The Cowboy Junkies have never been big on media hype. Perhaps this is the reason mainstream radio is still only playing “Sweet Jane” from their 1988 disc The Trinity Sessions. It has been word of mouth that has built the Junkies loyal fan base and they wouldn’t have it any other way. This year marks their twentieth anniversary of recording and once again they are sneaking out an album, At the End of Paths Taken, which is a departure from their proven formula.
Margo’s languid vocals and heroin chic tempos are still the cornerstone of their distinct sound but the band flexes their creative muscle and incorporates a yearning string sextet to the mix giving the uncomplicated songs such as “Brand New World”, “Follower 2” and “Spiral Down” a grand orchestral makeover. The infamous lethargic Cowboy Junkies sound rears it’s beautifully relaxed head as they reprieve the darkness of their 2001 Open recording on a couple tracks. With distorted guitars and menacing bass-lines, “Cutting Board Blues” and “My Little Basquiat” are slow-burning bluesy tunes which each hold the same brooding vibe as “Dragging Hook.”
Throughout the epic sounding “Mountain,” Margo and Michael’s father John A. Timmins reads from his book “I Don’t Know Where I Am But I’m Making Good Time” which sounds strangely reminiscent of Poe’s 2001 disc Haunted. Bringing guest musicians in is nothing new for the band and besides the strings they use electric mandolin, piano, and digital kalimba, which gives the new songs a full and robust aroma. With self-penned originals about human connections, family and sustaining relationships, At the End of Paths Taken is lyrically a classic Cowboy Junkies album.
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