Posts Tagged ‘cowboy junkies’

911 Redux

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

In September 2001 we were on tour in Florida. On the 9th we played the Carefree Theater in West Palm Beach, we talked after the show with JP and a few others and then headed off to Tampa for a day off and then a show scheduled for the following night, September 11th. Needless to say the show didn’t take place. Am I alone in feeling that our society has become a whole lot nastier, baser and less inspired over the past ten years? Maybe it’s just me, maybe disillusionment is just part of the natural cycle of getting old, but then again, perhaps we have lost our way, just a little.

Here is the tour diary that I posted that day and the diaries from the following few days: days fraught with fear, anxiety and confusion. Here’s hoping that the next ten years gets us back to a place of mutual respect and empathy and, dare I say, tolerance. Yep, I’m definitely getting old.

Sept 11 (Tampa Bay)
What a horribly strange day. If you ever had any doubt that the world can be a frightening place, I would guess that doubt is now gone. Welcome to the new millennium.
We spent the day wandering from TV to TV, exchanging knowing glances and a few words of dismay and solace with strangers.
The gig was cancelled very early in the day by the promoter. I understand the decision and it probably wasn’t even in their hands: it looks like all public gatherings, no matter how small, have been cancelled. I am of mixed feelings about the decision. There are times when you want to be with other people just to be reassured that the ground beneath your feet is still somewhat stable and what better way to do that than by gathering to listen to music. It’s got to be better than watching those fucking airplanes slam in to the side of the Trade Center again and again. But I suppose that if I were at home I would prefer to stay inside and just hold on to my children.
Tomorrow is another day, but I have a feeling that this sick feeling in our stomachs is not going to go away anytime soon.

Sept 13 (Gainesville)
A very difficult night for all involved. These past three days have been hard on everyone. It has been especially tough being away from home. It’s not like there is anything that can be done there, but human instinct makes one long for the security of the familiar: parental instinct makes one anxious to be with ones kids. Coupled with this longing to be home is the fact that for three days we have been holed up in our hotel rooms unable to escape the replaying and rehashing of the minutia of this atrocity. Without a doubt we need to try and get back to a routine of normalcy, to shake this malaise. We need to start playing music again. Unfortunately, the gig tonight is at The Brick City Music Hall.

I have often bitched in this diary about shitty rock clubs. They are everywhere and every city has at least one and we’ve played a lot of them. But this place is beyond that. It is downright dangerous and should be closed up immediately. Portions of the roof are caving in, parts of the club have no electricity, including the bathrooms, which have lamps standing beside the sinks with extension chords running across the wet floor and up the bar where they have been plugged in. All of the toilets in the woman’s washroom were clogged. There are open power outlets all over the club. One patron walked in and immediately called the fire department to try and get the place closed down. The inspector showed up, but had been properly greased so he only issued a couple of warnings. As well as the place being downright dangerous it is unbelievably filthy. When you walk in you would think that the place has been abandoned for a few years. It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to anyone who performs there or pays to attend a show there.

If you live in Gainesville you should start a concerted campaign to get the club closed down. Call the fire department, the building inspector and the health inspector until they do something about it. Somebody is going to get hurt in that building and I think that we have all had enough hurt to last us for a while.

We apologize to those of you who had to subject yourself to that shithole and we appreciate your determination.

Sept 14 (Birmingham)
We spent a pleasant day in Birmingham. The hotel was in Five Points, the same part of town as the venue. Five Points is an old suburb of Birmingham, which these days acts as a center for clubs and restaurants and second hand retail. You know the type of area, kind of upscale, kind of downbeat, a little something for everyone.

The venue itself is a rock club that we have played once or twice in the past. Not a bad place at all when compared to the dump in Gainesville. The PA was a little suspect and the light board blew up a few minutes before showtime (leaving us with two lights for the show), but we’ve seen the bottom and this was far from it.

We were looking forward to the gig tonight. It was a beautiful day and we are all still trying to find some solid ground. Talk of the “what’s to come” dominates our conversations and leave us all uneasy. A good gig would be a very welcome salve. Unfortunately, tonight was not a good gig.

