A Look Back At…The Trinity Session (history – part 2 of 3)
(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.)
We worked on the songs for our next album all through that summer. I had been inspired by the music that we had been listening to and began to write lyrics again for the first time in six years. Margo was also bitten by the bug and began to come to rehearsal with some lyrical ideas. As the songs began to take shape so did the overall form of the album. Not only were a lot of the songs reflecting our new found love of country and our experiences of the past year, but also each song seemed to be taking on classic American songwriting themes.
Misguided Angel was in the vein of the classic good girl meets bad boy scenario, 200 More Miles was our wistful "on the road" song, To Love Is To Bury was along the lines of those traditional black country ballads sung so powerfully by the Louvin Brothers and their peers. As these originals began to take shape we started to think about what songs we should attempt to interpret to compliment them. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry was obvious. Hank Williams is one of the great American songwriters and this song in particular ranks as one of his best – simple, precise and sharp as a blade. We had to do a song from the Patsy Cline cannon. She had smoothed over so many pot hole filled miles during the previous year. We had seen Dwight Yokum performWalking After Midnight in Tulsa and so we thought we'd put our hand to it. We liked the fact that there might be something a little sinister lurking in the shadows. Dreaming My Dreams With You was chosen because it is also another beautiful, slow country ballad, but we also wanted to tip our hats to Waylon Jennings whose attitude and swagger was so much more Rock n Roll than most of the pretenders out there. Working on A Building is a traditional gospel song, but we were introduced to it by The Carter Family. Choosing this song was nod at the rich gospel roots that infuse country music. Mining For Gold, another traditional song, was chosen by Margo to do as an a cappella, another stylistic nod to the roots of country music.
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 andPostcard 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 choseSweet Jane as being "our song- this is what we listened to growing up, this is where our musical tastes come from".
Once we felt that we had the material ready we began to think in terms of how we wanted to arrange it and with what instruments. We had been discussing using more traditional country instruments for this album, but the trick was to find the players. We were pretty firmly located in the Alternative scene in Toronto, it' was not like there were a plethora of accordion players to choose from. So we began our search and one player lead us to the next until we had gathered together a loose mish-mash of instrumentation and musicians from throughout Ontario. Some had met before, a couple had even played briefly with each other, but all were a little curious and probably more than a little suspicious of this band from Toronto with the weird name who had called them to come play on their album.
On pedal steel we found Kim Deschamps. Kim had interviewed me for a CBC radio show the previous year after the release of Whites. He had expressed interest in the music and had mentioned that if we ever needed a pedal steel player that we should give him a call. Hiring a pedal steel player was the furthest thing from my mind at the time, but I took his number. Kim also brought his dobro and lap steel along and his years of experience gigging around Ontario with dozens of country, rock and folk bands. We found our accordion player in Sudbury, Ontario through a recommendation from Kim. Jaro Czerwinec was one of the most eccentric characters that we had run into or have yet to run into, but also is one of the most soulful musicians we have ever had the pleasure of playing with. When we first contacted him he was gigging with legendary Canadian folk icon Daisy DeBolt and also with his home town Ukrainian folk troupe the Black Sea Cossacks. We also had the good luck to stumble into Jeff Bird. Jeff has since established a special relationship with the band appearing on all of our albums since Trinity and joining us on all of our tours. He is one of those gifted musicians who can pick up almost any instrument and caress, coax, squeeze, suck or wrench a sound out of it that seems to fit with whatever other music is going on. We initially called Jeff to play fiddle (an instrument he has had a love/hate relationship with over the years)on the session, but he also brought along his harmonicas and mandolin (one of his favourite instruments). Rounding out the compliment of musicians was Steve Shearer on blues harp and older brother John on guitar. We had met Steve at our very first gig where he had come backstage and introduced himself as, "Honky White Trash – a harmonica player". He said he had come to the gig because he was intrigued by the bands name. We in turn were intrigued by his name and kept in touch. Brother John had left the band in its early incarnation, but we all still had a yearning to do some recording together. I always loved the way he played guitar and we knew that the shared gene pool would allow him to harmonize perfectly with Margo on Misguided Angel.
In the days leading up to the recording most of the rehearsing was done on cassette and over the phone. We didn't have the money to bring everyone into Toronto for full blown rehearsals so we sent them each tapes of our rehearsals and the songs that we wanted them to play on accompanied by some sketchy notes. We were able to get Kim and Jeff to a couple of rehearsals and Kim even sat in on a few shows with us. Steve was living in Toronto at the time (the only one who was) so we were able to work and gig a bit more with him. We never even layed eyes on Jaro until he walked into Trinity church the day of the recording and we felt that our playing days with John would see him through. Basically we were depending on each of their musical skills and instincts and their collective experience gigging as professional musicians.
