Studio: Selected Studio Recordings 1986-1995

Cowboy Junkies

RCA, 1996

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on February 18, 1997]

"Country-on-valium" is how one critic described the Cowboy Junkies' sound, with both a compliment on their original approach and a critique of their languorous pace perhaps implied. Well, he has a point in one respect—if you're looking for speed riffs or instrumental flash of any kind, look elsewhere. This band moves in a kind of gauzy, melancholy half-time, judiciously avoiding every temptation to the excesses of a pop beat. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Studio, a not-exactly-greatest-hits album (this is, for the most part, not a singles band) collects most of the best songs from their six studio albums, including 1988's nearly legendary one-microphone-in-a-rented-church recording The Trinity Sessions.

The essence of the Cowboy Junkies' self-invented genre can be found in the stark beauty of Margo Timmins' haunting voice and the emotional complexity of brother/songwriter/guitarist Michael Timmins' slowly unfolding narratives. The band's countrified blues instrumentation (steel guitars, harmonica and accordion are all featured) set the table, but what delivers the meal for the listener is the depth of emotion Margo invests—ever so gently—in each individual word of songs like the hypnotic, compelling ballad "Misguided Angel." The juxtaposition between the measured intensity of her emotional release and the band's collective restraint instrumentally is the element of tension that holds the whole effort together.

Other highlights from the Timmins' catalogue are the well-written (and titled) "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning" and "'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel," and the more up-tempo—though still quite restrained—country-rock of "Southern Rain" and "A Common Disaster." Finally, they provide solid, effective covers, including Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" and Neil Young's "Powderfinger." My advice is to hit the brakes for a few minutes and enjoy this beautiful ride in the slow lane.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2014 Jason Warburg 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 RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.