Tonight’s audience reminded me of the Athen’s Georgia crowd that we bumped up against during the Waltz Across America Tour. Drunk, loud and obnoxious. There was a moment during “Close My Eyes” that there were three women in front of the stage talking so loud to one another that I couldn’t hear my guitar. I realize that for many in attendance it was probably the first night that they have been out since Tuesday and there was a real need to blow off some steam. But I question their choice of doing so at the expense of those who had come to listen. My apologies to those of you who were there to enjoy the music. It must have been as frustrating for you as it was for us.

We desperately need a good show.

Sept 15 (New Orleans)
House of Blues to the rescue. There is this running dialogue between bands and audiences about whether the expansion of the House of Blues concert club chain is a good or a bad thing. I agree that the corporate, cookie cutter approach to anything associated with music always has to be eyed with suspicion. But it only takes a few shows in a row at some of the rat infested holes that we have played in over the past few nights to make one appreciate the emergence of the House of Blues on the rock n roll landscape. The clubs are clean, the equipment is excellent, the staff is professional, the dressing rooms are comfortable, they feed you well, they pay you well and the sightlines are good all over the club. From our perspective they are a welcome addition to the live music scene.

We had an excellent show tonight and the audience was there to have fun along with us. I think over the next few weeks people are going to start to emerge from their homes and seek out ways to celebrate life. Seemingly insignificant acts that fill our lives, like having dinner with ones parents, watching a baseball game or listening to some live music will carry with them a peculiar sense of joy. It’s sort of like taking water for granted until you are dying of thirst and then every drop that you drink becomes heaven sent. We are not going to be able to, nor should we, forget this past week’s horrible acts and horrendous loss of life, but we are going to need to find ways to carry on. We need to cut through this numbness and rediscover at our core the innate joy that comes from celebrating the minutia of living, if for no other reason but to remind ourselves of how precious those 5,000 lost lives are. As my three year old daughter is fond of saying, “Dance for beauty, dad, dance for beauty!”

Sept 16 (Houston)
There is only one word to describe tonight…….fun. We had fun, the audience had fun, our crew had fun, even the security guards had fun. There was a police officer side stage all night and whenever I looked over at him he was wearing this enormous ear-to ear grin (Pat said that he bought three CDs from the merch booth after the show). It was an incredible night. I haven’t seen this many smiles since I was at home a few weeks ago and watched my kids and the neighborhood kids romping around the playground. It was like that tonight, a whole bunch of big kids romping around a playground. What a relief, what a release, what an overwhelming, beautiful feeling.

I don’t even think we played that well, from a technical point of view, but tonight it was all heart. And given a choice between heart and technique, I’ll take heart every night of the week. Needless to say the audience was fantastic: receptive, warm, rowdy, loud, respectful and fully charged.

This was a memorable night for us. I think, tonight, all of us in the club climbed the first rung of the ladder out of this dark hole into which we’ve all been cast. Perhaps, all over the country people are discovering the strength to begin that long climb towards daylight. Keep on climbing folks, keep on climbing.
 

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The end of summer and a new year (or what I did on my summer vacation)

Monday, September 5th, 2011

So that’s it for another Summer. I must admit it has been a rather spectacular sunny season up here in the North East and I’m very sad to see it go. For those of us with kids, September is really the start of our year and we here in Junkie-land have quite a full one on the horizon. We’ll be releasing Sing In My Meadow (Volume 3) on October 18th (lots more to come about that in the next few weeks); we get back on the road with a European tour in November and follow that up with the start of a North American tour in February; we’ll be recording and releasing Volume 4, The Wilderness, over the next few months (lots more to come on that); there’s also a new Lee Harvey Osmond record in the works and we’ll be releasing a new Ivy Mairi album this week (more to come on that in a couple of days). 2012 will also see the release of the Nomad Series book (which is going to be freakin’ fantastic) as well as many, many more goodies. So stick around, check back often and spread the word.

Although I spent most of this beautiful summer locked up in our stinky studio, I did get the opportunity to spend some time on a lake (which is what summer should be all about). And I managed to hook a really, really nice sized small mouth bass, on a lake on which I have never caught anything bigger than my toe, so my summer was complete. Photographic evidence below….(and for those of you who care about these things, I let the big guy go…..). So I’m ready to rock….let’s get this year underway.

