The Cowboy Junkies Review - At the Old Town School of Folk Music

The Cowboy Junkies: Alan Anton, Peter Timmins, Margo Timmins, and Michael Timmins

My teenage self was not quite mature enough to appreciate the Cowboy Junkies when they invaded MTV in the late 1980s with The Trinity Session.  Consisting of three Timmins siblings and a bassist named Alan Anton, they embodied everything that MTV was not; intelligent song lyrics, subtle and soulful rhythms, and a big mournful voice capable of summoning up lost love at a moment’s notice.  To be honest, I lacked the experience needed to truly enjoy their music.  Also their videos were too “artsy” for my tastes (and by artsy I mean they lacked scantly clad women gyrating on poles).  For similar reasons, I also had little use for U2, Lou Reed, and a host of other artists that valued intellect over hormones.  But that was then and this is now and I was eager to catch up with them last Friday at the Old Town School of Folk Music for the first of two back to back shows.

Alan Anton on bass

I am happy to report that the Cowboy Junkies are alive and doing well.  Margo Timmins is still at vocals and continues to share the stage with her two brothers (Michael Timmins on guitar and Peter Timmins on drums) as well as Alan Anton on bass.  Although not officially in the band, Jeff Bird has played various instruments for them both in studio and in concert for some time.   Although no album put out by the Cowboy Junkies has come close to duplicating the success of The Trinity Session, they continue to tour, record in the studio, and produce other artists.  Along the way they have earned a reputation for making music on their terms.  They are also not known as the most uplifting of bands (early in the night, Margo told the audience “Since you’re here tonight I am assuming you like sad songs.”)  The Cowboy Junkies like to keep it honest too and last Friday did not hold back when talking about some of the miles under their feet.  At one point Margo even gave a little sigh at the thought of doing it all over again for the ten o’clock show.

Margo Timmins (vocals)

Maybe it was the Canadian in her, but I was surprised by how apologetic Margo was to the audience for her promotion of their four disk Nomad Series at the expense of more familiar hits.  No apology was needed as this music haunted and filled every crevice of the Old Town venue.  Seductive songs such as West of Rome offered such delightfully gloomy lyrics as “brushing his teeth and milking his ulcer” while their closing song (also off the Nomad Series) gleefully stated “maybe I’m just getting old, cause, fuck, I hate the cold.”  Still the crowd seemed to take Margo’s cue and did not fully commit to the music until the Cowboy Junkies lit into Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane.  Ah, Sweet Jane, one thinks that Lou Reed wishes he had the power of Margo’s voice. 

On Stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music

Both the crowd and the band seemed appreciative of this shift to the more familiar and there was a marked increase in energy for both.  The Cowboy Junkies closed their set with such gems as Misguided Angels, A Common Disaster, and the afore mentioned, Fuck, I Hate The Cold.  Also greatly applauded was Anniversary Song and Wrong Piano.  If I was not a big fan of the Cowboy Junkies before, I am now.  With the soul of a cowboy and the need of a junkie, they left their mark on the night. 

Michael Timmins on guitar

For information on future concerts at the Old Town School of Folk Music click here:

To follow the Cowboy Junkies on their tour or to purchase music, click here:

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Top photo provided by The Old Town School of Folk Music; all other photos taken by Noel Schecter

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