The Wilderness is the fourth of four albums Canadian band, the Cowboy Junkies set out to record in the Nomad Series, it follows on from Sing In My Meadow (Vol, 3), last year’s Demons (Vol, 2; that was made up entirely songs by the late Vic Chesnutt) and the record that started it away 18 moths ago, Renmin Park. Formed in Toronto in 1985 the band is made up of siblings Michael (guitar), Margo and Peter Timmins (drums) plus Alan Anton (bass) and are a little left field. But, still stylish as folk, pop, rock, country and blues are beautifully woven in an often seamless (and melancholy) fashion. Margo’s vocals have many virtues as they seep into the listener’s subconscious in a beguiling cult-like fashion. For though their music could be termed, contemporary their sound hasn’t succumbed to popular fads or veered away from their roots to become tarnished.
Michael’s finely tuned songs enjoy additional electric, acoustic mandolin (Jeff Bird), Wurlitzer, piano, organ, bowed bass, drums, backing vocals (Joby Baker), violin (Miranda Mulholland), vibraphone (Michael Davidson), organ, piano, Wurlitzer (Jesse O’Brian) and electric guitar (Matt Bailey). Though the above is quite a list, the support is little other than minimal and mindful not to crowd Margo's wistful lead vocals on the likes of ‘Staring Man’, ‘Idle Tales’ and ‘I Let Him In’ are a mite dreamy as she reflects on the past. Her gentle promptings are so smoothing that once heard they tebd to become captivating as she speaks of sorrow, heartache, healing of time and sweet, sweet memories (‘The Confessions Of Georgie E’) or how one can become detached from life (‘Angles In The Wilderness’). ‘Staring Man’ is undoubtedly a big song, possibly the one that pulls on the emotion of the band, most. I would go as far to say, if you have yet to become a CJ convert this song has every aspect of their music to clinch it. It is so beautiful and tranquil. It is one of those songs where instantly, I hit the repeat button such is the grace of violin, acoustic guitar and Margo’s voice.
Propelled by chunky electric guitar and a fine groove the closing track ‘F**k, I Hate the Cold’ is an outstanding piece and contains the right amount of attitude and is easily the most urgent track and one of the finest cuts on the album. That is if you aren’t a cast in stone lover of, the slow, entangled emotion-torn ballads. That are so wonderfully performed by Margo on the remaining nine songs. If you are already a fan of the Cowboy Junkies chances are you have already bought the album as for the rest of you, give them a listen when you have a peaceful moment and you could well be surprised.
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