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Cookie Crumbs, volume 9 – The Sphere

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Cookie Bob has been busy. Here is volume 9 of his “taper” series. Most of this one is taken from a Buffalo show that we did back in 2004 during the One Soul Now tour. If you have bought the Clubhouse Subscription you can go in to the Clubhouse and download it for free, if you haven’t bought the subscription…you should. There is still a lot more music to come over the next several months. In any case, enjoy.

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Sing In My Meadow, volume 3 – 3rd Crusade

Friday, July 1st, 2011

It took me about seven days to recover from our little China jaunt. Waking up every day at 4am and having my brain switch off at around 3pm. Very hazy waking hours. A few days after returning, I made an attempt at going into our studio and starting the final mix for Sing in My Meadow, but I actually fell asleep at the board. I did one of those full body jerks as I slowly faded to black while sitting there in my chair. So I have fallen little behind. The past two weeks I’ve been going in everyday and blasting my face with overdriven everything, trying to come up with a sound that is rude and ugly, but at the same time, is just plain fun to listen to. I’d send the days mixes off to Pete, Marg and Al every night and they’d get back to me with their comments and I’d adjust and tinker and tweak and try and see if I could get it all just a little bit louder, a little bit nastier, a little bit more gnarled and grouchy and crotchety in keeping with our age and temperaments. I think, I hope, we have succeeded.  I want to make this the album that you put on when you’re trying to clear your living space of partygoers that have overstayed their welcome and you find your new BFF when that one person says, “hey, this is pretty cool…what is this?”. We should have final mixes finished this week, and then I need to mix a bonus EP of five or six unreleased live recordings to be  a companion piece to the album. Then we need to master it and get it up on the website…so it looks like it will be sometime in August by the time we get it all to you. But in the meantime here is a final mix of 3rd Crusade, one of the more “poppy” tunes on the album…play that funky music white boy…and play it loud…

Here are some earlier blogs about the upcoming Volume 3:

Introduction

Hunted

Songwriting Demos

Jeff Bird

Late Night Radio

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Sing In My Meadow, volume 3 – Jeff Bird

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

I said in an earlier blog that one of the aspects of the band that we wanted to capture with Volume 3 was the psychedelic, acid-blues vibe that is a large part of our live show. And a large part of that side of our sound is Jeff Bird’s manic wailing and gnashing. Jeff joined us over twenty years ago when we gathered in a little known church named Trinity. We didn’t know Jeff, but we knew of his work with the folk outfit Tamarac and we knew that Jeff played fiddle and we wanted to add that instrument to our arrangements. There weren’t a whole lot of fiddle players wandering around the punk clubs of Toronto in the mid-80’s….(the clubs are lousy with them these days, as well as mando, accordion and pedal steel players). Jeff showed up with his fiddle, as well as his acoustic mandolin and harps. The rest of that story is, as they say, history. But Jeff stuck around and joined our touring outfit. He played a large part on Caution Horses which was the follow up to The Trinity Session, but on subsequent albums we started to experiment with other musicians and instruments and while Jeff’s contributions were important, they weren’t as plentiful. But as his importance in the studio waned, his importance on the road waxed. Over the years we have asked Jeff to pick up probably a dozen different instruments on stage and he has always done so with gusto. One of his most important “finds” on the road was an electric mandolin that he discovered in a little music store in Boulder, Colorado. He hemmed and hawed about buying it all day and then decided to go for it, unsure of how it would fit in to what we were doing and whether it would find a place in his own repertoire. At first the electric-mando rarely made an appearance on our stage, but over the years, as we have raised our freak flags higher with each passing tour, the electric-mando has become Jeff’s instrument of choice. Jeff made a big return to the studio with us on Open and the electric-mando is featured on a lot of those songs, but on Sing In My Meadow, Jeff’s madness is put on display in all its raging glory….lock up your children, this is scary stuff.