At the same time that we were getting the material and musicians together we were putting our heads together with Peter Moore about how we wanted to approach our next recording. We were all in agreement that we wanted to use the same recording technique that we had used for Whites. That is one microphone, 2 track, live off the floor. We had all loved the results that we had got with the first album and we saw no reason to change. It also helped that our financial situation hadn't changed much either. Paying for decent studio time was still well out of reach. The question was where to do this recording. Since recording Whites Peter had been doing a lot of one mic recording and experimenting with a few different rooms around the city. His favourite was The Church of the Holy Trinity.
Trinity church is a small historic church located in downtown Toronto in amongst the sprawl that is the Eaton Center. If not for the fact that the church was designated an historic landmark it would have been torn down years ago to make room for another clothing store. But it remains, cloaked in the shadow of one of the largest indoor malls in Canada. Peter had been using the church to record some symphony sessions and some small jazz band sessions and had liked the acoustics of the hall. He hadn't had an electric bass in the place or tried to record a voice in there, but he felt it was worth a shot. He thought that if it worked the natural reverb of the hall wrapped around our sound might make for an interesting aural experience.
Another problem that he faced was the added instrumentation that we wanted to record. It was one thing to record a four piece band gathered around a single mic, but to gather nine musicians around one mic and have the resulting recording sound properly balanced was another thing all together. Added to this problem was that Peter felt that it might be difficult to get the church to agree to rent it to a group called Cowboy Junkies. It was one thing to rent the church to a symphony or a jazz trio it was another to rent it to an obviously crazed bunch of rock musicians. The first problem we solved by he and I sitting for hours and scrupulously sketching out on paper what was going to happen musically with each song. That way Peter had a good idea of what instrument would be playing when and he could then place that musician in relation to the other musicians so that the sound of one instrument would not step on another. These sketches would of course evolve as the session progressed and as each musician brought there own ideas and the particular ideas grew, but at least he had a starting point. The other problem was solved by Peter telling the church officials that the band's name was The Timmins Family Singers and we were recording a few numbers for a CBC radio Christmas special. So armed with our new moniker, an arm full of loosely sketched ideas on paper, minds full of half baked ideas and a van full of musical instruments, we entered The Church of the Holy Trinity on the morning of November 27, 1987.
(coming next: November 27, 1987 and epilogue)
Tags: part 2 of 3, The Trinity Session
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Under Cover (November 2014) – Cortez The Killer and Wonderin’
This is part two of our newly launched Under Cover feature. Every month we be offer 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.
We recorded Cortez The Killer during the Early 21st Century Blues sessions. It fit in well with the album themes of war, violence, fear and greed that we were exploring on that album. It never made the final cut but, we always liked that it had the appropriate looseness that a song like this deserves. The guitars don't quite match up to Neil's and Pancho's, but brother John and I gave it the old college try and we had fun doing it…it was like we were back in our basement in Montreal playing air guitar as Zuma spun on the turntable.
Jerry Leger and his band came in to The Hangar to record a few cover songs a couple of months ago. They have a hundred of them in their repetoire…literally. Wonderin is an obscure Neil song off of the Shocking Pinks rock n roll album that he released as a "fuck you" to Geffen Records back in the 80's. It's a great band doing a great version of a rarely covered song. I think that it sounds like an outake from Workingman's Dead…there is a great loping feel to it. this is what Jerry says about the song, "Wonderin' is just a good old fashioned rock 'n' roll song. It's hard to write one of those and make it work and I think Neil Young pulled it off even though it's a bit of a hidden tune. The chorus has fantastic lyrical rhythm and the song opens with a good line, "Been walking all night long, my footsteps made me crazy".
If you don't have Jerry's latest release, Early Riser, please check it out and take a listen…I had the pleasure of producing it, it's a terrific album.
Tags: Under Cover November 2014
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A Look Back At….The Trinity Session (history – part 1 of 3)
(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.)
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)
Tags: Trinity Session
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Under Cover (October 2014) – Thunder Road and Only A Broken Heart
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.
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)
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)…
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.
Tags: At The End of Paths Taken review
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Tour Diary – Canmore, Alberta (Aug 3, 2014)
It's not a bad way to spend a weekend…shoulder to shoulder with the Rocky Mountains, wandering along the Bow River and playing a bit of music….and that is exactly what we did. We flew to Calgary on Saturday afternoon and then made the short drive down the Trans-Canada to Canmore. This town use to be the place that people settled in if they couldn't afford the prices in Banff. Banff is pretty much full at this point so Canmore, just a few miles away, has taken the overflow….and it ain't cheap anymore. Most of the hippies that hunkered down here in the 70's have long gone, or cut their hair, or invested wisely and have become the town elders. It's hard to imagine a town located in a more beautiful setting, but the rapid expansion has pretty much robbed the place of any claim it once had to quaintness. But man, those mountains and that river, can't be beat.
