One of my favourite groups the Cowboy Junkies have a new album out this week.
It’s title is “Demons – The Nomad Series Volume 2″ and it is an album of songs by the late great Vic Chesnutt as a tribute to their long time friend and occasional collaborator.
Here’s what the band themselves had to say about the recording:
“We had been discussing with Vic, off and on for the past couple of years, about doing a Chesnutt/Junkies album. During one of the last conversation that I had with Vic, he mentioned that he was working on a series of songs about his childhood that he wanted to bring to the collaboration. So, it only seems fitting that we record an album of Vic’s songs. His catalogue is so deep and for the most part, so overlooked. It will be a labour of love.”
“We tried to approach Demons with the same sense of adventure that Vic undertook in all of his projects (or at least that is the way his recordings sound). We let happy accidents happen; we tried to invest his songs with the same spirit and the adventure with which they were written, at the same time investing them with our own Northern spin. Exploring his songs and delving deeper and deeper into them has been an intense, moving and joyous experience. I don’t think Vic would have wanted it any other way.”
I am a man
I am self-aware
And everywhere I go
You’re always right there with me
I flirted with you all my life
Even kissed you once or twice
And to this day I swear it was nice but
Clearly, I was not ready
When you touched a friend of mine
I thought I would lose my mind
But I found out with time that
Really, I was not ready.
Really, I’m not ready
Oh death you enter me
Death’s unmade those dear to me
And tease me with your sweet relief
You’re cruel and you are constant
When my mom was cancer sick
She fought, but then succumbed to it
But you made her beg for it
Lord Jesus, please I’m ready
Really, I’m not ready
Clearly, I’m not ready
“Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning” – Cowboy Junkies
Sun comes up, it’s tuesday morning
Hits me straight in the eye
Guess you forgot to close the blind last night
Oh, that’s right, I forgot, it was me
I sure do miss the smell of black coffee in the morning,
The sound of water splashing all over the bathroom,
The kiss that you would give me even though I was sleeping,
But I kind of like the feel of this extra few feet in my bed
Telephone’s ringing, but I don’t answer it
’cause everybody knows that good news always sleeps till noon
Guess it’s tea and toast for breakfast again
Maybe I’ll add a little t.v. too
No milk! god, how I hate that
Guess I’ll go to the corner, get breakfast from jenny
She’s got a black eye this morning, `jen how’d ya get it? ‘
She says, `last night, bobby got a little bit out of hand’
Lunchtime. I start to dial your number
Then I remember so I reach for something to smoke
And anyways I’d rather listen to coltrane
Than go through all that shit again
There’s something about an afternoon spent doing nothing
Just listening to records and watching the sun falling
Thinking of things that don’t have to add up to something
And this spell won’t be broken
By the sound of keys scraping in the lock
Maybe tonight it’s a movie
With plenty of room for elbows and knees
A bag of popcorn all to myself,
Black and white with a strong female lead
And if I don’t like it, no debate, I’ll leave
Here comes that feeling that I’d forgotten
How strange these streets feel
When you’re alone on them
Each pair of eyes just filled with suggestion
So I lower my head, make a beeline for home
Funny, I’d never noticed
The sound the streetcars make as they pass my window
Which reminds me that I forgot to close the blind again
Yeah, sure I’ll admit there are times when I miss you
Especially like now when I need someone to hold me
But there are some things that can never be forgiven
And I just gotta tell you
That I kinda like this extra few feet in my bed
Visit the Cowboy Junkies HERE
Regular visitors to this Blog will know that the Cowboy Junkies are one of my favourite bands, Margo Timmins has a voice that strikes right to the soul and her brother Michael is a unique guitarist who can create wonderfull soundscapes where less is better.
Now free from any formal recording contract they like many bands are now running their own show and are free to record and release material to their own needs.
The first in a series of four album releases, under the guise of The Nomad Series, planned for the next 18 months is “Renmin Park”
The inspiration for this album stems from a three month stay in China that Michael Timmins and his family had, Timmins strategically introduces homemade field recordings to the band’s signature sound, creating an aural landscape which draws inspiration from the recordings of Alan Lomax.
Against this backdrop is set a loose song cycle chronicling the lives of a star-crossed young couple in the Chinese town of Jingjiang as such the album’s ballads are the real stars.
The title track, a universal meditation on discontent, establishes the sustained somberness of the record that is only momentarily overcome by songs like Stranger Here.
A Few Bags Of Grain packs so much pathos that it is easy to miss the scathing critique of China’s gender politics, but Zuzhou’s I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side is the number I return to time and again and suggests that Zuzhou may have a couple Leonard Cohen records in his collection.
Renmin Park will be followed by Demons, an entire record devoted to the songs of the band’s late friend, Vic Chesnutt. The final two installments of The Nomad Series are Sing in My Meadow (theme TBC) and The Wilderness, a full album of new Cowboy Junkie originals, many of which are already making their way into the band’s live repertoire.
