Cowboy aficionados have been known for over thirty years for their great songs and songs. Often quite dark and melancholic, she has a beautiful and warm voice of Margo Timmins. Their new album will be released in the spring, while their album “Songs of the Recollection” is coming out a few months ago. And in November, Canadians will also come to the Netherlands and Belgium for some concerts: “It’s going to be a deep catalog dive.”
It’s time to chat with a distant Toronto. Guitarist Michael Timmins is waiting on the other end of the phone line, representing the band, which could roughly be called a family bond with brother Peter and sister Margot, which Alan Anton completed. In addition to the announced tour, their latest album “Songs of the Recollection” is a great opportunity. An album with nine covers, literally from David Bowie to The Cure. “There are several ways to choose a cover. Honoring, for example, is a wonderful and direct occasion.” Their album “Demons” (2011) is popular, an ode to their friend and musical inspiration Vic Chesnutt. “The David Bowie cover on our album is from a show here in Toronto five years ago: ‘Death Heroes.’ We played with some local bands. Bowie just passed away a year later.” There are more natural causes for album covers. Neil Young’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” comes from a tribute to his 1971 album “Live at Massey Hall.” Bob Dylan’s “I Make Up My Mind (To Give Myself to You)” is a tribute to his birthday. “There always seems to be a reason to cover a song. But we pick most covers automatically. Just because we like them.”
According to Michael, there was no real master plan for “Songs of the Recollection”. “We got out of the pandemic, went on tour and worked on our own new songs. But we also wanted an album for that tour, as a kind of motivation.” It became nine songs for some of their favorite artists. “Some of the tracks were newly recorded, and some were collected from previous projects.” They started with twenty songs, “Then we started shaving until we got these nine, in that order.” Where a motive appeared, unintentionally and unexpectedly. Gradually we realized that songs and artists have a special meaning. For ourselves, as musicians, but as individuals as well. You have inspired us. Hence the title: “Songs of Memory”, Songs of Memory… Bob Dylan and Neil Young inspired us to become musicians first. They were that important to us. At the life stage when you started discovering the world, art and music for yourself.” But bands like The Cure also seem to have brought inspiration, as we witnessed the album’s closing. “Sure, that dark period, the early 80s.” Cowboy Junkies boldly chose the song “Seventeen Seconds,” And it’s the lead single from the 1980’s album Cure. This was also their single EP “Neath Your Covers” from 2004. “It’s really a great, mysterious song.” Sure she says too. Something by Vic Chesnutt on.” We already had a Demons album with his songs as a tribute. But “Marathon” was not in it. So now on our new album.”
The album also contains two completely different songs from Neil Young, “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and “Love in Mind”, intentionally placed one after the other and in the middle of the album. “We’ve been doing Neil Young songs for a long time, ‘Helpless’, ‘Powderfinger’, ‘Tired Eyes’, you name it. And now, ‘Don’t Let It Put You Down’, a really dark song. We recorded it once, during the Nomad series, but we We haven’t released it before. So it was about the time. I love the energy in the song.” It is in stark contrast to “Love In Mind”, one of the youngest’s most tender songs. “I don’t remember when we recorded it. It’s not even completely finished. Maybe not the best I’m known for, but I just love that song.”
Cowboy Assassin covers are carefully selected and tastefully arranged. However, there is always the comparison with the original. This is also the case with David Bowie’s first single, Five Years. “It comes from his Ziggy Stardust album, which is also a very important record for us. We showed it live and got good feedback from the audience. But putting it on the album is another matter. The song is really creative, so we wanted to be very careful with it. And I think we did. that “. Attention has also been paid to the aforementioned tribute to Vic Chesnut. “Vic was dead about a year ago, he died very early. He was 45 I think… We knew his fans were romantically attached to the originals. Some wondered why we wanted to cover Vic’s songs in the first place… Where did we get the right?” But many also knew that we were very close to Vic and understood why we wanted to pay tribute to him.” Michael looks very happy, 6,109 kilometers on the other side of the phone line. “Sometimes you just cover up your style and that’s it. But there are some songs by certain artists in a certain period where you have to be very careful with the original.” He sighs a little. “But our copy will always be placed next to the original. Perhaps that is exactly the challenge of doing that. We would never think we would do better either. Which is better? To Cowboy Junkies, this is the way to express themselves through someone else’s song. “This is totally different than just transcribing a song. And whether our cover is better than the original…” Michael laughs: “I like Bowie’s version better than ours. But maybe that’s the memory too. I was 13, and this song, that album You totally blew me away, you know.
In addition to the covers, we must, of course, not forget the songs of the Canadian quartet. It is often rather dark and sad. It’s usually not the joyous themes like fear, loss, and pain, but also social criticism. “That’s what you get when you listen to the artists and bands I just mentioned. Leonard Cohen is one of them. They are the foundation of our music as well as my lyrics. On top of that, let me draw inspiration from personal things, ordinary and small events.” With a natural change in focus over the years. “As you get older, you become more aware of the world around you, it affects you more. I’m 63 and in my twenties to thirties, I’ve been more focused on my inner world, on making music, making records, touring, ‘just gogogo'” Now I’ve been married for over thirty years, I have three children, and a house. You become part of the big world, whether you like it or not. The place you occupy, and how it affects you, is becoming increasingly important. I write about it more often now than I used to. Especially at this strange time, it is impossible to keep the Great World away.”
The new album with its own Cowboy Junkies songs is already ready and will delight the world in the spring of 2023. But before that we can already look forward to their arrival in our concert halls: November 4 in Luxor (Arnhem), November 5 in Oosterpoort (Groningen), November 6 In Bard (The Hague) and November 8 in Het Depot (Leuven). “Usually we play two groups in one night, we record three or four songs from Recollections. Plus, we draw from sixty more songs every night. From ‘Trinity Session’ and that period, but also from some of the lesser known songs.”
Cowboy Junkies’ business is extensive and spans more than thirty years. With both their own songs and carefully selected and performed covers, that demand to be brought straight into the spotlight once again. November is a chance to see and feel the result. “It would be a deep dive into the catalog.”