Reviews

Cowboy Junkies: Long Journey Home [DVD]

The Junkies have matured, and that's not a bad thing.


Cowboy Junkies

Long Journey Home

Distributor: Atlantic
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Live in Liverpool
Label: Zoe Records
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2006-10-24
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

We don't write the happiest songs in the world... like most Cowboy Junkies songs, if you're trying to find the happiness in them you gotta work at it. It's kind of like life that way.

— Margo Timmins

In 1989 I saw the Cowboy Junkies at a nightclub in Cleveland. They were touring behind their major label debut, The Trinity Session. I have recounted that concert experience to countless friends over the years: The audience was scattered throughout the tiny room -- sitting cross-legged on the small dance floor and at the tables scattered about the perimeter. When it was time for the Junkies to take the stage (a riser not more that a foot above the dance floor), a side table was brought out, a piece of lace and a vase of roses were placed on it, and a barstool set beside it. Margo Timmins shimmered in the smoky dim light. It was a moody evening -- in my mind there were candles on the stage, but I don't know that even then someone could get away with an open flame in that setting. Someone called out his love for her midway through the set -- we were all feeling that way. Obviously uncomfortable, she blushed. I think she gave the guy one of the roses from the stage.

Long Journey Home was recorded in 2004 at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in England. And it thrilled me to find the Cowboy Junkies taking to a dark and bare stage, with the exception of oriental rugs under the performers and a side table with flowers next to Margo. Now obviously comfortable with their place in the music world, the Junkies are old friends. And, in spite of falling off the wagon -- The Trinity Session is the only Junkies album that I regularly listen to -- I felt right at home when the concert captured here began.

What has changed in the subsequent years is the confidence of a band whose lineup has remained consistent. Where Margo would once demur, uncomfortable with her role in front, she is now visibly and audibly more sure of herself. She still hides under a barely-tamed mop of hair, but her vocals are much stronger than they were years ago. Her vocal work now includes scat singing which matches her brother Michael Timmins' guitar growth. Beautifully illustrated on Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues", the band peaks with Michael's orchestrated solos and the strong rhythm section of brother Peter Timmins and long-time friend Alan Anton. They are complemented by extended "family" members Jeff Bird and Jaro Czerwinec. Bird's harmonica and Czerwinec's stretching accordion work combine for a stirring intro to "I Don't Get It". The bluesy tempo is enough to get Margo off her stool and fires some animation in her delivery.

What makes a Junkies experience is the storytelling: It's a combination of the type of music they play, the songs they interpret, and Margo's snippet-sized intros to the performances. The introduction to "Sun Comes Up It's Tuesday Morning" begins with a truism of the Junkies approach: "This next song is about breaking up with somebody, and believe it or not it's the happiest song of our set this evening." Margo continues to frame the song perfectly with the back-story of the precise point in the breakup the song details. With that information, the richness of the story is even more beautiful. And when she tells the crowd simply: "This is off the new album [One Soul Now], it's called 'He Will Call You Baby', which isn't always a good thing," nothing more needs to be said, because that encapsulates everything the Junkies' world is about.

The strengths in this performance are the powerful Trinity Session opener and closer: Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" and the Junkies' own "Misguided Angel". Also providing weight are "'Cause Cheap is How I Feel", "200 More Miles", and Neil Young's "Helpless".

Pulling from roots rock, country, blues, and alt-rock, the Timmins siblings and Anton have never strayed far from their signature slow heartbeat pace. Their sound is as much a mood as it is a genre. Michael's songwriting has grown and matured from the simple nakedness of "I Don't Get It" to the middle-aged questioning of "The Slide".

There is a nice set of extras to complement the 18-song DVD. The soundcheck is interspersed with comments from the Junkies' production manager. The band is broken up into pairs for interview, "Mike & Margo", "Jaro & Jeff", and "Alan & Pete". Michael's comments offer a refreshingly pragmatic look into the business of music, which is interesting coming from the creative force behind the group. Jaro and Jeff are portrayed as likeable guys who enjoy what they do and appreciate their good fortune. Alan and Peter, on the other hand, come off a bit prickish, rarely giving interviewer Craig Ferguson a straight answer. Mastered in widescreen format and with a strong 5.1 surround option, the DVD is a moving, engaging letter from old friends. The other extra is the accompanying CD that pulls together 11 of the 18 live tracks found on the video portion, although in a different running order.

Long Journey Home is a time capsule for a band that seems to remain timeless. I fell in love with Margo Timmins 17 year ago. Now we're both older, and I've fallen all over again.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image