About 14 years ago a friend dropped off her copy of The Trinity Session by The Cowboy Junkies. I was distracted by work and home improvement projects and deadlines and trying to start a family when I was pulled into this fantastic album by an amazing yet underrated band. I immediately fell in love with The Cowboy Junkies and for a while kept up with them. I bought CD after CD and saw them live whenever I could but since Margo Timmons, the lead singer, doesn’t exit limos without her underwear and band mates Michael and Pete Timmons and Alan Anton don’t trash hotel rooms and have affairs with supermodels, the Junkies don’t often make the news and I lost track of them.
Recently, I was browsing around NPR when I learned that Trinity Revisted (a CD and DVD set) was released to celebrate the 20 years since the band huddled around one microphone inside Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity and created their spectacular album. To top it off, they invited guests Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams and Vic Chesnutt to reinterpret their sophomore effort while letting the passing of two decades reshape their own approach to the songs.
While making my purchase, I came across another of their CD’s entitled The End of Paths Taken and decided I’d download it while I waited for Trinity Revisted to be shipped from Canada.
Holy shit. I can’t stop playing this CD.
And that’s saying something because unlike the old days when changing a song meant – rewinding, fast forwarding, or taking a large piece of black, round, plastic out of a sleeve, putting it on a player, counting the song numbers, counting up the corresponding sections on the record then placing the needle exactly where I needed it to be – I have about 2000 songs at my fingertips. I can change a song at the blink of an eye and often do. To continuously listen to the same CD over and over says something.
This CD is about what it’s like to be sandwiched between parents that are winding down their lives and children who are yet to discover all that life has to offer and what that ultimately means. In his usual poetic way, Michael Timmins’ lyrics help us to feel something on a deeper level without over saturating the songs with sentiment. I think that’s why I like them so much. They tell the truth even when the truth isn’t so pretty.
On My Only Guarantee we’re told:
Of pure energy
What wears most
Is the constancy
A bigger job I’ve never had
A bigger burden I could not drag
My only guarantee: I will fuck you up
God I remember those days when my kids were toddlers that never stopped and sucked the life from me. I would do my best to keep my cool and eventually tears would be the result of harshly yelled words that spilled from the mouth of a stressed out, novice mother. I would lay in bed at night cringing as I replayed the tape from the day and think, Damn these girls are going to definitely need therapy.
Thus this song should be required listening for all soon to be parents. You may try not to fuck up your kids, but on some level, in some area of life – you will – because just like in life, there will be some aspect of parenting that you will most definitely suck at.
That’s the truth. I like that the Junkies just put it out there without apology or explanation.
In a world of way too much hype The Cowboy Junkies are the anti-hype band. If you’ve ever seen them live you know that I’m speaking the truth. Margo will occasionally stand when she sings, but otherwise she’s on her chair next to her fresh flowers calmly singing while the guys play in the background, heads down and focused such that you’re lucky if you get a glimpse of their faces. Then after the show, they’ll happily come out and sign whatever you want while meeting and greeting their fans. This calmness takes over the fans that will patiently stand there, nicely waiting their turn in line.
The band just wants to make music, sell records and do their thing. I’m guessing that 20 years of being left alone to do this is why they’re so damn good. Maybe fame and fortune would’ve gotten in the way. Maybe in this crazy, hyped up world, The Cowboy Junkies trust us to slow down and linger a while as needed. Because they care less about trends and more about truth, they are able to remind us of who we are warts and all. They don’t seem to mind that we’re not perfect. So much so, they trust that we’ll discover them or in some cases rediscover them exactly when we’re supposed to:
Raise your eyes to a moonless sky
and try to wish upon a rising star
Search all you want for her blessing
but you won’t find her sparkling there
Now cast your eyes to a part of the sky
where nothing but darkness unfolds
and watch as all around you
she reveals the brilliance of secrets untold
From the song Crescent Moon