The Trinity Sessions.
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The first three albums would be a good start (Whites Off Earth, The Trinity Sessions, The Caution Horses).
Listening to "Whites Off Earth" may cause you to see their later work in a different manner/light.
Not familiar with 2003 onward releases, and only dislike "Open" (2001?), which never grew on me.
There is an odd/foreign noise on the first (vocal?) track of "The Trinity Sessions" which is normal/as it should be.
My favorite is "Lay it Down". I don't see too many folks citing a similar preference, but IMO that's the one with the best songs all the way through. Trinity Sessions surely isn't a bad place to start and it has that unique "airiness" given the way it was recorded. "One Soul Now" is also good.
Truth is I don't think there is a bad Cowboy Junkies CD.
I would agree with Bdgregory, that it is hard to find a bad 'Junkies' CD. With that said, I also found 'Open' to be a bit of a letdown, with the exception of one track which is IMO Classic Junkies.
My personal favorite is Caution Horses. I agree again with Bdgregory that 'Lay It Down' is not often mentioned, is a good representation and is perhaps their most 'polished' offering. One track from it was in the soundtrack of 'The Truth About Cats & Dogs'.
Trinity Sessions and Lay It Down would be my top two.
By the way, my wife and daughter were at a concert a couple of months ago (girl's night out). The Cowboy Junkies were the opening act. (Colin James was the headliner). The first thing they said when they got home was that they wouldn't go to see the Cowboy Junkies as an opening act unless you brought a pillow and wanted to take a nap. Apparently they're pretty laid back live.
My vote is for Trinity Sessions, then Early 21 Century Blues. My dog particularly likes the harmonica of Trinity Sessions and always howls. The recording of Trinity Sessions is done with a single microphone and is superb (IMHO). When I close my eyes while listening to it I often have the experience that I am in the church where it was recorded. Very intimate recording.
IMO the best Cowboy Junkies CD is "The Trinity Sessions" for both the music and the recording quality. The session was minimally miked in an old church with very little editing, I think. You can hear things get kicked by accident in the recording, people breathing, the ventilation system in the background, and a very low frequency noise that might be a train or underground subway rumble. The band seemed to have a synergy that I did not find in later recordings. After first hearing that CD, I rushed out to buy others, but never heard the magic I found in "The Trinity Sessions." But that's just my opinion.
I too saw the group in concert in Philadelphia Area as opener to John Prine. It was just as "Black Eyed Man" had taken off for them so its been some years back. They were quite boring in concert. Just sat there atop stools and droaned on. Quite uninteresting for 1 1/2 hours. But I absolutely enjoy all of their recordings. Interesting to hear that they have not improved upon their stage act.
(John Prine was terrific at that concert!)
I agree with Pops. If you get hooked on Cowboy Junkies music, you want to have them all. Mile From Home just mesmerized me for a long time, Lay it Down is my second fav. There is a release called "Studio" (I think) that is no longer listed in the Junkies Discography. Has a song towards the end called "Driving Wheel" (if my memory serves me right) that is very hypnotic.
Now I have to go home tonight and refresh my memory with a listen.
Nice to see other Junkies fans out there. They used to come through Cincinnati every Valentines Day and play small theaters and clubs. It was a tradition to have flowers sent to the theater for Margo since they were on the road. Often the girl from "Over the Rhine" a Cinti. band (can't think of her name off hand) was touring with the Junkies and singing backup for Margo. Really nice harmonies. And yeh, they are pretty laid back on stage and in person. Don't know if they did this everywhere, but Margo and a couple of the guys in the band would always stay after the show to talk, sign CD's, and hang out.
I saw the Junkies live in DC at Wolftrap the "National Park for the Performance Arts" a few years ago. It's true, they're not a dynamic live show, but I would still recommend seeing their show to anyone who is a fan. They have a DVD out that's quite good which includes a freebee live cd. It's worth having too.
The majority favor the Trinity Sessions and that is also the first CD from them I purchased. It is an excellent starting point. Over time, I have found Caution Horses to be my favorite which I didn't really care for the first few times I played it. I would follow that by Black Eyed Man, Lay it Down, Whites off the Earth Now, Pale Sun Crescent Moon, and One Soul Now. Lay it Down has a big fat bass that sounds really good through my Cary SLI50. Most of their CD's are bumped up in the bass.
Thanks to this post I pulled out my copy of Early 21st Century Blues and found I enjoy it more than I remember. In some ways it reminds me of Giant Sand or Lambchop with its quiet melodic charms. I still prefer Trinity and Whites Off Earth Now but this is worth a listen for sure.
BTW I have seen the Cowboy Junkies on TV and I thought it was so slow that when they came around I did not see them in concert either... Sleep inducing indeed! It is a shame because if they did a concert based on the Whites Off Earth Now album, with it's rockin' and beautiful guitar sounds, I would be there in a flash.
