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Members include Alan Anton (born on June 22, 1959; married), bass; and siblings Margo Timmins (born on January 27, 1961; married), vocals; Michael Timmins (born on April 21, 1959), guitar; Peter Timmins (born c. 1966), drums. Addresses: Website--Cowboy Junkies Official Website: http://www.cowboyjunkies.com.
The Cowboy Junkies were described as ``country music subversives'' in People after their album The Trinity Session began to attract widespread attention. The Canada-based band is composed of Michael, Peter, and Margo Timmins (who are siblings), and Alan Anton. Their stark, slow, haunting brand of country and blues has proved popular with fans and mystified critics. After asserting that ``mystery'' had long been missing from country music, Time reviewer Jay Cocks proclaimed that ``that is precisely what the Cowboy Junkies offer.'' The Trinity Sessionspawned the hit ``Misguided Angel,'' and also contained re-workings of country classics such as ``I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry'' and ``Walking After Midnight.'' The albums Lay it Down, Miles from Home, and Open remained true to the group's heartfelt lyricals and slower tempos.
The roots of the Cowboy Junkies as a band lie in the experiences of Michael Timmins, the eldest of the siblings, and Alan Anton. Friends since their early childhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the two formed their first band in high school. When they became adults, they moved with a band called The Hunger Project to New York City to try their musical skills. At this time, Timmins and Anton were primarily interested in performing punk; as Cocks reported, ``they tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to make a living playing adaptations of the kind of fierce rock that was then coming out of England.'' Undaunted, the duo decided to offer their wares in England itself, forming with others a band called Germinal in which all the members played whatever they wished on their instruments at the same time. As the pair told Cocks: ``It was the ultimate release for us. But for the audience, it was quite a chore.'' Eventually, however, Timmins and Anton came to feel that the English were not receptive to their work, and returned to Toronto.
There, Michael Timmins began working on new music with his brother Peter. Anton joined them, and Margo Timmins--who had worked previously as a social worker--was invited to provide vocals. Around the same time, the newly formed group toured the southern United States, and were inspired by the country music they heard there. In 1986 they independently recorded an album entitled Whites Off Earth Now! Despite having to distribute it themselves, the Cowboy Junkies sold four thousand copies of the disc, and began to establish something of a cult following in Toronto. But, of course, the band's big break came when they signed with RCA Records and released The Trinity Session in 1988.
That album takes its name from the fact that it was recorded in Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity for a very low cost using only one microphone. This spare recording style plays a large part in the acclaimed starkness of The Trinity Session, but so do Margo Timmins's ``soft, haunting vocals,'' which People claimed ``lend a distinctive dash of angst to the Junkies' country sound.'' Some critics, however, were uncomfortable with the band's low-key approach to the material on Trinity Session, and even found it dull; Alanna Nash of Stereo Review lamented that ``when I listened attentively, the hour seemed to stretch into weeks, the weeks into months.'' But Anthony DeCurtis in Rolling Stone declared that "The Trinity Session is in the great tradition of albums that establish a mood and sustain it so consistently that the entire record seems like one continuously unfolding song.'' One of the cuts from Trinity Session, ``Misguided Angel,'' received a great deal of airplay on the music video channels, and helped boost sales, but critics tended to single out other songs for praise, such as the remake of Lou Reed's ``Sweet Jane.'' Cocks revealed that ``I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry'' ``hasn't sounded so desolate since [country pioneer] Hank Williams'' recorded it. And, after first citing the soulfulness of the late Patsy Cline's rendition of ``Walking After Midnight,'' Cocks conjectured that ``in the false lull of Margo Timmins' lovely voice and measured phrasing there is the suggestion that whoever's up after midnight may be not only walking, but stalking.'' But on the subject of the dark tone of their musical interpretation, Michael Timmins reassured People: ``No, we are not depressed, or melancholy or any of those things. We don't consider the music sad, just heartfelt. To us, it's very strange when people come up to us and say, `You must be so depressed.'''
In 1990 the Cowboy Junkies released the follow-up to The Trinity Session entitled The Caution Horses. The latter album was originally to be called Sharon, but according to Rolling Stone, the band became bored with some of the songs, decided to abandon them for other cuts, and rerecord the disc under a new name. The first single from The Caution Horses was ``Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning.'' The Caution Horses did not receive as much publicity as the band's previous album, but the Cowboy Junkies still retained a sizable following. The loyalty of their fans helped launch the 1992 record Black-Eyed Man, featuring "A Horse in the Country," "Southern Rain," "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man," and the 1993 album, Pale Sun, Crescent Moon.
According to Billboard,the Cowboy Junkies 1996 release, Lay it Down "remains true to the band's minimalist country/blues approach, the ... release's most noticeable aspects are its starkness and tight interplay between vocalist Margo Timmins, guitarist Michael Timmins, drummer Peter Timmins and bassist Alan Anton." Miles from Our Home, the Cowboy Junkies' 1998 record, is "simply a solid album from a reliable band," says All Music Guide writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine.
In 2000, after leaving Geffen Records, the Cowboy Junkies released Waltz Across America. This live recording sold exclusively on the Internet under the bands independent label, Latent Recordings. Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes, released in 1999, began as an Internet venture as well, until Toronto's True North Records placed the album on Canadian record store shelves. Open, the Cowboy Junkies' 2001 release, according to Kelly McCartney of All Music Guide, is "full of wonder and romance, fear and passion," offering tracks like "Thousand Year Prayer" and "I'm So Open." Guitar Player suggests Open" is like an Orson Wells movie set to music." The band released Open Road,a three-hour DVD documenting the band's Open tour and a bonus CD containing live material, in 2002.
by Elizabeth Thomas
Cowboy Junkies's Career
Group formed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1985; played in several unsuccessful bands in England and released the independent Whites Off Earth Now! before signing with RCA Records; released The Trinity Session, 1988; released several albums during the 1990s, including The Caution Horses, 1990, Black-Eyed Man, 1992, Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, 1993, Lay It Down, 1996, and Miles from Our Home, 1998; released Open, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Whites Off Earth Now! , independent release, 1986.
- The Trinity Session RCA, 1988.
- The Caution Horses RCA, 1990.
- Black-Eyed Man RCA, 1992.
- Pale Sun, Crescent Moon RCA, 1993.
- Lay It Down , Geffen, 1996.
- Miles from Our Home Geffen, 1998.
- Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes Valley, 1999.
- Waltz Across America (live), Latent, 2000.
- Open Zoe, 2001.
June 2004: Cowboy Junkies joined Clear Channel Broadcasting's Instant Live program, which arranges the sale of live concert recordings immediately following a performance. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, June 28, 2004.
August 16, 2005: Cowboy Junkies' album, Early 21st Century Blues, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, August 18, 2005.
- Audio, May 1989.
- Billboard, January 20, 1996.
- Guitar Player, August 2001.
- Maclean's, April 17, 1989.
- People, December 19, 1988; May 8, 1989.
- Rolling Stone, February 9, 1989; December 14, 1989; February 22, 1990.
- Stereo Review, April 1989.
- Time, December 5, 1988.
- "The Cowboy Junkies," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 2, 2002).
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