Cowboy Junkies

Zoe Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


The new Cowboy Junkies CD is called Open. Someone should have left it closed.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Cowboy Junkies. I really do. The Trinity Session and Miles From Our Home are some of my favorite mood music; there are just certain times when I want something slow, dark, and a little odd, and the Junkies are perfect for that. But in every band's life, a time comes when they sacrifice listenability for alleged art, and I'm afraid that my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Open is a prime example for that. Too much atmosphere, too little clarity, and above all too much feedback.

Some things haven't changed. Lead vocalist Margo Timmins' voice is still rich and expressive, ambient and atmospheric. Michael Timmins still plays a mean guitar, though on Open it's overly distorted, processed, and effects-laden. The songs are still musically complex and challenging.

But oh, the production. The bad, bad, bad production. Sometimes Margo's voice is so far drowning in background crap and guitar effects you want to throw her a life preserver. The spare, clean sound of the band's past recordings is so far cast away you want to give it a volleyball to talk to. Despite being the Daily Vault's resident Production Junkie, it's not very often that it's the worst thing on a CD. Open gets that dubious honor. While I'm positive the various distortions were chosen for some artistic reason, what their cumulative effect is is not art, but mud - thick, nasty, gluey mud that keeps this CD from ever flying.

The songs on Open aren't bad; some of them are downright good, in fact. "Thousand Year Prayer" is plain and simply arranged, so it works and works well. "Bread And Wine" has some neat turns of phrase in it ("And there's a line in my head from an old gospel song / But no matter how I try, the words come out wrong").

Fundamentally, however, Open really has very little to recommend it save for hardcore Cowboy Junkies fans. While there may have been a reason for the production techniques Michael Timmins used, I would say next time to remember to keep it simpler than this. As it stands, Open isn't very open to a clear, listenable sound at all.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zoe Records, and is used for informational purposes only.