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Cowboy Junkies - At The End Of Paths Taken

Cowboy Junkies, At The End Of Paths Taken

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE latest album from Canada’s Cowboy Junkies is described as an intimate exploration of the complexities of personal family relationships in the volatile climate of our times.

Says writer, producer and guitarist Michael Timmins (one of three siblings in the band): “I rarely sit down with the objective of writing a set of songs based on a single theme. But this time I set out to write an album that dealt with “family” and all its complex relationships.

“As a parent of three young children and a son of aging parents, I have been intrigued by how the consequences of those relationships continue to echo down through generations. As the writing progressed, the songs began to pull into more complex directions.

“Family remained a dominant theme but events of the larger world and how those events affect family relationships began to creep into the songs… I’m not sure if it’s my age or the age that we live or both, but the songs began to hint at themes of inevitability and finality; not exactly pre-determination, but a sense of running out of choices, a sense of being at the end of paths taken.”

Sound deep? Melancholy even? You bet. And there’s a sense of self-importance floating throughout several of the tracks. This is a very serious album.

But there are moments to savour. Margo Timmins vocals are as haunting and delicious as ever, while some of the musical accompaniments (particularly the piano) offer a nice bedding to the reflective words.

Still Lost stands out early on – downbeat in outlook but beautifully constructed and achingly poignant in places. While some striking electric guitar enlivens Cutting Board Blues, a gutsy, PJ Harvey-influenced lament about the end of a relationship and a defiant sense of survival.

Someday Soon is another strong offering, and a duet to boot, that offers both an intelligent look at relationships and leader-figures, as well as a political commentary that speaks for the disillusionment that many feel with the world’s leaders and the current state of play.

And Blue Eyed Sailor, Mountain and My Only Guarantee bring the album to a suitably satisfying close. The former offering an enticing blend of country and alt-rock that hints at Fleetwood Mac, and the latter [My Only Guarantee] a beautifully haunting lament about a tragic character whose only guarantee is that “I will fuck you up”. The children’s chorus is an especially nice touch midway through.

Sadly, the rest of the album falls into a slightly repetitive habit of slow-building its songs and fails to capitvate in quite the same way. It has you reaching for the skip button on too many occasions and leads you down paths you may not always wish to go.

Download picks: Still Lost, Cutting Board Blues, Blue Eyed Saviour, Mountain, My Only Guarantee, Someday Soon

Track listing:

  1. Brand New World
  2. Still Lost
  3. Cutting Board Blues
  4. Spiral Down
  5. My Little Basquiat
  6. Someday Soon
  7. Follower 2
  8. It Doesn’t Really Matter Anyway
  9. Blue Eyed Saviour
  10. Mountain
  11. My Only Guarantee