Record Review - 7 July 08 2004

Toronto’s Cowboy Junkies live in an insular world. It’s a place unsullied by pop hits, glossy productions, rock and roll or commercial considerations. Life is lived at an unhurried pace devoid of deadlines and the fast-food rush of urban life. It is somewhere Margo Timmins’ gorgeous voice can extend words and stretch sentences emphasizing the languorous, eerie mood of brother Michael’s atmospheric songs without worrying about a hit single or flashy video.

This is nothing new to established Cowboy Junkies fans, of course. On their ninth album in a remarkably consistent 18-year career, the Junkies leisurely unspool another 10 tracks that hover, float and occasionally sting, disconnected from anything else in contemporary pop.

Seldom has a guitarist/songwriter explored the sinister, edgy side of country and played as menacingly as Timmins’ on the slow burn of “From Hunting Ground to City,” the most threatening slice of churning guitar-borne paranoia since Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.” Wrapping his gnarled guitar around Margo’s honeyed voice, Michael locks the creeping intensity of “He Will Call You Baby” into a dark, oozing groove that sounds like a killer painstakingly stalking his victim down a rain swept back street.

The accompanying limited edition five-song EP, ‘Neath Your Covers, refines the process. It successfully refracts eclectic covers from likely sources such as Townes Van Zant and Young, as well as more oblique ones like the Cure and the Youngbloods, through the morphine-injected, beautiful/frightening Junkie aesthetic.

Cowboy Junkies play the Atlanta Botanical Garden Wed., July 14, 8 p.m. $30.