Tunesday : 1988 Cowboy Junkies

20130212-cowboy-junkies-306x306-1360704485In one magnificent moment, the time it took for a needle to drop on a vinyl disk, everything I thought about music changed.  I was a big admirer of the Velvet Underground, and for a while spent a lot of time arguing with people–often strangers at parties–that the Velvets were bigger and more important than the Rolling Stones and Beatles combined.  So, it was a no brainer when I read a review in the pages of Spin magazine in which a Spin critic raved over a new Canadian band, Cowboy Junkies, and their new album, especially their cover of “Sweet Jane.”  The reviewer went on to describe the album as “the perfect 3am listening music.’

I was sold. I immediately–within an hour–ran out and bought the record, brought it home, and was stunned by the sweet, resonant a capella voice that embraced me, with a mournful, unanticipated beauty.

Sweet Jane. 1989.  The Johnny Carson “cameo” is a nice bonus.

The rest of the album, the Trinity Sessions, was equally remarkable. Recorded at Toronto, Ontario’s Church of the Holy Trinity on a cold day in late November 1987,  the band huddled around a single microphone and made what is quite possibly the most intimate album ever made, its eclectic mix covers and originals begging the question: was it rock, or folk, or country, or blues?  My friend Brett Day, the notorious, British-born Pittsburgh-based sculptor, musician, and all-around renaissance man,  once proclaimed, “when I first heard “Trinity” I thought, “my god, punk rock music can absolutely be played at 1 mile per hour.”  He came as close as anyone to hitting the nail on the head.

There’s a moment, on the live album 200 More Miles, when a fan shouts “Rock and Roll!” between songs, and singer Margot Timmins, who always seems to have a cup of tea and a vase of flowers on hand for performances, leans into the microphone and says. “Well, before I rock and roll I always like to sit down….” which is deeply informative.

More than a quarter of a century later, the Junkies remain my favorite band.  I’ve seen them several dozen times live, more often than not for free (for a long time they had a real penchant for doing festival shows) and the love affair continues….


About JunkChuck

Native, Militant Westsylvanian (the first last best place), laborer, gardener, and literary hobbyist (if by literary you mean "hack"). I've had a bunch of different blogs, probably four, due to a recurring compulsion to start over. This incarnation owes to a desire to dredge up the best entries of the worst little book of hand-scrawled poems I could ever dream of writing, salvageable excerpts from fiction both in progress and long-abandoned. and a smattering of whatever the hell seems to fit at any particular moment. At first blush, I was here just to focus on old, terrible verse, but I reserve the right to include...anything. Maybe everything, certainly my love of pulp novels growing garlic, the Pittsburgh Steelers and howling at the moon--both figuratively and, on rare occasions, literally.
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3 Responses to Tunesday : 1988 Cowboy Junkies

  1. kingmidget says:

    I’ve never seen them live and have generally stopped listening to them over the years, but I was sold on them when Trinity Sessions came out and for a few more albums after that. Thanks for the reminder. Time to refamiliarize myself with their music.


  2. CC says:

    Loved this post. I always look forward to your Tunesday. This one was a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your favorite band. I loved reading how you wrote about them and watching them, then and now. I see why you love them. -CC


  3. Mark Jones says:

    The Caution Horses was my first Cowboy Junkies experience in 1990. Loved them instantly and continue to love them now.


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