Here is the board mix for I Move On, with no vocals, so you can appreciate all of the subtle nuances of Jeff’s insanity…wail on, dude…

Check out previous Sing In My Meadow blogs:

Introduction

Hunted

Song Writing Demos

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Jambase.com Demons review and interview

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Cowboy Junkies
By: Dennis Cook

Cowboy Junkies
In their 25 years together the Cowboy Junkies have shown an unerring knack for crawling inside the music of others. While their originals merge soulful, familial warmth with jet black eddies, they’ve also shown a voluminous appetite for quality material by Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Fred Eaglesmith, Lou Reed and many others, elevating their selections well beyond the usual easy hit of a cover by truly inhabiting the pieces and unearthing something new in them. However, the band has never dedicated a full album to another artist before Demons (released February 15 on the band’s own Latent Recordings), a carefully selected and lovingly executed set of Vic Chesnutt songs.
A longtime friend of the Junkies, Chesnutt’s music writhes and breathes in strikingly fresh ways on Demons, which offers both insight into Chesnutt’s songwriting and celebrates a life cut woefully short. Originally, the band planned to record an album with Chesnutt but his overdose on Christmas Day of 2009 made that impossible. Instead, Demons serves as a poignant reminder of what a stunning, unique craftsman and personality Chesnutt was, with the Junkies bravely exploring some of the most shadowy parts of his catalogue, including the mortality meditation “Flirted With You All My Life.” Demons is both celebration and memorial as well as a testament to the Junkies’ own winning skill as interpreters.
Today, the Cowboy Junkies – Margo Timmins (vocals), Michael Timmins (songwriter, guitar), Peter Timmins (drums) and Alan Anton (bass) – are operating as one of the most independent acts in rock, running their own label and increasing what was already one of the strongest fan-band relationships going. A sense of freedom and unharnessed creativity infuses their work these days – a rare thing for a band in their third decade.
We spoke to Michael Timmins about Demons and where things stand with the Junkies in 2011.
JamBase: It’s a cool idea – and sadly, eerily timely – to do a whole record of Vic Chesnutt songs. How did you get into his music in the first place?
Michael Timmins: Margot’s husband gave us a copy of West of Rome way back when in the early 90s. He’d seen Vic at SXSW and just knew we’d connect with it. We all fell in love with the record and that was it. At the time, we were working on songs for Lay It Down and actually threw the song “West of Rome” into the mix. But, we never felt we’d captured it properly, so we dropped it. Then, by coincidence, we went down to Athens, Georgia to record Lay It Down. Even though it was Vic’s stomping ground, we never hooked up with him during the month we were there. Then, when Lay It Down was released, we got in touch and he opened a bunch of shows for us on that tour.
JamBase: The first time I saw him live kind of blew my mind; such a scene with his battered instrument, wheelchair and nakedly curmudgeon attitude. Was he a surprise to you?

Michael Timmins: Yes, he was and I think even more so for our crew. At our first show together, our sound guy looked over at me and said, “Oh my God, you’ve got to get rid of that guitar.” But that’s his sound – that beat up nylon string guitar with a crappy pick-up in it that he just shredded and hurt people with. It was just great, and I loved the audience reaction to it, too. Initially, you just go, “What the hell is going on up there?” He made no attempts to endear himself with an audience. It was a fantastic experience to watch him every night.
Then, we stayed in touch, visited when we were near each other, and did another tour in Europe together that was even better. We also invited him to the Trinity Revisited concert to help us on that project. From a musical point of view, things just got better and better. I got to see what a professional he was. He put on these airs of being sort of a hack and I think he always felt self-conscious or inferior about his musician skills. No matter how much praise he got from those around him, I got the feeling you never felt up to snuff. But he was always so good and so professional and he was so lauded by his peers.
Getting a good review is one thing but the respect of your peers is what it’s all about. These are people who know the insides and out of making records and playing live, and those people, more than anybody, were into what he was doing. Obviously, he was an extremely complex person, and that’s what’s so great about his songs, which reflect that and don’t hide it. It’s all there.
What do you find so appealing in his songs, which dovetail beautifully with the Cowboy Junkies own work?

When we came up with the idea to do this record we all knew we had to do it, but then we wondered can we do it? Are we going to be able to transform these songs into Junkies songs?
When we cover a song we want it to become our song. We don’t want to just copy it. It’s gotta be seamless with our catalog, and these songs are so personal and peculiar to Vic – everything from the production to the structures to the lyrics and how he sung them. Then, we began to work on them and study them a bit to figure out how the hell to approach them. Soon we figured out that this was going to be fun, except for Margot, who asked, “What about me? [laughs].” She was nervous, and so was I. I didn’t know how she was going to pull it off, from the phrasing to the weird humor and references.
He had such a dark, dark sense of humor, but if you get it, well, you get Vic.
Exactly. She began to study them a bit, and she came to them fairly easily. She can sometimes take a bit of time to figure out how she wants to sing a song but she came to these fairly quickly. She studied them and found her own way into them. There’s humor but also a great deal of sorrow, and she found that. She also wanted there to be a lot of celebration, celebration of Vic, in these versions.

