Cowboy Junkies ride onWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
A soft-spoken singer, a polite band rehearsing at night, members drawing on jazz and blues influences — that’s how the melancholy, languid sound of Cowboy Junkies happened.
“I’m a quiet person and in those early, early days, I was very reluctant to sing,” Margo Timmins recalled. “I was really intimidated and very shy, so I didn’t sing loud; I just put my head down and mumbled.
“So in order for the boys to hear me over their loud instruments, they had to turn them down. And we practiced in a garage in a very crowded downtown neighborhood, and we played all night, so we didn’t want to disturb neighbors, so that also kept the volume down.”
Timmins, her brothers guitarist Michael Timmins and drummer Peter Timmins, and bassist Alan Anton were into punk music prior to forming the group in Toronto in 1985.
“Then we discovered jazz and blues, and we were in that blues period. The music we were listening to was on the quieter side and had a lot of space and open tunings,” she said. “All those things came together to form a sound.”
That sound won both fans and critical acclaim in 1988 with “The Trinity Session,” which included a cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.”
Cowboy Junkies continued to create music, charting with “A Common Disaster,” “Angel Mine,” “Anniversary Song” and “Miles From Our Home.”
From 2010-12, the alternative quartet released a four-disc collection called “The Nomad Series.” The most recent CD was titled “The Wilderness.”
“‘The Wilderness’ is purely Cowboy Junkies,” Margo said during a call from her Toronto home. “It’s a collection of very soft and pretty songs, obviously not happy songs, but pretty ones.”
There is a funny track: “F***, I Hate the Cold.”
“It’s the last song. I love that way to end it: OK, this is really how we feel,” she said and laughed. “And it’s always fun to sing. The last time we did it we were up in Alaska, so they were hootin’ and hollerin’ because they have cold.”
The group is featured on “The Kennedy Suite” due out next month.
“The best way to describe it is a rock opera. It takes you through the whole Kennedy assassination period, and each song is sung by a different Canadian singer,” Margo said.
“Disintegrating” is the name of the song by Cowboy Junkies.
“My song is Jackie’s song and she is sitting on Air Force One taking her husband’s body back from Dallas to Washington,” Margo said. “The song is what you suppose is going on inside her head as she’s sitting on that airplane and thoughts swirling around in her brain, everything she thinks from ‘When I saw you waving at that girl I hated you at that moment and I wished you were dead,’ and ‘Now that’s when it happened, did I make this happen?’
“Horrible thoughts to ‘My sleeve on this dress is tight, the plane engines are making me crazy’ to ‘I heard an aide suggest there’s a plan afoot, maybe the bullet was meant for me,’” she said.
“It’s a sad song that’s beautifully written, and I think it really takes you into her head as a young wife, a young woman, who just witnessed a very violent, horrible thing, not to just anybody, but to her husband.”
Cowboy Junkies will play that new song in Ann Arbor at The Ark’s fall fundraiser concert at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3. The show is sold out.