(Proper Records, out Fri 13 Jul 2018)
It has been something of a wait for Cowboy Junkies‘ fans as this record comes to us six years after their last one The Wilderness, the longest gap they have had between LPs to date. Granted, they could have probably done with the break after recording a four album cycle which they dubbed The Nomad Series between 2010 and 2012. The first three of these albums saw the band venturing into some of the most experimental material they have done thus far while the fourth, the aforementioned The Wilderness, saw them return to their more usual folk rock sound, which is precisely the territory they are in again on this record.
This is not to say it is a pedestrian effort from the group or even to say they are playing it safe. In fact, far from it. This feels like a very vibrant album. Not only that, it is also one that has several powerful moments scattered throughout its running time. Moreover, it is a socially engaged record that is hooked in to our politically turbulent times, something that is apparent from the album name as well as track titles like The Things We Do to Each Other and Missing Children.
Having said that, the album is not overtly political and does not attack particular individual targets. In addition, guitarist and chief songwriter Michael Timmins has said in interviews that the record is as much personal as political. Nevertheless, on listening to it, you feel that there is a lot of pain and anguish here at the current global predicament, as highlighted with When We Arrive’s opening line: “Welcome to the age of disillusion”. The aforementioned Missing Children is another song that feels full of disillusion, while defiant at the same time. Furthermore, this song sounds not dissimilar to their Canadian counterpart Neil Young, due to the use of distorted guitars reminiscent of his Crazy Horse days.
As well as the anger there is optimism here too, as shown on the rocky and upbeat Sing Me a Song with its refrain of “sing me a song of love, sing me song of joy”, and its cracking guitar solo. The album also ends on a sweet, folky note with The Possessed.
The Cowboy Junkies have produced another stellar entry to their discography and show no sign of declining in quality despite being over 30 years and 16 albums into their career, which is impressive in itself.