Cowboy Junkies - Early 21st Century Blues
Ok, this isn't the review i thought i was going to write. the review i thought i was going to write was a glowing reverie of all my moments with and around the cowboy junkies, their music, their shows, and my eternal love for margo. this ain't that.
welp... i picked up a tammy wynette album, and realized that the majority of the last few years of junkies albums just didn't compare. not that i've listened to them all... i couldn't stand to... in fact... i haven't bought a cowboy junkies album since 'pale horse, crescent moon'. only... i never gave up hope.... i still haven't.... but i sure don't want to listen to 'early 21st centry blues' very much. the songwriting is strong, the musicianship and vocals are powerful, but somehow... the soul isn't there anymore.... i go back to her early albums.... and know plain and simple... that her heart is in the music.... that it touches her.... that she feels for the people she's singing about or as. tammy wynette is the one who clued me into it.... i heard her belt out'til i got it right... and her soul was torn through the song and her love was swelling out of it. margo doesn't sound like she gives a fuck.... not that she isn't a naturally kind person... not that she doesn't have a strong personal emotional sense.... but it doesn't connect with michael's songwriting anymore. not that his songwriting isn't great.... not that the covers they choose on this album aren't devoted to the craft of songwriting... not that the peace/anti-war/protest thing they're doing isn't heartfelt... but it still fucking sucks... not that you could tell... the craftsmanship is inexorable.
Look. I love the cowboy junkies.... i've listened to the trinity sessions over 500 times... i've listened to at least 4 of their other albums more then half that much.... but still.... i can't say i enjoy where they've gone with their music. Here's what i think it is.... margo was younger... she was more emotionally connected with the torch songs she was singing.... but she also was in touch enough with herself to know that she wasn't all about torch songs. I don't blame her.... torch songs take a certain destroyed passion... a love that's been tossed in the crapper.... and that ain't her.... at least i don't think it is.... maybe as a kid she had the rotten relationships we all sometimes have when we're kids. She needed a more mature framework for her music though.... and the critical acclaim at 'powderfinger' kind of clicked with her... her and michael started doing tunes that were like isolato-culturalmisfit-destroyedpeople.... but they were people that weren't her... or him. and she? completely stopped writing songs... which was a major blow to her musicianship in my opinion.... it takes a very rare angel who can sing other people's songs... no matter how much she loves the person whose songs she is singing. maybe they're giving up too much for the fans... maybe they're playing to us too much... maybe they just plain are out of touch with themselves.... but the persona they put across seems fairly well grounded... and that's tough to fake.
now. there are moments of true beauty in this album.... the refrain 'time to kill our children... and sing about it' lingers on in my mind even when i put this album down. i dunno though.... i just think that margo should be more connected to her music... it'd pour out of her instead of feeling like a reading then. i guess it's kind of like art.... when you're pouring out your soul on your medium... it shows... no aficionado of art can compare in their collection of art... even if it fits their soul. ok... i take that back.... there is an art to life... and there is an art to selecting music... as folks as diverse as britney, al green, marvin gaye, tammy wynette, and margo/the junkies have demonstrated... shit... even dylan drops the occasional cover on his albums.... but whatever they are doing now... they were doing better early on. sometimes though... that's part of evolution... your roots are still there... the things you were doing right at the beginning are still part of your soul.... but the natural simplicity of your beginnings needs to be filtered through the complexity of life. two examples in modern filmmaking.... lucas' star wars series.... and robert rodriguez both come to mind.... lucas was fumbling a lil' in return of the jedi, the phantom menace, and attack of the clones... but in revenge of the sith... he brought back the heroism that had escaped him in the storytelling.... tell me you didn't feel the rush of artoo's heroism as he fucked the destroyer bots with the oil slick thing.... he also brought together the sorrow that had been haunting his films since return of the jedi... the sorrow of the loss of luke's father... the sorrow of the loss of anakin's mother.... the sorrow of the loss of peace... the heroism of artoo stood like a gem of joy in a ring of sorrow. rodriguez... his hardboiled style was effaced in the craft of filmmaking in the sequels to el mariachi... but it came right back in sin city... and is enhanced by the filmmaking chops he has built from his early shoestring budget potboiler. in this album? i think that the junkies are close.... the musicianship that has always been there has grown stronger.... and margo is feeling her way out of her brother's songs.... but i don't think she's really pouring her heart out the way she did in misguided angel, baby, please don't go, to love is to bury, and walkin' after midnight. maybe she will again... maybe she'll pour herself into the craft of writing again.... maybe she'll tell her brother what she wants to sing... maybe she'll dig deep into the songs that make her heart break. i hope so....
once... i nearly killed myself to a cowboy junkies album... i was depressed over some stupid girlfriend who i fucking loved more then i could tell. i went out into the garage.... layed out towels to seal the cracks... and started the engine.... then i put 'the trinity sessions' into the tape deck. 3, 4 songs play... i'm laying there in the driver's seat miserable as fuck... and a wordless sense of 'this is so fucking stupid' fills me... i turn the car off... and stumble inside. narcosis in my limbs... i ache for about 40 minutes... later... i go to work. why does that matter? dunno... but her album moved me enough to take into that hell. i bet i'm not the only one who has a story like that... and maybe? it was too much for margo... maybe she had to move away from that emotional wrenching... maybe she needed to escape from the total adulation that i know she's had to face. maybe she's hiding behind the music rather then put herself out there like that. i don't know. i hope she comes back though. i miss her.