Posts Tagged ‘The Wilderness’

The Wilderness (volume 4) – Introduction

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I began work on many of the songs that found their way onto The Wilderness in late 2007/ early 2008, (months before my family and I took off for China, the trip that would inspire Renmin Park, the album that would kick off The Nomad Series). Some friends of mine had graciously given me the use of their writers retreat: an old crumbling cottage perched high upon the Niagara Escarpment about one hour north of Toronto. I spent several days a month, over the course of that winter, huddled by the enormous woodstove, watching the snow drift and the birds come into the feeders, plunking away on my J200, trying to figure out what direction our next album should take. Some of these songs made it as far as the concert stage, and throughout the Spring and Summer of 2008 we performed them on tour. But I could never get a handle on the collection of songs that was beginning to emerge. They never felt part of a single “piece”; I couldn’t figure out what tied them all together and therefore had no direction to chase them and without a direction it seemed pointless to try and form them into a defined collection of songs. But then my trip to China intervened and with that came a whole set of new ideas and the preliminary concept for the Nomad Series. From the outset it was decided that many of the songs that we had been working on before China, would be held on to until Volume 4. We figured that with the luxury of time and distance we would be able to get some perspective on these songs, so we put them away.
Sure enough, time and distance did the trick, but so did the chance coupling of this set of songs and Enrique’s winterscape that graces the album cover. The Wilderness which I had originally chosen as a “place holder” while we mocked up the cover, became the perfect title. Enrique’s painting became the physical manifestation of these songs, this is what these songs “looked” like. And the title, The Wilderness, in some odd way seemed to define what these songs were actually “about”: fragility, emptiness, loneliness, beauty, loss, desperation, the delicate balancing act that makes up a life. They are about being lost in the wilderness of age, the wilderness of parenthood, in the wilderness of just trying to find meaning and substance, happiness and truth in ones day to day life. They are about standing alone in middle of it all, breathing in the cold still air and wondering.

Fairytale is one of the first songs that I wrote for The Wilderness. Here is my demo for it. (The Wilderness will be for sale from our site starting February 23rd)

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.

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Happy Festivus…Angels In The Wilderness

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Here is the quasi-title track from the upcoming Volume 4 (The Wilderness)…our holiday gift to all of you for taking the time and making the effort to listen to what we create. This song owes a huge debt to the Marilynne Robinson novel “Gilead” (as do many of the songs on “The Wilderness”). I have a habit of copying inspiring passages or lines in my notebook when I am reading. I often refer to these notes when I’m doing my own writing or when I’m stuck and looking for a direction. I think I could have copied half of this novel into my notebook. The novel takes the form of a letter written by an elderly, dying pastor to his seven year old son. It is a dense read and the type of book that you only want to undertake when you know you have a good stretch of time to devote to sitting, reading and thinking (such a luxury these days, eh?). Here is a sampling from the book…mull on these thoughts as you stand in line at Target, waiting to return Uncle Ernie’s holiday offerings…”A father must finally give his child up to the wilderness – trust that there will be angels in that wilderness.” …and as you inch closer to the cashier…”We fly forgotten as a dream, leaving the forgetful world behind us to trample and mar and misplace everything we have ever cared for. That is just the way of it, and it is remarkable.” Have a fantastic break…enjoy the music.

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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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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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