I got up early on Sunday and Monday and walk the banks of the Bow with my fishing rod in hand. The river was a little blown out so I didn't hold up much hope for an encounter with a Bow River trout. Sure enough I had no luck, but I spent a couple of hours each morning watching the sun rise over the horizon and bounce of the peaks of The Three Sisters….fishing is not always about whether you catch something (actually, it rarely is…).
We were in Canmore to play the local folk festival. This country is chalk-a-blok full of folk festivals during the summer and Alberta probably leads the pack. These are always weird events for us, they can be fun to play because they are so surreal at times and you occasionally get to catch up with a touring friend or two. But they are generally about compromises, because like most outdoor festivals, you rarely find yourself in an environment that you can control and so much of one's show is spent battling the sound and rented gear and an audience that has been overwhelmed with music or who isn't generally interested in the music you make. This was pretty much our experience in Canmore. We were treated great and we had a not bad, not great show…..but man, those mountains and that river…..
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A Look Back At…..At The End Of Paths Taken (released 2007)
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.
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..
Tags: At The End Of Paths Taken
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Tour Diary – Ontario Summer Tour 2014
This isn't much like a tour, except for the driving and waiting around and hit-and-miss meal quality and strange beds….other than that it's kind of like going for a long drive (everyday) to a friends cottage. These five shows are in the heart and on the edges of Ontario's Cottage Country, the place where Torontonians run away to in the summer, to escape the heat and road closures. Actually, Summer is the best time to be in Toronto, but its not so crappy up here either, among the lakes and rocks and wind swept pines.
Day 1 was in Huntsville about two hours straight north of Toronto. This town is pretty much Cottage Country Central, all cottage roads radiate from here. It's a beautiful part of the province and a highly sought out area for cottage goers….hundreds of pristine lakes dug out of the Canadian Shield, a postcard view everywhere you look. It was a nice little theater and a good size crowd tonight…a little sedate on both sides of the stage but we all settled in as the set progressed.
Day 2 we were in Midland which is a blue collar town on the shores of the Georgian Bay. The Georgian Bay is one of those bodies of water that is too overwhelmingly spectacular for our limited minds and imaginations to properly process. It's a body of water that can lull you with its beauty and then turn around and kill you with its fury. It was a small crowd at the Midland Community Center tonight, but it was well fueled and ready for a good night out. We had an excellent show.
On Day 3 we traveled further along the shore of the Georgian Bay to the beautiful little town of Meaford Ontario. We've actually played this venue before and we had a sold out theater tonight. A good day and a good show in front of an appreciative crowd.
After the Meaford show we headed to our hotel, back down the same road that we had traveled earlier that day to cut off a bit of the next days drive. We drove through some intense thunder storms and a great lightning show. The next morning we headed north to Mattawa which lies about 5 hours north of Toronto on top of Algonquin Park. It's a small town that served a large purpose in the building of this part of the country. It's here where the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers meet and its on these waters that the early explorers traveled to access the interior of the country (a route established long ago by the original locals). It also has a special significance to the Timmins family. It was to Mattawa that our great, great grandfather traveled with his family, in the middle of the 1800's, to establish a homestead, the first “white” settlers in this area. He quickly set up shop beside the Hudson Bay fort and built a hotel, restaurant and bar and probably other establishments that went hand in hand with hotels and bars in frontier towns. It's no wonder that I feel such a kinship with the saloon owner Al Swearengen in the TV show Deadwood. We were taken around the town by Laurier Therien, a local historian and genealogist, and shown the spots where our family took root in this country…very, very, very cool. We are very appreciative to Laurier for taking the time to show us around. The concert was part of a weekend long outdoor festival, set on a beautiful point overlooking the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers. A spectacular location for a show.
I've been fishing wherever and whenever possible for the last few days, but with no luck. I headed out after the show in Mattawa and set up on the river bank while the sun went down. On my first or second cast, while I was arranging myself on the bank and not really paying attention, I got one of the largest strikes that I have ever felt. Before I could react the fish was gone and so was my lure, it was probably one of those massive pikes that are relatively common in those rivers….after that there wasn't even a nibble.