There’s a strong band vibe on Demons where one picks up on the whole group being in the same room capturing a sound together.
That was really important to us. Vic’s records are very immediate sounding. Ideas are being thrown at tape and then we move on. At least that’s the way it sounds even though the truth was more complex. We wanted to keep that immediacy. Pete would figure out a groove and we’d go for it and move onto the next one.
As a band in general, the Cowboy Junkies seem to be in a real renaissance right now. Not being on a record label may be the best thing to happen to you folks in some time.
It’s definitely opened up a lot of things for us. I don’t know exactly why, but there’s no need to second guess what you’re doing because nobody is going to ask you about it [laughs]. You don’t have to go into somebody’s office and explain what you want to do to get approval. There’s nobody else there. We just sit around and decide what we want to do and then do it. It’s been really healthy for us, and because it’s so difficult to sell records these days, it’s nice not to be beholden to anyone to have to sell x-number of records.
We’ve always done the music we want to do but there’s been that little added pressure when somebody invests money in you, whether through promotion or production costs. You are beholden to them to sell some records. Now, there’s not even that pressure. If we want to sell a thousand copies of [a release] then we sell thousand. We don’t have to look at the bottom line where these guys need to sell 50,000 copies to get their money back. There’s none of that, and it’s been refreshing.
There are a growing number of ways to reach people who appreciate that purity of intention. The Cowboy Junkies’ Clubhouse Subscription is a good one, offering a lot of exclusives, live material and other unique perks over and above digital access to the band’s new releases.

Michael Timmins by Susan J. Weiand
We’re always adding more, too. It’s just a matter of reaching people and explaining it to them. There are so many cool opportunities and things you can do with the internet these days. It’s been amazing to put a lot of things out we never could have on a label. We have our own studio these days, and it’s just so easy to put out live recordings now, too. The only real challenge is letting people know and explaining what we’re doing well.
Luckily, that’s something we’ve done almost unconsciously since the beginning, finding our people and relating to them in the club that night. It was important to us to break down that wall even before the internet. We never really bought into the idea that we’re onstage and you’re not and that makes us three feet higher than you [laughs]. We were never comfortable with that kind of thinking. With the internet you can do that even more. By revealing yourself even more it really breaks down that wall.
I think you’re a band that’s well served by offering up a deeper, broader narrative. Unfortunately, the Cowboy Junkies’ soundbite is from a time very early in your career when you were more of a radio presence, the time of “Sweet Jane.” I always want to tell people who have that impression, “Do you know how many dead bodies there are in their songs?” [Timmins chuckles loudly at this]. There is a very dark side to this band that doesn’t get mentioned by casual listeners and most critics. The internet gives you chance to meet people who are open and even enthusiastic about getting the band’s big picture.
It’s amazing! And again, we don’t put up the wall in person as well. Margot mingles in the crowd, and if you show up at sound check you’ll usually get into the sound check. If you show up at the bus, we’re gonna come out and talk to you. That’s one of the beauties of being on tour – you get to meet people who are interested in what you do. What an amazing thing to travel around and meet these people. It’s a really special thing, and we never forget that. When these people want to come up and have a conversation I’m fascinated to find out what they do and where they’re from and why they’re here. It’s just a cool thing.

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Popmatters review of Demons

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Cowboy Junkies: Demons; The Nomad Series, Volume 2

By Bill Clifford 6 April 2011

There is little doubt that the forlorn songwriting and achingly beautiful yet at the same time deeply discordant vocal tone of folk troubadour Vic Chesnutt is an acquired taste. He achieved his most wide-spread acclaim when he recorded and performed with previously established peers who were already fans of his intricate and honest songwriting, such as Widespread Panic, with which he released two albums under the band name Brute. Partially paralyzed in a 1983 drunk driving accident, in severe pain, great debt, and understandably depressed, suicide—which he attempted several times—was often a subject of his songwriting. Sadly, he finally succeeded, swallowing an overdose of muscle relaxants that left him in a coma before finally passing on Christmas night of 2009.

