an edge!

4. Stranger Here – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
Stranger was played well both nights, but Margo seems sassier here. Hear how she spits out her vocals.

5. 3rd Crusade – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
The center jam is incendiary! Mike & Pete have a sibling telepathy going on that drives this song to new heights. Listen as Pete bashes the shit out of his cymbals!

6. We Are the Selfish Ones – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
A breather was needed after 3rd Crusade. Margo mentions being crabby and unhappy, yet it sounds like they love what they’re playing.

7. Damaged From the Start – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
Jeff and Pete take turns exchanging percussive comments, each doing their best to serve the song.

8. Late Night Radio – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
Enthusiastic from the start. Song tries to get out of the band’s grasp.

9. Merch – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set

10.Fairytale – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Nomad Set
Fairytale brings the set to a close with a delicacy that sets up the transition to Mining For Gold in the next set.

11. Stalling – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session

12. Mining For Gold – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Margo alone with her instrument of exquisite beauty. No explanation necessary.

13. Misguided Angel – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
If you’ve heard this song a million times like I have, try focusing on Al’s playing. Notice how the song turns on his bass notes at the end of the lines Margo sings. Not flamboyant, but essential.

14. Blue Moon Revisited – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Lighter, more uplifting version that rides Al’s rolling bass line

15. I Don't Get It – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
I remember “I Don’t Get It” being the rocker on Trinity Session. Yet if you took the Trinity version and compared it to this one, it would sound anemic as a result.

16. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Song has gained depth as Margo has matured as a vocalist. Bird’s acoustic mandolin convinces us he’s been lonesome, too.

17. Preamble – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session

18. To Love is to Bury – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Mike’s pleasant waltz-time rhythm may be what deceives people into thinking this is a happy song.”La la” end chorus has gone missing.

200 More Miles – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Despite Margo’s claim that the band has grown crabbier over the years, many Trinity songs have become lighter with faster tempos over the years. This is one.

20. Dreaming My Dreams with You – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
I always look forward to Jeff’s solo on this one. He says so much with so few notes.

21. Working on a Building – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Mike’s guitar boils over on the lead up to the jam, then backs off and dares the others to take him on. Bird sounds interested in the challenge, but ultimately there’s no takers.

22. Sweet Jane – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
This song still defines CJ to a number of people, as evidenced by the response to the opening notes.

23. Postcard Blues – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Postcard Blues – Al’s pulsing bass illustrates the pounding head Margo sings of. Boisterous Jeff! Note: You’ll hear a waitress inadvertently kick my mic stand during this song, but at least she’s considerate enough to do so in time to the music!

24. Introductions – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session

25. Walking After Midnight – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Mike’s guitar has a sinister underlying groove which rises to the forefront during his solo.

26. A Common Disaster – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
Having given her all for Trinity, Margo sounds tired on the verses of Common Disaster, but she’s just saving her last bit of energy for the next song.

27. Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park – Alexandria, Va. 3-13-13: Trinity Session
The boys do a good job of getting the energy level up while Margo’s on stage, but it goes through the roof when she leaves. Bird scrubs! Pete bashes!

28. Southern Rain – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
The current versions of Southern Rain have had slower, less driving tempos, and have excised the guitar solo (which I miss). Pete’s final few cymbal taps emulate raindrops.

29. Oregon Hill – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
Energetic. Al sounds fluid and agile.

30. This Street, That Man, This Life – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
The mood here is musically lighter and less ominous than the studio version, which belies the lyrical content.

31. Faux Pas – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man

32. A Horse in the Country – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
A Horse in the Country – Some of the sadness from “This Street” seems to have spilled over. This one is less joyful than usual.

33. If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
If you were the Woman and I was the Man – Except for a couple minor mishaps, this song is remarkably smooth for being dormant for so long.

34. Murder, Tonight in the Trailer Park – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
Certainly engaging and I can find no fault, but last night’s version was more exciting in its recklessness.

35. Matt – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man

36. Black Eyed Man – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
I was expecting to hear Pete on this one, as he had played it in soundcheck, but I was once again disappointed to find his rollicking drumming absent. Nevertheless, this is still a spirited version.

37. Preamble – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man

38. Winter's Song – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
This is the song that I traveled to Birchmere for. It has long been a favorite of mine, as it was the soundrack to one of those perfect moments in time. Margo changes up the phrasing a bit, perhaps not exactly recalling the original after a mere 21 years. I could never understand why this song hadn’t been played live before. After hearing it, I still have no clue.

39. The Last Spike – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
I love the lyrics to this song; they’re so vivid. Slightly faster tempo makes it sound a bit rushed.

40. Townes – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man

41. Cowboy Junkies Lament – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
Cowboy Junkies Lament – The faster tempo works well. There are quite a few different arrangements of this song, despite the relatively few times it gets played. I’ve yet to hear one that didn’t work. Great song! Thanks, Townes.

42. Townes' Blues – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
The motion of the bus is captured in the song’s rhythm. Nice harp solo from Mr. Bird.

43. Intros – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man

44. To Live is To Fly – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
To me, this is another song of which there are no bad versions. Here we have a new, slower arrangement that has many of the earlier dynamics smoothed out.

45. 'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
The band happily returns to the familiar and turn in a solid rendition of this crowd pleaser.

46. Don't Let it Bring you Down – Alexandria, Va. 3-14-13: Black Eyed Man
After Margo explains Canadian law to the Americans, the band appropriately close out an exceptional two night stand with a Neil classic.