Cowboy Junkies

Opening with a beautifully hanging-in-the-air acapella Mining For Gold, this is a reverential reworking of the seminal Trinity Sessions album. But then The Trinity Sessions was a reverential album too – all hushed, whispering and lovely. Beat up songs about beat down people, played on mandolin and electric guitar with the rich and creamy tones of Margo Timmins topping it off. You can hear the church space it was recorded in and feel the shadows around the players.

This doesn’t add to the reverie of the original but the DVD adds 5.1 surround and lovely shots of the band just playing and recording simply in a circl in a resonant church. Guests accompany throughout. Misguided Angels sees 10,000 Maniacs’ Natalie Merchant adding her chewy tones – which I love – but here don’t match the originals of Timmins, whose blueprint is set hard in my head. Long time collaborator Vic Chesnutt adds vocals to Blue Moon Revisited and remains in the band while Ryan ‘I’m an artist’ Adams adds not a lot to I Don’t Get It. If anything, the funereal Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I could Cry is even slower than the original album. Here, Ryan Adams’ mannered contribution makes me want to slap him.

This release is to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the original album and the Cowboy Junkies have not changed that much. A bluesy and slow Velvet Underground, only technique, not intention, has changed. Recorded simply, in five hours, this is not by any means essential but the DVD is a good watch and sent me back to my worn down cassette of the original. These are songs of the open road, loss and love. Lonely mouth organ, comforting guitar, stretched slow electric solos (ala Neil Young), sense of tradition, sense of modern alienation. The Cowboy Junkies are more a lifestyle than a band.

There is, of course, a ‘Making Of’ documentary but does anyone watch these through when they can go back to the main feature and listen to, say, their cover of Sweeet Jane, rolling gently on, tickled on the belly by electric guitar and stroked by Margo’s voice. The only special feature I wanted was the one that cuts out having to see Ryan ‘Onion Hair’ Adams playing all screwfaced!

Ross McGibbon