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Cowboy Junkies
All That Reckoning Julian Marszalek , July 24th, 2018 14:52

Three decades since The Trinity Session, Cowboy Junkies are still producing music that ranks among their very best

The obvious response to the 30th anniversary of the release of Cowboy Junkies’ still-mesmerizing milestone The Trinity Session would have been for them to repeat 2007’s Trinity Revisited, this time with a remastered package and a series of gigs with the record played in full. Instead, this wonderfully idiosyncratic band has elected to move always-forward with an album that’s every bit as wonderful as the collection that first brought them to our attention.

All That Reckoning is an album that more than lives up to its title, for here Cowboy Junkies take stock of the political, social and personal situations that add up to that great big thing called life in the 21st century. It’s all here as relationships within the context of love are juxtaposed against the result of hate and anger aimed at those we’ve never met, while nation states go through a form of deep, existential analysis and examination.

And through it all is Cowboy Junkies’ trademark sound of stark and often fragile roots music that’s frequently bolstered through a prism of discordant noise that reaches out towards the blurred yet kaleidoscopic vision of psychedelia. Expertly and deftly delivered with a combination of subtlety and harsh surprises, this is a band that has lost none of its ability to beguile.

At the centre of it all is Margo Timmins’ ever-stunning voice, here infused with the weight of life and experience. Straddling sensuality and betrayal, it’s impossible not to sit up and take notice as she sings, “I’d wake with my heart so full of you/And then I found this bed was poison” on opener ‘All That Reckoning (Part 1)’. And when she welcomes us to “the world of dissolution” on ‘When We Arrive’, there can be little mistaking where this album is headed.

The playing by guitarist Michael Timmins, drumming brother Peter and bassist Alan Anton is exquisite throughout as it rises from a whisper to a scream and then back again. In tandem with Margo’s haunting voice, songs such as ‘Shining Teeth’ are imbued with a tenderness and tension that should be at sharp odds with each other, yet instead compliment and blend into a unified whole.

Credit must be given to their guest musicians, too, most notably Bill Dillon’s guitar work on the stunning ‘Missing Children (The Tyger)’. His instrument is a snarling beast that, in lesser or more excitable hands, would overwhelm and dominate but here, kept in a tight leash, stands guard over William Blake’s source material.

That Cowboy Junkies are still making music this far down the line is to be applauded. That it ranks with the very best of their material deserves nothing less than an ovation.