Posts Tagged ‘Nomad Series’

18 month anniversary today….OMG…epic FAIL…

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Last year we announced that we were about to undertake a four album project called The Nomad Series and that the project was going to be completed in 18 months. Well, depending on how you do the calculation, today is the 18 month anniversary. The way I figure it, we officially released volume 1 (Renmin Park) on June 16th, 2010, so I count that as the official start of the ticking clock. Projecting 18 months forward from that day lands us squarely in the middle of today. So what can I say…oops…we tried, we failed…mea culpa…. My excuse is that the reality of earning a living got in the way of our ambition and I had to suspend production on Volume 4 when I got offered to do the music score for a very interesting documentary project called My Father And The Man In Black (more on that in the months to come). This set the production schedule back by about six weeks. In any case, the good news is that all of the recording for Volume 4 (The Wilderness) has been completed and we have just started mixing. We aim to have the album finished and mastered by mid January and to have the finished goods in hand when we start touring again in February. Once we have the finished master (in mid-January) we plan to have a one day listening party for the new album on the website, so that we can claim that we only missed our deadline by a few weeks (we’ll give everyone a lot of notice about the date when we finalise the details).
Ultimately, the whole point of the project was to put out four albums that forced us to stretch our imaginations and talents and to pull on the experience that we have accumulated in our 25 plus years as a band. We also wanted to make sure that we pushed the expectations of those of you still listening. We think we have done that and we hope you agree. Quality first…right? We think Volume 4 will be a fitting capper to the whole project. I’ll start blogging about the making of the album and posting audio in the New Year, so don’t wander too far. We will also be having a blowout sale in the Junk Store starting right after Christmas so keep your eyes on the site.

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Sing In My Meadow, volume 3 – My Little Basquiat

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I know that we promised Volume 3 as accompaniment for those long summer road trips and then we amended that to late summer road trips, well I need to amend my amendment. The album is mixed, mastered and ready to go: eight songs, forty minutes of wailing and gnashing. But we need time to get all of our ducks in a row…internet ducks, US ducks, UK ducks, Canadian ducks, vinyl ducks…you know…ducks. And its very difficult to line up ducks in the summer time. So it looks like we won’t be making Sing In My Meadow available until October. So instead of a soundtrack for your summer road trip you can use it for your annual Leaf Peeper journey…..not exactly appropriate, but whatever.

We’ve also put together a five song bonus EP of some live tracks that we recorded during the Paths Taken tour. Here is My Little Basquiat from a Park West show. Sorry for the delay folks, we’re running in place as fast as we can…enjoy the music.

Here are some earlier Sing In My Meadow blogs:



Songwriting Demos

Jeff Bird

Late Night Radio

3rd Crusade



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Renmin Park, volume 1 (the lyrics)

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

It’s always hard to say what a song or group of songs are about. It’s no different for those on Renmin Park, but I’ll give it a shot;….abandoned children, abandoned mothers….governments and their fetish for leather and steel…alienation…sights seen, voices heard, friendships formed….personal histories, myths, stories told…the incalculable advantage of the alternate perspective…the great divide, romance, the addictive rush of the broken heart…the benefit of early morning exercise….discovery….giraffes and small dogs….the capacity of the human mind for great harm…the capacity of the human heart for great good….diesel fumes….beauty and fear…scapegoats, heroes, and villains and the fine line that divides them all… inevitability…cultural appropriation, perhaps…human nature, mother nature…mercilessness….English philosophers…people.

Here are a couple of final mixes:

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Renmin Park, volume 1 (the place)

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Every city, town and village in China has a Renmin Park. Translated it means People’s Park and it is in the park where the community’s social life is conducted, it is where the rumours start and where the lovers meet, it is from the heart of the park where all things real and human and important exist and grow. We spent a lot of time in Renmin Park in Jingjiang. There was a rusted out old playground that was probably built in the 50’s and had some of the most rickety and dangerous looking slides and rides that I’ve ever seen. Our kids loved it, I was thankful that they had all had tetanus shots. Every Tuesday and Thursday I would wake up at 6am and head down to the park to play some badminton with my 80 year old friend Mr Liu and all of his friends. He would kick my ass every time (I once tried to play ping-pong against him and was completely humiliated). Mr Liu had flown for the People’ Liberation Army airforce in the 1950s. His squadron had transported Mao on occasion and he had flown missions in Tibet and Korea. He had spent 16 years in a labour camp in the 60’s and 70’s for speaking the truth to a class of cadets: an amazing man who I feel privileged to have met. After our badminton game we would go back to his apartment and he would serve me a breakfast of eggs, rice, ginger and hot fresh milk.

When I would arrive at the park at 6:30am the place would be hopping. There would be multiple games of badminton going on; the roller rink would be full of people dancing on their roller-skates; there would be large and small groups going though their tai-chi and exercise routines; hundreds of people walking around the man-made lake in the middle of the park, taking their morning constitutional, the place would be packed. We were always out of place in the park. We always felt welcomed but we were always strangers. The staring and gawking never stopped. As unusual as it felt, it just became part of our existence and Renmin Park slowly became our park too.

Here is my demo of another song off of the album, Stranger Here….

