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


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.