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Pop - Released January 1, 1988 | RCA Records Label

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Who says you can't make a great record in one day -- or night, as the case may be? The Trinity Session was recorded in one night using one microphone, a DAT recorder, and the wonderful acoustics of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. Interestingly, it's the album that broke the Cowboy Junkies in the United States for their version of "Sweet Jane," which included the lost verse. It's far from the best cut here, though. There are other covers, such as Margo Timmins' a cappella read of the traditional "Mining for Gold," a heroin-slow version of Hank Williams' classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Dreaming My Dreams With You" (canonized by Waylon Jennings), and a radical take of the Patsy Cline classic "Walkin' After Midnight" that closes the disc. Those few who had heard the band's previous album, Whites Off Earth Now!!, were aware that, along with Low, the Cowboy Junkies were the only band at the time capable of playing slower than Neil Young and Crazy Horse -- and without the ear-threatening volume. The Timmins family -- Margo, guitarist and songwriter Michael, drummer Peter, and backing vocalist and guitarist John -- along with bassist Alan Anton and a few pals playing pedal steel, accordion, and harmonica, paced everything to crawl. That said, it works in that every song has its own texture, slowly and deliberately unfolding from blues and country and drones. An example is the Michael and Margo song "I Don't Get It," ushered in with a few drawling guitar lines, a spooky harmonica, and brushed drums. Margo Timmins doesn't have a large range and doesn't need it as she scratches each song's surface like an itch until it bleeds its truth. This is also true on "Misguided Angel," another original where the verses become nearly a round alternating between her voice and Michael's snaky spare guitar lines to fill an almost unimaginable space. The Williams tune becomes a dirge in the Cowboys' hands. It's a funeral song, or an elegy for one who has dragged herself so far into the oblivion of isolation that there is no place left to go but home. Michael's guitar moves around the changes as bassist Anton plays them; he colors the space allowing for Margo to fill the melodic space spot-on, yet stretching each syllable out to the breaking point. For most, this was the Cowboy Junkies' debut -- Whites Off Earth Now!! was re-released in the States a few years later -- and it established them firmly in the forefront of the "alternative" scene with radio and MTV. As an album, it's still remarkable at how timeless it sounds, and its beauty is -- in stark contrast to its presentation -- voluminous and rich, perhaps even eternal. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 23, 1993 | RCA Records Label

A refreshed, revitalized sound that doesn't sacrifice the delicate touches that first made them unique; rugged, but still pristine. Much of the new spark emanates from the strings of honorary Junkie Ken Myhr, who peals out intense, biting lead guitar throughout. Especially prominent is his incendiary slide work on "Seven Years" and a spectacular cover of Dinosaur Jr.'s "The Post." Still, it's hard to imagine a ballad instrument more haunting and ethereal than Margo Timmins' voice. © Roch Parisien /TiVo
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Country - Released July 13, 2018 | Proper Records

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The Canadian quartet led by Margo Timmins, her two brothers Michael and Peter and Alan Anton have emerged from six years of hibernation. Active since the mid-1980s on the folk stage, offering up an alternative kind of country with a fair bit of rock, the Cowboy Junkies have always been able to set themselves apart, be it with the quality of their recordings, using an ambisonic microphone; or for their mix of influences from jazz, blues and country. Everything is carefully calculated, like the release of i>All That Reckoning in Proper Records, which also marks the birthday of their famous album The Trinity Session. It took the Toronto group six years to finish off this project: and that's because there were a few other factors at play, which inspired the lyrics. The members have reached an age that brings with it certain responsibilities. All That Reckoning underlines this evolution, in fatherhood in particular, and in personal and social relations, the fragile state of the world, and various challenges. On rock ballads with something of a psychedelic feel, Margo Timmins's soft and smooth voice can bring her audience in and make them pay close attention. As for Michael, we can only salute his talent as a composer, in particular with the first track, All That Reckoning with its gradual accumulation of instruments and The Possessed which paints a picture of a society in anguish... It's a personal, human album, charged with emotions, and which catches the spirit of the times. © Anna Coluthe/Qobuz
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Pop - Released January 1, 1996 | Geffen

Released in 1996, this CD definitively answers a question that has occasionally plagued the Cowboy Junkies: yes, they sound good, but can they rock? Though still laden with the melancholia that has marked previous efforts, this CD is sonically dense, guitar-drenched, and good at high-volume levels. Margo Timmins' voice has never been more expressive, and the lyrics shimmer with intensity. Although the band has occasionally touched on quiet moments reminiscent of fellow Canadian Neil Young, little they have done before this album approached the emotive wail of his louder efforts. The Cowboy Junkies have proven their versatility while retaining their unique sound. © Jeff Crooke /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 1, 1990 | RCA Records Label