There are also plans for a lushly illustrated book that will delve into the character, nature, and inspiration behind each of the albums.
Finally, the band’s website (see link below) has been complete redesigned to serve as a portal into the creative process of The Nomad Series, and will feature demos, rough mixes and outtakes from the project as it progresses.
Some videos from the archives:-
Early this mornin’, when you knocked upon my door
Early this mornin’, ooh, when you knocked upon my door
And I said, “Hello, Satan, I believe it’s time to go”
Me and the devil, was walkin’ side by side
Me and the devil, ooh, was walkin’ side by side
And I’m goin’ to beat my woman, until I get satisfied
She say you don’t see why, that you will dog me ’round
(spoken: Now, babe, you know you ain’t doin’ me right, don’cha)
She say you don’t see why, ooh, that you will dog me ’round
It must-a be that old evil spirit, so deep down in the ground
You may bury my body, down by the highway side
(spoken: Baby, I don’t care where you bury my body when I’m dead and gone)
You may bury my body, ooh, down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit, can catch a Greyhound bus and ride
According to a legend known to modern blues fans, Robert Johnson was a young black man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi. Branded with a burning desire to become a great blues musician, he was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large black man (the Devil) who took the guitar and tuned it. After tuning the guitar, the Devil played a few songs and then returned it to Johnson, giving him mastery of the guitar. This was, in effect, a deal with the Devil; in exchange Robert Johnson was able to create the blues for which he became famous.
This legend was developed over time, and has been chronicled by Gayle Dean Wardlow, Edward Komara and Elijah Wald, though Wald sees the legend as largely dating from Johnson’s rediscovery by white fans more than two decades after his death.
Folk tales of bargains with the Devil have long existed in African American and European traditions, and were adapted into literature by, amongst others, Washington Irving in “The Devil and Tom Walker” in 1824, and by Stephen Vincent Benet in “The Devil and Daniel Webster” in 1936. In the 1930s the folklorist Harry Middleton Hyatt recorded many tales of banjo players, fiddlers, card sharks, and dice sharks selling their souls at crossroads, along with guitarists and one accordionist.
The folklorist Alan Lomax considered that every African American secular musician was “in the opinion of both himself and his peers, a child of the Devil, a consequence of the black view of the European dance embrace as sinful in the extreme”.
Johnson seems to have claimed occasionally that he had sold his soul to the Devil, but it is not clear that he meant it seriously. However, these claims are strongly disputed in Tom Graves’ biography of Johnson, Crossroads: The Life and Afterlife of Blues Legend Robert Johnson, published in 2008. Son House once told the story to Pete Welding as an explanation of Johnson’s astonishingly rapid mastery of the guitar. Welding reported it as a serious belief in a widely read article in Down Beat in 1966. However, other interviewers failed to elicit any confirmation from House. Moreover, there were fully two years between House’s observation of Robert as first a novice and then a master.
Further details were absorbed from the imaginative retellings by Greil Marcus and Robert Palmer. Most significantly, the detail was added that Johnson received his gift from a large black man at a crossroads. There is dispute as to how and when the crossroads detail was attached to the Robert Johnson story. All the published evidence, including a full chapter on the subject in the biography Crossroads by Tom Graves, suggests an origin in the story of Tommy Johnson. This story was collected from his musical associate Ishman Bracey and his elder brother Ledell in the 1960s. One version of Ledell Johnson’s account was published in 1971 David Evans‘s biography of Tommy, and was repeated in print in 1982 alongside Son House’s story in the widely read Searching for Robert Johnson.
In another version, Ledell placed the meeting not at a crossroads but in a graveyard. This resembles the story told to Steve LaVere that Ike Zinnerman of Hazelhurst, Mississippi learned to play the guitar at midnight while sitting on tombstones. Zinnerman is believed to have influenced the playing of the young Robert Johnson.
Recent research by blues scholar Bruce Conforth uncovered Ike Zinnerman’s daughter and the story becomes much clearer, including the fact that Johnson and Zinnerman did, in fact, practice in a graveyard at night (because it was quiet and no one would disturb them) but that it was not the Hazlehurst cemetery as had been believed. Johnson spent about a year living with, and learning from, Zinnerman, who ultimately accompanied Johnson back up to the Delta to look after him. Conforth’s article in Living Blues magazine goes into much greater detail.
The crossroads detail was widely believed to come from Johnson himself, probably because it appeared to explain the discrepancy in “Cross Road Blues“. Johnson’s high emotion and religious fervor are hard to explain as resulting from the mundane situation described, unsuccessful hitchhiking as night falls. The crossroads myth offers a simple literal explanation for both the religion and the anguish.