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Renmin Park, volume 1 (the sounds)

Monday, March 8th, 2010

When we first got to China one of the first things that struck me, aside from the poor air quality, were the sounds. Not only was it loud and unrelenting, but there were so many textures to the sounds that were completely foreign to these Western ears. So I wrote back home and asked brother Pete to pick me up a high end portable digital recorder. I had it, along with my camera, wherever I went. I’d spend hours in the park walking around and recording music and conversations, exercise classes and badminton games; in the streets I’d record the intense sound of the traffic; at the school I’d wander the halls and sit in on some classes and record the students chanting their lessons, or capture them at their morning exercise where the entire school of three thousand students would do their calisthenics. Even drifting by our apartment window were the calls of various hawkers, selling everything from vegetables to propane. I recorded it all.

When I got home I knew I had a treasure trove of really interesting and unusual “field recordings” and I knew that I wanted to somehow use them in the making of music, but I really wasn’t sure how to go about it. Eventually I bundled them up and sent them West to our friend Joby Baker in Victoria. I gave pretty vague instructions; create loops out of these sounds, let them spur your imagination. Alan, who lives on Vancouver Island, also got involved and the two of them proceeded to build musical structures with some of the field recordings as the foundations. They then sent them back East, Pete and I set to work on them in our studio, taking out elements that didn’t work for us and adding our own elements. And then I sat with them and wrote melodies and lyrics. Finally Margo came in and transformed them into Cowboy Junkies songs.

Five of these songs will appear on Renmin Park. Here is a taste of how two of them sounded about half way through the process:

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The Nomad Series (Volumes 1 – 4)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Over the next 18 months (yes, we’ve amended our initial projection of 12 months), we will be releasing four albums, which will collectively be called The Nomad Series. The idea was born in the tumult of a perfect storm of ideas, influences, inspirations and timing. We have just launched our new website and want to put it through its paces. For the first time in twenty years we are completely free of any recording contracts and obligations, we find ourselves writing and recording more than we have in years, our studio (The Clubhouse) feels more and more like home, the band now has twenty five years under the hood and is sounding so darn good…and then, added in to that mix, our friend Enrique Martinez Celaya, the brilliant and inspired Cuban-American painter, dropped these four spectacular paintings (entitled Nomad) into our laps, and it became clear that we needed to release four albums, with his paintings as our ground. And that we needed the challenge of doing so under an intense release schedule.

But, primarily, the main reason for wanting to do a series of four albums is that, as we steam through our 25th year, we feel that we have the energy and inspiration to pull it off. We have been talking about what to do for our next album release for several months now. Our problem hasn’t been a dearth of ideas, but rather, a surplus. We have over two dozen new songs written, many of which we have been performing live over the past year or so, and many more sketches of songs that are just waiting to be fleshed out. There are also many “alternative” recording projects that we have discussed, which wouldn’t necessarily take the place of a “new-studio-album” release, but which we feel are vital to our health as a band and which we feel would be of interest to our audience (that’s you folks). So, four albums in 18 months seem to be the way to go….

The Nomad Series will break down in the following manner:

Renmin Park (volume 1): a song cycle inspired by a three month stay that my family and I had in China, an other-worldly experience. The album will be comprised of all new original material except for two cover songs written by a couple of  legends on the Chinese music scene (a lot more to come about this album over the next several weeks).

Demons (volume 2): for some time now we have been batting around the idea of doing an album of conceptually linked cover songs (anyone who has followed us over the years knows that we love our cover songs and that they are a big part of who we are), but we couldn’t find that key that made sense to any of us. And then, this past Christmas, our friend Vic Chesnutt died. We had been discussing with Vic, off and on for the past couple of years, about doing a Chesnutt/Junkies album. During one of the last conversation that I had with Vic, he mentioned that he was working on a series of songs about his childhood that he wanted to bring to the collaboration. So, it only seems fitting that we record an album of Vic’s songs. His catalogue is so deep and for the most part, so overlooked. It will be a labour of love.

Sing In My Meadow (volume 3): this one is still being discussed and fought over (we are currently conducting an arm wrestling tournament to decide who gets the upper hand in determining its contents) . We need to keep a few options open. You never know when a great concept might suddenly present itself.

The Wilderness (volume 4): this will be an album of new songs. Some of these songs (Angel In The Wilderness, Fairytale, The Confession of Georgie E, etc) we have been playing live for the past year or so and they are bound to find their way on to this volume. There is also a whole set of new songs (and more that are yet to be written) that we will be unveiling on stage over the coming year. We’re not quite sure how these will form themselves into a cohesive album, but these things always work themselves out.

After 18 months and after the 4 volumes are released, we will be releasing a book that will delve into the character, nature, inspiration behind each of the volumes. Enrique’s publishing house, Whale and Star, will design and release the book (they also did our twenty year anniversary book XX).

We are aiming to have Volume 1, Renmin Park, available for sale through the website in late April (it will be in general release a couple of months after that). In the meantime we will be blogging about it and going in to more detail about its genesis and putting up a lot of the works in progress for you to listen to. So check back often (or go to the Cowboy Junkies Facebook page and add us as a fan so that you can be alerted directly, or follow us on twitter CJMusic, or subscribe to one of the other RSS feeds above).

Ok….back to work…oh yea, in the meantime here is a slideshow of Enrique’s Nomad paintings….

Created with flickr slideshow.

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