The last show in this mini-run through the province was in Peterborough, which is a big smalltown, ninety minutes north-east of Toronto. Peterborough lies well outside of Cottage Country, but sits at the edge of the Kawarthas which is another beautiful part of the province to which people form Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa escape from their “real” lives. This was another outdoor show, a free concert-series that runs throughout the summer. The day was filled with intermittent and nasty rain showers, but it cleared up in time for the concert and didn't seem to keep too many people away. It was a good show, as far as these types of shows are concerned.
This weekend we fly west for a one-off festival appearance just outside of Calgary in Canmore, Alberta and then we are back for a couple of more one-offs in Ontario which will finish up the summer (hard to believe that it's half over).
Stay tuned…keep safe…go out and enjoy some live music.
Tags: ontario 2014
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Ontario Summer Tour
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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Tour Diary – San Francisco, Grass Valley and Berkley, CA (June 19 – 21, 2014)
San Francisico has always been one of my favourite cities in North America. It's an extreme city, intense, truly urban. There is a lot of wealth here and there is also a lot of human tragedy and it all plays out on the streets. The street life here reminds me of NYC back in the late 1970's. It's a city where you always have to be slightly on guard and be aware of what's coming at you half way up the block; a city where the locals know which streets to avoid as a matter of course. Intense and vibrant.
We flew in here yesterday. Pete and John drove the gear. We all left LA at about the same time and seven hours later we all arrived at the hotel at the same time, which tells you a lot about the speed of commuter air travel these days. Jared, Pete, John and I found a hole in the wall Indian restaurant and had one of the best meals of the tour. We played the Great American Music Hall tonight. Its one of the few legendary halls left in the US. It's always a thrill to stand on a stage where Duke Ellington once stood. We had an amazing night tonight. The audience let us know from the second we took the stage that they were not about to let us get away with anything but an intense, focused, creative effort…and so we gave it to them. So. Much. FUN!
Yesterday the world champs, Spain, lost and were eliminated by a very strong Chile. Today we watched England go down to the mighty foot of the Uruguayan striker Suarez….which essentially eliminates England from the tournament.
This morning we drove two hours North and in to the interior to Grass Valley. We came through here about 18 months ago when we were in the area to play the Hardly, Strictly Blue Grass Festival in San Francisco. It's a cool little town that has a gold rush history. The town still has a hint of its gold rush roots, you kind of feel like you should be wearing your six-shooter while walking down main-street…although I suppose that wearing ones six-shooter while walking down main-street isn't such a relic of the past as one would hope it had become. In any event, this small peaceful, hippy enclave was a nice respite from the intensity of San Francisco. We had another very good show in front of another very good audience….I suppose I should be getting jaded about all these good audiences and the quality of our performances, but I never take that kind of stuff for granted…it's like a baseball team when the offense is hot, you ride the streak as long as you can and you keep your fingers crossed.
We watched a listless Italian side get beat 1- 0 by an inspired Costa Rica team and the French continue their rampage through the first round by beating the Swiss 5 – 2.
Before we left the hotel this morning we watched Messi put his Argentinian squad on his back and score the only goal of the match, with one minute remaining, to give the Argentinians a ticket to the next round. In the car we listened to the Netherlands vs Ghana match as we made the trek back to the San Fran area, to Berkeley. Soccer is definitely not the best sport to listen to on the radio (maybe the worst), but we got a sense of the game. It was a boring first half and then all hell broke loose: four goals in less than fifteen minutes and the game ended in a 2 -2 draw. This sets up a dramatic game for the US tomorrow against Portugal. If they win they will win their Group and move forward in to the elimination round. Sunday will be a busy day in the bars of the USA. We were at the Freight And Salvage tonight in downtown Berkeley, home of all things Left in America…at least that is its rep, I'm not sure what comprises the Left Wing in America anymore or whether those kinds of definitions are even relevant. In any case it was a very nice room, very airy and comfortable with a very good PA. We kept the good vibes rolling forward and had another excellent night in front of another excellent audience. We are absolutely exhausted but the audience infused us with enough energy to come through with another good show.
This has been an excellent tour. We fly home tomorrow with a great sense of satisfaction and a little money in our pocket (which is the ultimate combination when it comes to touring). A huge thank you to all of you that made the effort and paid your hard earned dollars to come to a show and especially to those of you that took in multiple shows (special commendation to Jason, Chris, Terry and Stephen who took in them all)….we truly appreciate it. We have a few shows throughout the summer and then we plan to take several months off the road. During that time we'll start working on a new album as well as few one-off recording projects. Please keep in touch through the website and through our Facebook page, that's where we'll be hanging out, drop in and say hello.
Tags: Berkeley, Grass Valley, San Francisco
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