The Trinity Sessions is classic - lots of emotion in there - but Lay it Down is my favorite. You can't go wrong with any of these: Trinity Sessions, Whites Off Earth Now, The Caution Horses, Black Eyed Man, Lay it Down, and Miles From Our Home. One Soul Now didn't grab my attention, but it's not bad. Margo Timmins' voice is incredibly seductive and powerful. The cadence in her voice carries a sense of intimacy that I haven't heard with many other vocalists. And she's damn beautiful too!
As you've figured out by now, the Trinity Sessions is by and far their best album. Dekay, the odd noise your hearing is coming from an air conditioning vent. Someone else mentioned this was recorded in a church, but it was actually recorded in the lobby of an old Hotel with a really high ceiling, using a point source mic. At least that's what I remember reading. It's been many years, but I can look this up to confirm.
I wish they would do them all like this as the sound is just fantastic. BTW, don't know if you guys are aware, but another reason this one sounds so good is there were no overdubs. Frist generation from them to tape. Not many can pull this off.
One of the best audiophile albums of all times.
BTW, I just picked up Early 21st Centry Blues yesterday and on first listen was really disappointed. I listened to it again today and warmed up to it a litte, but I guess I've just listened to the Trinity Sessions too many times over the years and expected more of the same.
I stand corrected. The Trinity Session was in fact recorded at the Church of Holy Trinity in Toronoto.
I was so sure I was rite that I started doing some research just to prove it. I remember reading a review in CD review magazine years ago that said it was recorded in the lobby of a grand old hotel and it identified the noise on the first track as coming from an air conditioning duct.
However, a quick check of the CD show's I was wrong. Sheesh, how embarrasing. Proably wrong about the noise too.
Thanks all of you for this.
I'd never even heard of "Cowboy Junkies."
But I just ordered all this new equipment and thought -
what good is it all if I can't experiment with a little new music?
So I found some new music at Audiogon. Joe Sample and Gillian Welch and Dire Straits and so many others that I'd never even heard of.
But of all of these - my absolute favorite of new music (for me) is the Cowboy Junkies. I started with Trinity Sessions and since that worked out pretty good I added more -
now I have six.
I realize this is an old thread and likely nobody will read it - but in case anybody does and has the thought -
"If you love Cowboy Junkies you should also consider x"
Then go ahead and tell me who x is.
ALL of the most recent releases are great. The Nomad series is fantastic, especially "Renmin Park" and "Demons". "Sing in My Meadows" is a little harder edge and I haven't warmed to it as much as the first 2 volumes, but like it none the less. "The Wilderness" is in pre-release - available later in March I think, but you can hear clips on their facebook page. The Nomad Series is a little more psychedelic/experimental than their earlier music. I find it invigorating but I don't know all CJ fans will. I also have "At the End of Paths Taken" (2007) and like it a lot. "One Soul Now" (2004) is also great (one of my favorites), and Trinity Revisited (including Concert DVD is great and a must have - even if (especially if like) have Trinity Sessions.
You may as well just buy everything they've done. I have (save a few of their more obscure compilations).
PS - find a copy of "'neath your Covers". It was a freebee that came with one of the concert DVD's I bought but can be purchased I think. It contains fantastic covers of Springsteen's "Thunder Road", Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness, Darkness", and Neil Young's "Helpless" along with 2 other great songs.
edit: oops - I already said this in an earlier post . . .
I can see now I missed the real question Nottop posted with my last response:
"If you love Cowboy Junkies you should also consider x"
I have a hard time thinking of anyone that is really like Cowboy Junkies. A few artists that evoke a similar mood for me are:
Lyle Lovett (sometimes)
This is a good followup question to resurrect the original post. I think Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter sound more like the CJs than anyone else does. Dark in mood and tone, featuring Ms. Sykes's moody vocals, Phil Wandscher's reverb heavy guitar, and sparse instrumentation, they have often been categorized as "goth country" or "country noir". I'd suggest checking out their earlier releases Reckless Burning or Oh, My Girl.
I think whether you like the Nomad series will depend on whether you like the later ("Miles from Our Home" and after) space rock sound, or the earlier ("Caution Horses") folk rock sound; Nomad is definitely the latter. I have "Renimen Park" and "Demons" ( a tribute to the great Vic Chesnutt). They are not in heavy rotation, but I definitely prefer the folkier part of their catalog (though MfOH is lovely).
I don't know the Cowboy Junkies, but want to give them a try based on all these great comments. Seems the Trinity Sessions is a good place to start. Anybody knows where I can buy it on 16/44.1 FLAC online? I live in Argentina and won't find it here, not even used. Found an italian store selling it at 320 kbps MP3 or FLAC, but I'm hoping I can get it in 16/44.1.