Chesnutt’s staunchest supporters and fans were songwriters themselves, such as R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, who produced Chesnutt’s first two albums. Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation is a 1996 tribute album of Chesnutt’s songs recorded by various well known artists including Madanna, R.E.M., and the Indigo Girls, with proceeds going to the Sweet Relief Fund to assist musicians in need of health care.

Toronto’s Cowboy Junkies toured with Chesnutt several times, and in 2007 he was a guest musician on Trinity Revisited, the 20th anniversary edition of their seminal album, The Trinity Session. It was at those live sessions, recorded in the same elegant church in Toronto that the original was, that Chesnutt and the Junkies initially planned to cut an album of his songs together. While that project never materialized, the Cowboy Junkies have recorded and released the evocatively titled Demons, volume 2 in their Nomad Series, a collection of eleven Chesnutt songs recorded by the band.

The ethereal voiced Margo Timmins and the hauntingly surreal music of the Cowboy Junkies brings a stunningly beautiful quality to Chesnutt’s songs, often difficult to hear in his own versions. While both Chesnutt and the Junkies are known for their sparse and somber studio recordings, the band takes the sullen tone of his acoustic ballad “Wrong Piano” and re-imagines it as a churning, raucous rave up, with swelling Rhodes organ, booming drums, and moaning guitar squalls. Chesnutt’s songwriting often addressed his troubled livelihood and ominous demons, never more so than on the melancholic “Flirted with You All My Life”, on which he contemplates suicide:

Oh Death, you hector me
And decimate those dear to me
You tease me with your sweet relief
You are cruel and you are constant

Listening further, however, to Chesnutt’s own recording—taken from his 2009 final CD, At the Cut—one gets the sense he might have finally rounded the corner and seen a light, as he intones: “Oh Death, clearly I’m not ready”. In the hands of Margo and Michael Timmins (guitar), it’s given even more life affirming reverence. Elegant piano and wailing and distorted guitar envelop Margo’s opulent vocals, belted out in a gospel hymn, lifting the song to a powerful and elegiac requiem. Likewise, the Junkies add graceful texture to “See You Around”, drenching the song in swirling organ, as well as the lovely acoustic strums of the original.

The Cowboy Junkies embrace their mellow, somber side as well. They leave the dark and ominous arrangements of some of Chesnutt’s sparsest songs intact. “Supernatural” is all the more harrowing with gently plucked mandolin and somber woodwinds, while both “Square Room” and “West of Rome” retain their doom and gloom somber tone, relating tales of alcoholism and locked-in tendencies. A sullen, resonating string section adds moody, languid atmospherics on the latter two.

On “Strange Language”, one of Chesnutt’s most hard-rocking songs, the Junkies take it further by adding a boisterous brass section. It works to strong effect, overpowering Timmins’s vocals and some of Chesnutt’s most vague lyrics. There’s nothing vague about “When the Bottom Fell Out”, however. Again taken from At the Cut, the song once again finds Chesnutt contemplative, and relates the feeling of falling, catching a wave of air and gliding, but falling nonetheless. His version is solemn and glum, with single notes finger picked on an acoustic guitar. But on Demons, the Junkies turn it into a New Orleans styled funeral requiem, with slow, gospel inflicted organs and mournful horns. Timmins’s smoky alto is eloquent and gorgeous, and it plays as a beautiful goodbye to a dear friend.

Though Chesnutt didn’t achieve much success in terms of record sales or radio play, he was, without doubt, one of the most gifted and talented songwriters of the 20th century. Like him, Toronto’s Cowboy Junkies never really caught on with a mainstream audience either, but over 26 years have developed a strong, cultish following. Demons makes it clear that Chesnutt’s dark and solemn songwriting is naturally suited for a band like Cowboy Junkies, and should go a long way toward furthering Chesnutt’s own legacy.