With the ethereal voice of Margo Timmins gleaning the lyrics "The phone rings, but I don't answer it/Good news always sleeps till noon" on the opener ("Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning), listeners rest assured -- the Junkies haven't compromised their comfortable, country-twanged, folk-rock style to cater more to the trends of the masses. Mellow, honest, and provocatively reticent at points, their melancholic tone might seem bland to those with more aggressive tastes, or to simply more mainstream palettes, but for those whose tastes float serenely upstream, and for Junkies fans in general, this album is a treat. As usual, brother and lead guitarist Michael Timmins has created narratives that make poetry of everyday observations and anecdotes. Not as rocking as later releases, but offering more originals than earlier ones, this, their third full-length, brings back the mandolin and fiddle playing of Jeff Bird, the accordion stylings of Jaro Czerwinec, and pedal & lap steel guitar from Kim Deschamps -- all of which gracefully complemented the Trinity Sessions recordings. Their arrangements seem simply planned, and it's the combination of such a consistently minimalist quality with Michael Timmins' delicate songwriting that evokes ghost-story moods ("Witches") and sunset-beyond-the-porch-swing moments. Aside from the Neil Young cover "Powderfinger," The Caution Horses marks the Junkies' gradual shift toward more original work, and stands as the calm before the more rocking, commercially successful storm of material that followed. Highlights include "'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel," "Rock and Bird," and "Escape Is Simple." © Deanne Briggs /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 15, 2007 | Cooking Vinyl

1988's The Trinity Session was the album that established the Cowboy Junkies as a world-class band with a singular musical approach, but though there's little arguing that the musicians delivered the goods on the record, in many respects the album was a happy accident. Several of the guest musicians recruited for the project had never even met the Junkies prior to the recording session at Toronto's Trinity Church, and given the approach taken by the group and producer Peter Moore -- one take, one stereo mic, no overdubs -- good luck seemingly had as much to do with the album's slow and graceful drift and understated power as any careful design. It's difficult, maybe impossible to make lightning strike in the same place twice, and the Cowboy Junkies' decision to return to Trinity Church to record the same set of songs two decades later is a curious one, made all the more puzzling by the addition of several special guests -- in addition to the core lineup of Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins, Peter Timmins, and Alan Anton, the group's return to Trinity Church also features Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt, and Natalie Merchant, along with multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird, who appeared on the original album. It's a testament to the Cowboy Junkies' lasting strength that Trinity Revisited works surprisingly well; the performances and arrangements rarely stray far from the tone or intent of the original album, but they never sound rote, and the easy but troubling narcotic flow of this music remains as hypnotic as ever. The "guest stars" for this session are firmly integrated into the performances, serving much the same function as the additional players on the 1988 recordings, and Merchant and Chesnutt display an admirable respect for the songs and their fellow musicians, though Adams' famous ego occasionally makes itself visible. And the songs hold up remarkably well, showing little wear after 20 years in the Cowboy Junkies' repertoire and revealing new angles as Adams, Chesnutt, and especially Merchant bend them to their voices, though Margo Timmins hasn't lost a bit of her gentle authority or her hold on the music. Trinity Revisited sometimes suggests that the Cowboy Junkies decided to record a Cowboy Junkies tribute album, but even though this isn't a radical departure from the 1988 original, the group still plays these songs beautifully and the skill and wonder of the performances prevent this from seeming like pointless nostalgia. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2015 | Cooking Vinyl

