Posts Tagged ‘Demons’
Monday, February 13th, 2012
Take a bit of Nebraska; a bit of Badlands; sprinkle in a couple of characters from The Caution Horses. Mix it together with my orange Resolectric and whisk in a fading Fall evening by Lake Ontario. And then pour it all into the mold formed by the attempted hard-wiring of a Catholic upbringing…and, voila…..Demons:
I was taught that there are
demons out there
so that’s what I believe.
You take away my demons
you take away my peace.
Broke my leg
at the age of twelve
couldn’t kneel beside the bed.
Learnt the lesson of habit
the prayers I left for dead.
Met him in
a corner booth
the jukebox at his side.
He took away all my quarters
he took me for a ride.
I saw his eyes
when the fires on
I never want that blaze to die.
If you take away the burning embers
you take away the burning sky.
If I could switch it
I’d make you my very first kiss.
I’d take away the mystery
just to see what I missed.
I was taught that there are
demons out there
so that’s what I believe.
We will be having a listening party for The Wilderness on the site on February 23rd (which is the day that we will also start pre-orders for the album). Stop by and give the album a listen.
The Nomad Tour begins on February 23rd. The first leg brings us through the North East USA: Ithaca, West Long Branch, Providence, Ridgefield, Annapolis, Alexandria, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Charleston, Harrisburg, Boston, Philadelphia, West Hampton Beach.
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Cowboy Junkies: Demons
The second installment of Cowboy Junkies’ Nomad series, Demons delves into the catalog of the late singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt. The resulting 11 tracks are intense, soulful, joyous, uplifting and heartbreakingly sad. The band excels here, pulling out the nuance in Chesnutt’s often dark writing and capturing his spirit while simultaneously making the songs its own. Plunging into Chesnutt’s emotional depths couldn’t have been easy—even Margo Timmins’ commanding voice sounds raw and ready to crack at moments—but “Flirted with You All My Life,” “Supernatural” and “See You Around” expose the demons (death and suicide) Chesnutt battled his entire life. On the other hand, “Betty Lonely” (profiling an old lady’s life obsessions) and “West of Rome” show Chesnutt’s eye for life with beautiful, haunting clarity.
Sunday, April 10th, 2011
By: Dennis Cook
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.
Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Cowboy Junkies: Demons; The Nomad Series, Volume 2
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.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
More nice things have been written about Demons…..pass along the word if you don’t mind……
“Vic Chesnutt’s…bare, bluesy, abrasive songs…perfectly realized here by the spooky, elegant sound of the Cowboy Junkies. . . .”
4 stars, MOJO
“ … one of the most defining albums from the Cowboy Junkies to date.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about this record, his (Vic Chesnutt) music is sacred but they (Cowboy Junkies) do a great job….a loving tribute”
Robin Hilton, NPR
“The triumph of Demons lies not only in the Cowboy Junkies’ heartfelt tribute to their friend… but in also the band itself finding its most perfect meld of style and substance a quarter century into its career.”
“Demons is both a masterful exposition of a gifted storyteller and, at its essence, a riveting Cowboy Junkies album.”
“It’s a profoundly moving work.”
“Twenty-five years down the road and the Cowboy Junkies are more vibrant than ever.”
“…a celebration of both the Junkies and Chesnutt and one of the year’s best albums.”
4.5 Stars, The National Post
“Cowboy Junkies strike all the right chords with a performance that breaks through any tragic irony. Margo Timmins’ voice soars towards the heavens and the music swings in celebration of Vic Chesnutt’s life.”
“…Chesnutt at his lyrical peak and the Cowboys at their most intense.”
4 stars, Sunday Express
“Magnificently layered and sagely arranged versions of tunes written by the late, lamented Vic Chesnutt . . . .The finest tribute Vic could have.”
