Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cowboy Junkies at City Winery

Margo Timmins
When a band called Hunger Project fell apart in Toronto, Canada, guitarist Michael Timmins and bassist Alan Anton recruited Michael’s sister, singer Margo Timmins, and brother, drummer Peter Timmins. The quartet became Cowboy Junkies in 1985, combining folk and rock instrumentation with Margo's bluesy vocals. The band released 16 albums between 1986 and 2012 and had a platinum album in the United States in 1988. Cowboy Junkies released its most recent product. Notes Falling Slow, on October 30, 2015; it is a box set that contained re-mastered versions of three previously released albums and a fourth disc with new recordings of songs written during the making of the earlier albums.

For the three shows at the City Winery, Cowboy Junkies included multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird, who played acoustic and electric mandolins, harmonica, percussion, and samples. The musicians took to the dimly-lit stage and barely moved, with Margo's right arm leaning on her microphone stand for much of the set, obscuring her face from the audience. Generally soft music matched the somber mood, but occasionally spun into elegant, cutting guitar runs or harmonica riffs. While Margo's soulful singing was the center of gravity on every song, the instrumental breaks between her lyrics were more innovative, expansive and enchanting. Nonetheless, the tone retained a consistently passive tranquility, with this instrumentation sometimes injecting rolling waves of subtle intensity. If this was rock at all, it was alternative Mom-rock.

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