Interview

Cowboy Junkies Talk Exclusively Through New LP

Cowboy Junkies Talk Exclusively Through New LP

COWBOY JUNKIES
Their Trinity Sessions album is one of the early landmarks of what later became known as Americana and they are back with a new album, At The End Of Paths Taken. Songwriter and guitarist Michael Timmins takes uncut.co.uk on a track-by-track preview. . .

*****

BRAND NEW WORLD
“It’s rare that the first song I write for an album ends up actually being the first song on it, but this album kind of fell together like that. The album has a strong central theme running through it - family. The mundane-ness and complexities of the family dynamic, and how patterns in those relationships repeat themselves, how the outside world can cause havoc in those relationships, how the macro can suddenly cave in upon the micro. This song seemed to set up all of those themes, from the opening laundry list of basic responsibilities that most people in my circle carry with them (“Mouths to feed. Shoes to buy. Rent to pay. Tears to dry”) to the outrage, sense of helplessness and complex fears that accompany that list, expressed by the rampaging musical outro.”

STILL LOST
“This song could be about the micro or the macro but it is probably about both. Cycles and the repetitive nature of life come in to play on the verses (“Settling now, once again, what was begun will meet its end”). The chorus expresses the exasperation of being at the end of a path taken and steadfastly journeyed upon, yet still finding oneself lost. This song went through three or four musical incarnations before we found its form in a simple arrangement gathered around an acoustic guitar groove.”

CUTTING BOARD BLUES
“We mixed this one to emphasize the trio; drums panned to the left, guitar panned to the right, bass and vocals up the middle….old style. The lyric hints at our species’ seeming inability to see beyond the next door.”

SPIRAL DOWN
“There comes a moment when one suddenly notices that one’s parents have grown old. Next comes the realization that, one day, they will die.”

MY LITTLE BASQUIAT
“Every parent looks upon their children, sees the potential, and fears the worst. This song was built around the bass groove, but we took the arrangement in many directions as we were developing it. Ultimately we stripped it back to the bare bones and let the drums and bass carry the vocal, with a few sprinklings of keyboard and unidentifiable spacey bits and pieces added for atmosphere. The guitar solo is one of my proudest moments - I feel like it captures the anxiety of parenthood!”

SOMEDAY SOON
“Margo [Timmins, CJ vocalist, Michael’s sister] and I call this our Donny and Marie moment - it just seemed right to record it as a duet. For the lyric to work there was a need for the vocal to be casual and tossed- off.”

FOLLOWER 2
“This song was inspired by the Seamus Heaney poem ‘Follower’ and is the centre-piece of the ‘family’ theme. It explores the relationship between father and son, the repetitive patterns of that relationship and how the lines that separate father and son begin to blur over time. We experimented with a lot of string arrangements on this album. The strings were arranged by Henry Kucharzyk (a friend and respected modern music composer). This arrangement is my favourite.”

IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER ANYWAY
“Another song which was built around a bass groove. A song about communication (or the lack of it). This is what’s at the heart of all our troubles (on every level one can imagine).”

BLUE EYED SAVIOUR
“This song went through many arrangements, but we ended up by going back to one of the first recordings that we made it and using it as the bed track. It’s about the fear of loss, the fear of the outside world reaching in and stealing that which is dearest.”

MOUNTAIN
“From its inception this song was meant to be a sound collage. We started with the bass and drum groove and just built around it. The narration is by my father who is reading from an autobiography that he had just completed. It was one of the last pieces that we added and it seemed to be the perfect texture as well as fitting in with the album’s lyrical themes. Margo’s repetitive exhortation, ‘How’d this mountain get so high’, is a simple refrain expressed, in some manner, by each of us, almost every day of our adult lives.”

MY ONLY GUARANTEE
“This was always slated to be the last song on the album. It serves as the epilogue. It is, in part, inspired by the infamous Philip Larkin poem ‘This Be The Verse’ and, in part, by real life. A conclusion that my wife and I came to many years ago was that it was important for us to be the best parents that we could possibly be, but it was also important for us to recognize that no matter how hard we tried we were doomed/destined/predetermined to fuck up our children.”

Interview by Chris Roberts

At the End Of paths Taken is released by Cooking Vinyl on April 9 2007.


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