June 23, 2024

Cowboy Junkies – “All That Reckoning” continues an honest, human and affecting career

PROPER RECORDS 13th July 2018

It’s been a long journey for this family band, the Timmin’s travelling troupe. Forging their own path from a unique idea, a bluesy, Velvet Underground-flavoured interpretaion of what would come to be known as Americana. Slow, deep and rich slices of North American life. From their first album in 1986, to here is an exercise in maintaining a sense of who they are. With a recent exercise in writing to order – forging albums around a residency in China, cover versions, winter and paintings – they are revitalised. Their path has been remarkably consistent in tone and in maintaining an honourable stance in a venal music business.

This is a really slow builder and takes a few listens to shine. But when it does, it is as strong as earlier efforts like Pale Sun, Crescent Moon. The sound is one of the glorious honeyed and earthern tonnes of Margo Timmins, underpinned with the burbling low bass of Alan Anton, steady simple drums of Peter Timmins and occasional stabs of guitar from Michael Timmins. It’s a bluesy, rootsy sound whilst retaining the low and gritty vibe of Lou Reed’s better moments.

All That Reckoning (Part 1) remembers warmly sleeping together and is sung with typical slow regret. The Things We Do To Each Other reminds us “you can control hate, but only for so long” while Wooden Stairs is slow and atmospheric. Close-miked guitar lets us hear the strings scratching. Sing Me A Song introduces heavy crunchy electric guitar. Delicious slow solos recall fellow-Canadian, Neil Young as the song decries modern North America.

The dreamy drifting Mountain Stream precedes more crunching riffs in Missing Children. Angry vocals (or as angry as the Cowboy Junkies get – more like firm) insist on proper actions. There are many quotes from William Blake’s Tyger, Tyger and is powerfully effective. Shining Teeth is a standout – “don’t want to see your shining teeth – share with me the wounds that still haunt you”. The smoky voice captivates and is viscerally comforting within this vignette of another life. All That Reckoning (Part 2) is the Cowboy Junkies many will recognise from earlier albums. A strong sound of country blues on a rising bass figure. Margo’s voice, stately and strong amongst dual guitar work. Then they calm us back down with a gentle mandolin ballad.

All That Reckoning is another episode in a long and consistent career. A career that owes little to other influences and is possessed of a rare integrity and consistency.

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