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Here we go again. In 2012, Cowboy Junkies released The Nomad Series box set, which compiled the four records they released during an ambitious 18-month period. They also included a bonus fifth disc of tracks that didn't make the albums. Notes Falling Slow is similar in concept, but reaches further back into their Zoe catalog. Included here are remastered versions of 2001's Open, 2004's One Soul Now, and 2007's At the End of Paths Taken. These albums were cut during a key transitional period for the band, whose members were having children and discovering the meaning of settling down. Open offered the group at their psychedelic, bluesy best; One Soul Now picked up right where it left off. At the End of Paths Taken is the most unusual record on the Cowboy Junkies' shelf. It's a song cycle about the relationships that constitute family, from nuclear to chosen to global. The fourth disc in this box is made up of tunes that didn't make these three albums. But this part of Notes Falling Slow is not a compilation of pre-recorded misfits. While these songs were written during sessions for the aforementioned records, some were not completed, others were not demoed, and finally, some were cut but ultimately rejected. No matter the origin, all nine of these selections have been newly recorded, amounting to a new (albeit relatively brief, at 35 minutes) Cowboy Junkies album. (A different version of "Shrike" made it onto an iTunes session; this one contains no bridge.) Opener "Also One" and "Morning Cried" are swirling psychedelic rockers that showcase the band's more aggressive side. According to Michael Timmins' blog, written especially for this box, the sparse, devastating "Ikea Parking Lot" is the saddest song he's ever written (and that's saying something). "So They Say" is a lonesome country rocker, while this version of "The Slide" is an acoustic waltz with vocalist Margo Timmins delivering the lyric at her most tender, disillusioned, and vulnerable. The remastered versions of the catalog albums are more intuitive in their warmth and use of space. The unreleased material comes across as all of a piece in its sequencing. Given its very inexpensive price tag, Notes Falling Slow is an essential acquisition for fans. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 21, 2001 | RCA Records Label

Like so many of their '80s contemporaries, Cowboy Junkies have never quite broken into the mainstream, yet their music has seeped into movies, television, and alternative radio. Despite their lack of fame, they still made great music that persevered through trends and imitators, and the best of that music is found on this compilation. Their early covers of "Sweet Jane" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" highlight the first third of the album, featuring Margo Timmons' whispered vocals over the lazy shuffle pumped out by the rest of the band. The up-tempo country lament "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning" and the cheery "To Live Is to Fly" show Timmons' vocals shaping into a strong croon reminiscent of Natalie Merchant. Even their '90s work, which critics were never very kind to, still has strong representation with "Anniversary Song" and "Hard to Explain." Fans may wonder why no songs from any album past Pale Sun, Crescent Moon are included, as so many great songs -- from "Common Disaster" to "Dragging Hooks" -- could have rounded out the album. Although these albums may have been financial disappointments, they still could have included some of the stronger tracks. As it is, this is still a good retrospective of the strongest years of a band who made good albums long after the compilation's cutoff date. © Bradley Torreano /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 23, 1993 | RCA Records Label

A refreshed, revitalized sound that doesn't sacrifice the delicate touches that first made them unique; rugged, but still pristine. Much of the new spark emanates from the strings of honorary Junkie Ken Myhr, who peals out intense, biting lead guitar throughout. Especially prominent is his incendiary slide work on "Seven Years" and a spectacular cover of Dinosaur Jr.'s "The Post." Still, it's hard to imagine a ballad instrument more haunting and ethereal than Margo Timmins' voice. © Roch Parisien /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 7, 1992 | RCA Records Label

The Cowboy Junkies' Black-Eyed Man is an excellent return to form following their disappointing third LP, The Caution Horses. Where Michael Timmins' songwriting was stilted and overly self-conscious on the previous record, here his character studies are literate and finely-etched; like Robbie Robertson before him, Timmins' Canadian roots allow him to view the rural American experience with unique objectivity, and narratives like the opening "Southern Rain" and "Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park" are told with compassion and cinematic detail. Black-Eyed Man also broadens the Junkies' musical horizons: "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man," a duet with John Prine, is like a '50s-era love song intercepted from an alternate reality; while tracks like the lilting "A Horse in the Country" push the group closer to the folk-pop territory of 10,000 Maniacs. At the same time, their country roots are further reinforced by a pair of outstanding Townes Van Zandt covers, "Cowboy Junkies Lament" and "To Live Is to Fly"; sandwiched between them is Timmins' own tribute, "Townes' Blues." © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 3, 1988 | RCA Records Label

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Rock - Released March 30, 2020 | Latent Recordings

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Pop/Rock - Released October 17, 1994 | RCA Records Label

Subtitled, "Live Performances 1985-1994" (though the earliest track comes from Halloween 1986), 200 More Miles, which concluded the Cowboy Junkies' contract with RCA, was a 17-track compilation of concert recordings. Its five and a half cover songs spanned the group's influences: "Blue Moon Revisited (A Song for Elvis)" drew upon the Rodgers & Hart song (that's the half) as interpreted by the King of Rock 'n' Roll; "Me and the Devil Blues" came from the King of the Delta Blues Singers, Robert Johnson; "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" was by the King of Country Music, Hank Williams, "Walking After Midnight" by the Queen, Patsy Cline, and "State Trooper" and "Sweet Jane" came from a couple of Rock's Crown Princes, Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed. Of course, this was for the most part downbeat material, and the Cowboy Junkies rendered it in their usual transfixing, if soporific style. They did the same on a set of Michael Timmins originals such as "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning" and "Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park." (John Prine guests on "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man.") "Before I do some rock & roll I always like to sit down," Margo Timmins noted at the outset, and she wasn't kidding. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 3, 2012 | Proper Records

The Wilderness is the fourth and final volume in the Cowboy Junkies' ambitious Nomad Series, a project that saw them release four albums of new material in an 18-month period. Earlier volumes were focused tightly around various unconnected themes; inspirations from a trip to China, a set of noisy acid blues, and an entire album's worth of Vic Chesnutt covers as a loving tribute to a departed friend. These conceptually sound chapters bring us to The Wilderness, ten songs centered on no fixed theme, but rather traversing a wider array of emotional settings. Unlike the previous installments of the Nomad Series, this album plays out the most like a standard Cowboy Junkies album. All the songs are penned by guitarist Michael Timmins and sung by his sister Margo Timmins with what has come to be her signature hushed yet powerful delivery. Tunes coast on a mostly mellow sound somewhere between alt-country and subdued college rock circa 1991 with occasional mandolin flourishes by Jeff Bird or lead guitar outbursts from Matt Bailey. Well into the second decade of their career during the writing of this album, topics like parenthood and getting older come up more than late-twenties existential ennui, but are addressed with the same lost, wandering uncertainty that characterized the band's earlier work. "Idle Tales" sums this up pretty succinctly with lines like "these idle tales we need to keep us going, these tales are for our children." The song sees one generation passing their foggy incertitude on to the next. Appropriately, The Wilderness is a very wintery album, with different explorations of long, dark nights and their different shades of loneliness. "Angels in the Wilderness" paints a scene of snowy woods and limited sunlight as a metaphor for a dying love. Elsewhere, "The Confession of Georgie E" happens in a smoky bar room deep in the cold months, the cycles of life and death, romance and betrayal interweaving with the seasonal cycles. The rocking "Fuck, I Hate the Cold" takes a more direct approach, with Timmins belting out "Maybe I'm just getting old, 'cause fuck, I hate the cold!" while running over a list of complaints about winter touring and too many years of it. It's difficult to see exactly how The Wilderness fits into any larger series, but that's beside the point. Free from vague thematic restraints, this volume works as the most immediately listenable and comprehensible of the Nomad Series and stands alone as another strong volume of the craft Cowboy Junkies have been honing for years. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 18, 2009 | Cooking Vinyl

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Pop - Released November 12, 1996 | RCA Records Label

Studio: Selected Studio Recordings is a fine compilation of highlights from the Cowboy Junkies' albums, including such songs as "Sweet Jane" and "Misguided Angel," as well as the previously unreleased "Lost My Driving Wheel." While this is a thoughtfully compiled retrospective, The Trinity Sessions remains the definitive Cowboy Junkies album, although this isn't a bad way to collect much of the best material from their frequently uneven records. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 23, 2007 | Cooking Vinyl

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 1, 2005 | Cooking Vinyl

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Country - Released June 15, 2010 | Proper Records

Renmin Park, the first volume in the Cowboy Junkies' Nomad Series, was named for the park where guitarist/songwriter Michael Timmins spent a considerable amount of time while in the process of adopting two children from China. Built on a foundation of loops, conversations, street performances, and other found sounds from the region, the Junkies have crafted a song cycle that at first glance seems at odds with their rootsy Great White North Americana, but as it turns out, modern Chinese culture (as filtered through the deep calming voice of Margo Timmins) has inspired the veteran Canadian outfit to create one its best and most fascinating collections to date. Endlessly creative, while still holding true to the sanguine, country-kissed balladry that has become their forte over the last 25 years, songs like the harrowing “A Few Bags of Grain,” the windows-down (China National) highway rocker “Stranger Here,” and the bluesy, trip-hop-kissed "(You've Got to Get) A Good Heart” feel both lived in and raw. Renmin Park may find the band operating outside of its AOR comfort zone, but even at its most challenging, the Timmins siblings have found a way to remain connected enough to the material to provide comfort to even the most xenophobic Cowboy Junkies junkie. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Country - Released February 13, 2011 | Proper Records

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Cowboy Junkies in the magazine
  • Cowboy Junkies, holy smoke
    Cowboy Junkies, holy smoke The Canadian quartet led by Margo Timmins, her two brothers Michael and Peter and Alan Anton have emerged from six years of hibernation.