Pale Sun, Crescent Moon
"The general theme of our new album," says Margo Timmins, the lead singer of Cowboy Junkies, "is that there is love and there is all that conspires to steal love away."
Again sifting through the confusion and controversy in any relationship, Cowboy Junkies revel in the darker aspects of love through the lyrics of Michael Timmins and the impassioned voice of his sister Margo on PALE SUN, CRESENT MOON on RCA Records. With moments of lovelorn grace and miser woven throughout the textures of this, the band's fifth album, the songs are ruggedly beautiful. Cowboy Junkies evoke the desperate thoughts of the lonely and the lost. Not that this album has turned away from the more hopeful aspects that made 1992's Black Eyed Man more a celebration of love than a nerve-wracked look at matters of the heart. Rather, PALE SUN, CRESENT MOON is stark and realistic, dealing with the kind of love you find around your kitchen table - the kind that has been built up and has been worked on - as well as the feelings of fear and loss that is inherent in all great loves.
"Leaving the country mood of Black Eyed Man behind for more of an edge, PALE SUN, CRESENT MOON marries the band's harder, more guitar-driven approach and the soft, haunting quality of The Trinity Session (1988), the breakthrough album that established Cowboy Junkies as one of the most promising bands of the decade. Again playing with a rougher psychedelic bent ("Pale Sun," "Hunted," the Dinsaur Jr/J Mascis penned "The Post") and a more bluesy sway ("Floorboard Blues," "Seven Years"), Cowboy Junkies create mystery in their rock 'n' roll sound and vision.
Cowboy Junkies first came to national attention with the release of the band's second album, The Trinity Session, which included the hypnotic cover, "Sweet Jane." Encompassing classics like Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and their own "Misguided Angel," The Trinity Session was one of the artistic successes of that year for any new band. The worldwide re-release of Cowboy Junkies' impressive debut, Whites Off Earth Now (1986/1990) - which features covers of artists like Robert Johnson, Bukka White and Lightnin' Hopkins - only increased the international buzz over the band. The long-awaited The Caution Horses (1990) established Michael as the main songwriter of the group, and the pairing of his arrangements and poetry and Margo's ethereal soprano was sheer magic. More than anything, The Caution Horses set the stage for Cowboy Junkies' own moody sound, set against the backdrop of Michael's wistful guitar and the intrinsic interaction between drummer and brother Peter Timmins and bassist Alan Anton.
Cowboy Junkies toured North America in 1990 - from New York to Los Angeles to Toronto - and this constant, on-the-go atmosphere inspired Black Eyed Man. The album included "A Horse In The Country", Margo's duet with John Prine "If You Were the Woman and I was the Man", and "Southern Rain", and these songs, along with the rest of the album, were stories about the kind of first bloom love that lives in letters and sonnets.
PALE SUN, CRESCENT MOON reaps the best of Cowboy Junkies strengths - Michael's visionary songwriting, Margo's breathtaking voice, and the sort of free-wheeling, spiritual sojourns that the band embarks on time after time. For this new album, Michael felt that, "the emotions being experienced by the characters in these new songs could be explored more powerfully using an internal dialogue rather than the external type used for most of Black Eyed Man. These songs are more about how someone deals with themselves when they decide to trust their heart and soul to another person."
Also unlike Black Eyed Man, this album returns to the more sparse sound of The Trinity Session. Produced by Michael, the album keeps instrumentation simple and basic, using a six-piece outfit of two guitars, bass, drums, vocals and piano/organ, with the occasional harmonica or mandolin. Of the twelve songs, only two are not the band's own - J. Mascis' "The Post" and R&B songwriter Ray Agee's "Hard to Explain". Ken Myhr on guitar, Jeff Bird on percussion and Richard Bell on piano and organ also joined the band in the studio.
Brilliant, beautiful and unnerving, PALE SUN, CRESCENT MOON is
a worthy followup to Cowboy Junkies' artistic canon. The characters on
this new collection of songs discover that along with feeling of joy,
the experience of true love can create a sense of anxiety and fear. And
Cowboy Junkies, in their raw grace, make that fear palpable.
Return to Main Articles Page