Cowboy Junkies released their first studio recording of original material in three years on April 17th. The central theme of At The End Of Paths Taken
is family. The lyrics express the bliss and turmoil that goes on within familial relationships, as well as how the outside world affects the dynamic between generations. I’ve been a Cowboy Junkies fan for most of their professional career, and I’ve seen the band perform at Mountain Stage
twice in the past decade. Though the Junkies are popular in certain circles, their unique combination of hippie folk, guitar rock, and haunting blues hasn’t exactly made them household names. Yet.
“Brand New World”, which slides a nice strong beat beneath the languid vocals of Margo Timmons, features an intricate string arrangement by Canadian composer Henry Kucharzyk. Kucharzyk also composed the lovely string arrangement of “Spiral Down”.
The guitars of “Cutting Board Blues” churn and grind the blues in between. If you thought the Junkies were getting softer as they age, this track proves there’s still plenty of thunder in their music. And “My Little Basquiat” better showcases the richness Margo’s drowsy voice by delving back into the band’s darker side.
“Still Lost” blends muffled piano with acoustics. The track’s lyrics – which deal with parents sending their children out into the big scary world – give the album its title. The lyrics of “Blue Eyed Saviour” also touch on the anxiety that comes from a freshly emptied nest and were partially inspired by the book The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.
The spooky epic “Mountain” splices Margo’s somnolent voice with a recording of her aviation salesman father reading from his autobiographical book. “Follower 2” was inspired by a Seamus Heaney poem, and the closing track was also inspired by a poem – Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”. “My Only Guarantee” looks at the damage even the best of parents do to their children.
At The End Of Paths Taken doesn’t capture the pretty romanticism of Lay It Down, or conjure a mesmerizing spell like Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, or even drive down the panoramic path of Miles From Home. But what it does do is show a great deal of growth and maturity from a band that has yet to receive the full amount of attention it deserves.
I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples from the album at MySpace.
Cowboy Junkies Official Site
Buy the CD