There are now tourist attractions claiming to be “The Crossroads” at Clarksdale and in Memphis. The film O Brother Where Art Thou? by the Coen Brothers incorporates the crossroads legend and a young African American blues guitarist named “Tommy Johnson”, with no other biographical similarity to the real Tommy Johnson or to Robert Johnson. In the CW TV series Supernatural, the season two episode “Crossroad Blues” was based on the legend.
Blues musician and historian Elijah Wald generally sees the Devil legend as applied to Johnson as overblown. “It is common for white scholars to remark on the dark passions and superstitious terrors expressed in lines that in a juke joint would have produced laughter,” he writes. While agreeing with other critics about the “tortured poetry” of “Hellhound on My Trail“, he sees, for example, “Me and the Devil Blues” as an entirely other matter, ”working within a well-established tradition of blues Devil songs, full of “tongue-in-cheek braggadocio
Serendipity is a wonderful thing (as is the film) here I sat rediscovering The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” and realising that despite it being just short of a film soundtrack album it is now close to being my favourite Beatles album when I received notification that one of my favourite singers, Margo Timmins from the brilliant Cowboy Junkies has released an intimate collection of solo cover versions of some of her favourite songs for download via the band’s web page one of which being a favourite track from the aforesaid Beatles album.
Recorded in Jeff Bird’s home studio Ty Tyrfu in allegedly one afternoon the album is called “Margo’s Corner – Ty Tyrfu Sessions,
Volume 1″ and can be purchased as a download from HERE
Ty Tyrfu Sessions, Volume 1 - Margo Timmins
Released June 24, 2009
1. I’d Have You Anytime (George Harrison)
2. Father & Son (Cat Stevens)
3. If I Should Fall Behind (Bruce Springsteen)
4. Dance Me To The End of Love (Leonard Cohen)
5. Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Bob Dylan)
6. One Day I Walk (Bruce Cockburn)
7. Things We Said Today (Lennon/McCartney)
8. Girl From The North Country (Bob Dylan)
9. Walkin’ On a Wire (Richard Thompson)
10. Side Of the Road (Lucinda Williams)
Here is her take on one of the best tracks from “A Hard Day’s Night” as her version of “Things We Said Today” is almost two minutes longer than the original you can expect a slower tempo than the original.
As a bonus from the same album here is her take on the Cat Stevens classic “Father and Son”
For more information on the Cowboy Junkies click HERE
Today is my folks 50th Wedding Anniversary and if Fiona had still been with us we would be enjoying a weekend of luxury at Gleneagles Hotel.
However with Fiona’s passing this was cancelled and instead I endured an afternoon of torture as Dumbarton lost 3-1 to East Stirling away from home. Now it wasn’t that we played bad it was just that Mark Peat lived up to his reputation as the best goalkeeper in the league and that Colin Brown confirmed his standing as the most constantly worst referee ever to grace a football field, he is without doubt a disgrace to his profession.
Nevertheless we are all marking the Anniversary in a smaller scale with lunch at The Boat House at Cameron House tomorrow
In the meantime here are the Cowboy Junkies with “Anniversary Song”
Finally for Fiona here is Bruce Springsteen and “She’s The One”
With her killer graces and her secret places
That no boy can fill with her hands on her hips
Oh and that smile on her lips
Because she knows that it kills me
With her soft french cream
Standing in that doorway like a dream
I wish she’d just leave me alone
Because french cream won’t soften them boots
And french kisses will not break that heart of stone
With her long hair falling
And her eyes that shine like a midnight sun
Oh-o she’s the one, she’s the one
That Thunder in your heart
At night when you’re kneeling in the dark
It says you’re never gonna leave her
But there’s this angel in her eyes
That tells such desperate lies
And all you want to do is believe her
And tonight you’ll try just one more time
To leave it all behind and to break on through
Oh she can take you, but if she wants to break you
She’s gonna find out that ain’t so easy to do
And no matter where you sleep tonight or how far you run
Oh-o she’s the one, she’s the one
Oh-o and just one kiss
She’d fill them long summer nights
With her tenderness that secret pact you made
Back when her love could save you from the bitterness
Oh she’s the one, oh she’s the one
Oh she’s the one, oh she’s the one
MOJO Rising: Smoke Fairies see www.mojo4music.com
Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, aka Smoke Fairies, only opted for their university history course in order to secure a second year studying in New Orleans. It was here, playing in the city’s bars and cafés, that the duo began to cross-pollinate the tenets of trad-folk and swamp blues that make up their cool, sultry sound.
Four years on, with Bryan Ferry and Richard Hawley‘s seal of approval now intact, Smoke Fairies have released their first single Living With Ghosts – a song awash with the wistful melancholy that has seen them pull in fans from far and wide. Blamire: “We see people absorbed as we play and surely that’s what they connect to in a song – the things they don’t go around saying every day.”
Anyone who like the Cowboy Junkies will love this
“Living With Ghosts” – Smoke Fairies
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