Rating:

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Tour Diary – New York City (Feb 7 – 10, 2011)

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

central park 3

Well that was quite the four days. There is no question that this is the best city in the world. I know that it’s a boring choice but it is what it is. Sometimes you just got to give it up and strive for #2. We started the week off with two sold out shows at the City Winery: which is a nice way to start a week. Monday night was a bit dusty. We haven’t played live since November so the set might have been a little careful. Tuesday night we let it out, and remembered why we like doing this so much. During the afternoon I did a bit of browsing at The Strand, which is always a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Rich Wallach attended both shows and very kindly gave me a copy of Kerouac’s, The Subterraneans. As always, it was good to see him. Wednesday we taped the Jimmy Fallon show. It was one those classic TV days. Lots and lots of waiting and then BAM you’re on and BAM you’re off. All of the folks at the show from the stage hands to the backstage staff to the band to Jimmy himself, were exceptionally welcoming. On Wednesday night Al, Pete, I and a long time friend of ours, Mia, went to see Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye perform at St Mark’s Church. It was a benefit for the Poetry Project which has been running out of St Marks for 45 years. The sanctuary has quite the amazing vibe. It has heard the voices of Ginsberg and Corso and Carroll and Burroughs and Ondaatje and of Patti Smith, who 40 years ago to the day (less one), along with Lenny Kaye appeared on its stage, her live debut, in front of all the hip cats of the early 70’s New York scene . She blew them all away and the rest is RocknfucknRoll History. Tonight she blew us all away. She recited some of her early work; read a bit from her book; paid homage to a handful of mentors, most of them dead, many of whom were at that event 40 years ago; and said goodbyes to a few friends recently departed. She even sang a number of songs, just her voice and Lenny on guitar. It was astounding. That gig could not have happened anywhere else in the world but downtown Manhattan (I don’t care how hip Brooklyn gets it will never be home to the ghosts that inhabit the East Village). A wonderful sidebar to the night was the audience. The Old Guard, with their perfectly worn leather jackets, their scraggily grey hair, and their air of belonging, all sat in the first eight or so rows: along the walls sat the next generation, with their perfect skin, their teased, dyed hair, their unknown, exciting futures stretching out before them (god how I envy them and envy is not an emotion that is easily evoked in me). A perfect New York City happening.

carnegie hall 3

Thursday night we participated in a concert at Carnegie Hall. In the afternoon I went for a walk through Central Park. It was cold but sunny, with high blue skies. The park was pretty much deserted and so beautiful. The show at Carnegie Hall tonight was a celebration of Neil Young’s music: twenty or so musicians and bands each performing one song and then getting the hell off stage. These things are always awkward, from both a performance and social point of view. I’m sure that there are some people that really enjoy the socializing backstage, being part of a fraternity, but I hate it. The biggest drag is you don’t even get the opportunity to let off steam on stage because you are limited to one song. But I think there was a lot of good music played tonight (Patti Smith and her daughter Jessie did a very delicate version of Its A Dream) and I hope that they raised a lot of money and that the money gets to where its suppose to go.

I love this city. It an inspiring and invigorating place. Friday we go home and on Monday and Tuesday we’ll continue to work on Sing In My Meadow. I’ll be letting you know how that is coming along. Keep in touch.

central park 4

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Jimmy Fallon – Wrong Piano

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Here’s our performance of “Wrong Piano” on Jimmy Fallon last night, just in case you missed us and here’s a link to our performance of “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” which we played after the credits rolled.

And here’s a link to the show in its entirety. Enjoy.

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Sing In My Meadow, volume 3 – Introduction

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

We started work on Sing In My Meadow, Volume 3 last Friday night. The live band, live-off-the–floor of our studio. Nasty and dirty and disturbing the cold winter night’s peace. The idea for volume 3 is to create an album of music based around the psychedelic, blues inspired forays that we are so fond of venturing off on, on stage. We are referencing Miles at the Isle of Wight deep in his Bitches Brew phase; Captain Beefheart and his Mirror Man psychoses; The Birthday Party live at the Electric Ballroom circa 1981; Neil and Crazy Horse in the back room at SIR….overdriven and thick with electricity.

Here’s a sampling of A Bride’s Price, which came about as we amused ourselves waiting for Margo to arrive and a version of Continental Drift, a song inspired by the Russell Banks book of the same name. These are playback-mixes, what you would hear if you were sitting in the studio with us listening to what we had just put down.  It’s an album about Sex and Violence…….

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