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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….

http://latentrecordings.com/cowboyjunkies/