4 stars, Daily Mirror
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
The press reaction to Demons has been pretty spectacular so far; we couldn’t have hoped for a better reception. Here is a skewed sampling of some of the comments from the Canadian pundits:
“The result is a celebration of both the Junkies and Chesnutt and one of the year’s best albums.” 4.5 Stars, The National Post
“Margo Timmins’ clear enunciation and Michael Timmins’ polished guitar mesh well with Chesnutt’s rough and uneasy style, contrasting rather than mimicking it. Demons is a respectful and intent tribute, …a great blend of two talented forces.” 4 Stars, eye weekly
“Cowboy Junkies strike all the right chords with a performance that breaks through any tragic irony. Margo Timmins’ voice soars towards the heavens and the music swings in celebration of Vic Chesnutt’s life.” No Depression
“Unsurprisingly, Chesnutt’s forlorn balladry dovetails seamlessly with the Cowboys’ hazy slow-burn and Margo Timmins’ sunset vocals. “ 4 Stars, Sun Media
“…few bands other than Cowboy Junkies possess the sensitivity required to do justice to Chesnutt’s music, and Demons is essentially the wake that any Chesnutt fan wishes they could have attended. It’s sometimes difficult to grasp what possesses artists to make tribute albums, but Demons is a tribute in the truest sense: an acknowledgment of gratitude and admiration.” exclaim!
Most people, Chesnutt included, work hard to exorcise their demons. But the Junkies have embraced these Demons with excellent results.” 4 Stars, Chartattack
“Twenty-five years down the road and the Cowboy Junkies are more vibrant than ever.”
“Demons is a revelation that shows the quartet to be savvy interpreters of a difficult songwriter, Vic Chesnutt. The Junkies’ trump card is singer Margo Timmins, who never attempts to imitate Chesnutt’s strange phrasing or vocal tics. Instead, she highlights the classic elements.” Vancouver Province
“It is a stirring and intense collection of songs, an unforced collaboration that sounds natural and destined to be.” Quick Before It Melts
Sunday, January 16th, 2011
Jason Lent has weighed in on Demons from his hutch in the desert. Check out his review on the No Depression website.
Tuesday (Jan 18th) is the last day for pre-order savings…make sure to check out the different bundles that we are offering.
Also, if you haven’t kept up on the Demons blogs, here they are:
Thursday, January 13th, 2011
A final reminder that the pre-order period for Demons ends on Tuesday (January 18th). So all of those awesome discounts will disappear (the various bundles will still be available and they’ll still be discounted, but the discounts won’t be as awesome). In any case, if your interested in the album, now is the time to act and to save a few coins.
In case you haven’t kept up on the Demons blogs here are the links to past blogs, which include some thoughts about Vic and his songs as well as lots of music:
Monday, January 10th, 2011
It’s been our experience that the best time of year to visit any city in the North East is February….so we have a little jaunt planned to NYC for the second week of the month. We’ll be performing full shows at the very intimate City Winery on Feb 7th and 8th. We’ll be performing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on February 9th and we’ll be part of a much larger celebration of Neil Young’s music at Carnegie Hall on February 10th. So if you love those bleak, grey, cold as heck, deep-winter months as much as we do, plan a trip to NYC and put us on your itinerary. Bring your woolies.
Also, remember to pre-order your copy of Demons…the pre-order sales end on January 18th.
Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
Just a reminder that our new album Demons is now available for pre-order. There are a lot of different packages to choose from and some of the special items that we are offering are; a seven song Bonus Track digital EP; a limited edition Audiophile vinyl edition of the album; and a limited edition Demons t-shirt. All of the packages are discounted and no matter which package you choose you will receive a digital version of the album on January 18th, which is the day that your order will be sent to you. The street date for the album is February 15th, so by ordering through us you will be receiving the album a month earlier than the fool next door. Also, be sure to check out the Clubhouse Subscription that gets you all of the downloadable music on our site, including Demons, and much more.
Here is a track from Demons to tweak your interest….this will be the big number one smash hit radio single…I’m pretty sure that the cast of Glee will be including it in their next season: