What does it sound like?:
Twas 1987 when three siblings and a couple of other band members wandered into the Trinity Church, Toronto and clustered round one microphone. Over thirty six hours they shuffled to and fro said microphone before eventually laying down one of the most hypnotic and compelling records ever made. Completing a mixture of their own songs, country standards and a stark, frightening version of The Velvet’s Sweet Jane, The Cowboy Junkies emerged blinking into the sunlight. Soon “The Trinity Sessions” became one of those albums all your discerning friends talked about in hushed and reverent tones. Songs all slowed down to virtual stillness, enough space for the listener to drift off into cosmic contemplation yet tight enough to force rapt attention to lyrics whether new or old.
Over the years many a record followed most following the same haunted but soon over-familiar path: Margo’s soft voice backed by tasteful musicians playing tastefully, each album an apparent replica of its predecessor. How many people made it all the way through “Lay It Down” or “Waltz Across America”? Then somebody in the Junkies team had a bright idea – “Right you lot, back to Trinity, persuade Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams and Vic Chesnutt to join in and “Hey, let’s do the whole thing again!”
“Trinity Revisited” didn’t quite have the new-kids-on-the-block wonder of the original but in many ways actually surpassed it: Merchant’s voice fitted perfectly , Adams contributions were as ever mighty fine and Chesnutt added a tragic air of doomed Americana.
I rather lost track of The Junkies after that, whenever I stumbled across them it all still sounded a bit samey, a bit worthy. And then I was contacted by a Mr B Pole of this parish. “Never heard of this lot, fancy giving it a bash?” he enquired. I replied in the affirmative, a chance to redeem myself after my somewhat harsh criticisms of his apparently never-ending stream of “Caravan, The Early Years” or “Yes, Remastered Volume 16” reviews.
Apparently “All That Reckoning” is their first new release since 2012. I guess family life especially for Margo and her three kids kind of got in the way. Perusing the press photos (look at me, like I work for a proper magazine, a press photo!) The Junkies have aged gracefully, they would not look out of place on an AfterWord “Post A Selfie” thread. Perusing the press release (look at me, a press release!) I find “It’s a deeper and a more complete record than we’ve ever done before. We’ve always tried to make records that are relevant to who we are as people. … These songs are about reckoning on a personal level and reckoning on a social level.” –
OK, let’s do this thing. Bloody hell, that’s a deep bass! Is this Trinity -The Dub Sessions? Margo’s voice has deepened and matured sounding rather like Emmylou at the end of a tequila-soaked evening singing in a smoked-filled bar. The lyrics, I am pretty certain all penned by Michael Timmons, seem far more politically referenced than before, “Everything unsure, everything unstable” or “Fear is not so far from hate”. The more the album goes on the more I am persuaded I am in an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, where the good guys up in Canada watch in horror as to the south the Commander of Gilead orders yet another hanging.
Double bloody hell! “Sing Me A Song” sees Margo screaming in front of wailing guitars and drumming duties taken over by Animal out of the Muppets! Have these oh so polite Canadians, a nation whose first action is usually to apologise for whatever it is you have done wrong, actually lost their temper, are they actually shouting “Fuck Off Trump!” ??
It is here, dear reader, I have to admit I have not yet given this album the requisite “Six Listens” despite it being on my computer for over a month now. It is clear I am not Tigger, I will never be Tigger – unlike my learned friend whose devotion to duty is legendary I am too easily distracted by mere fripperies. World Cup Football (a Scotsman passionately supporting England, who’d have thunk?) three trips over the border to Spain, too many barbecues, too much wine, too much life. But despite my failure to do the album justice I really, really urge you to give “All That Reckoning” a try even if your previous experience of listening to The Cowboy Junkies consisted of jerking awake as the last track fades off into the still, still night.
Impressed I am. Heartfelt thanks to Bargepole, I may not be redeemed but I am indeed saved.
What does it all *mean*?
Even Canadians get angry
Goes well with…
A glass of tasteful red whilst wondering “Has the world really gone mad?”
Might suit people who like…
Tasteful music with an edge