Albums Of The Week: Cowboy Junkies | Songs Of The Recollection

The Canadian indie-roots veterans put their own slow-burning spin on classics by Bowie, Neil, Bob, Gram, Vic — and plenty more — on their latest collection of covers.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Saying that Cowboy Junkies ‘cover’ songs doesn’t quite do them justice. Like greats from the classic pop era, the Junkies interpret the music of others. They embrace the songs, adapting them in their own style.

The band’s latest release Songs Of The Recollection finds the band as distinctive and individual as when they started. Long admired for their carefully chosen covers, the new album consists of nine songs by some of the band’s favorite artists. Some of the tracks are newly recorded, while some are collected from earlier projects. Listen to Songs Of The Recollection and you’ll hear works originally written and recorded by Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, The Cure, Gram Parsons, Vic Chesnutt, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie that the Junkies make their own — and make them sound perfectly natural beside each one another.

“Long before we were musicians, we were music fans,” says Michael Timmins. We didn’t grow up sitting around the kitchen table playing instruments and harmonizing. We grew up sitting around the record player listening to each other’s record collections and having our minds blown. This was the passion that we shared.”

Formed in Toronto in 1985, with siblings Michael Timmins on guitar, Margo Timmins on vocals, Peter Timmins on drums and Michael’s lifelong friend Alan Anton on bass, the band were an odd fit for the era. In the days of hair metal and rock bombast, the Junkies’ music seemed to spread like a whispered secret. Those who heard it never forgot it.

Photo by Heather Pollock.

In a way, Songs Of The Recollection takes the quartet back to its roots. While known primarily for their original songs, since the beginning Cowboy Junkies have offered up favorites by other artists. Except for one original and a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s State Trooper, the band’s 1986 debut album White Off Earth Now, was made up entirely of songs by great blues artists. When the Junkies broke through to the mainstream with the followup The Trinity Session, it was the group’s moody rendition of Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane that immediately caught the ears of college radio.

In the following years, the group included cover songs on nearly all of their releases, recorded an entire album of songs by the darkly evocative songwriting great Vic Chesnutt, and released two volumes of ’Neath Your Covers series, comprised of songs by other artists.

Cowboy Junkies have never had a breakup or had to take a hiatus because they couldn’t get along or got tired of each other. Instead of battling egos, the band appreciates what the other brings to the table. It’s not surprising that the band still appreciates what their favorite songwriters have to offer as well. “Our goal has always been to create music that took hold of the listener the way that this music took hold of us. These are some of the songs and some of the artists that found their way into our lives and eventually into our repertoire over the past 50 years,” says Michael Timmins.”