Anatomy of a Band

After 25 years, Cowboy Junkies lay out the four albums that make up their personality

Having been together for more than 25 years and released some 20 albums, there is no shortage of Cowboy Junkies music to explore. But there’s no better primer for the band’s music than The Nomad Series, a group of four separate albums the band has released since 2010.

“We are known for a very focused sort of thing, which is the quiet, hushed side of what we do, which I think is a very important side of who we are,” guitarist Michael Timmins said during a recent phone interview. “But I guess the idea is there is a multi-facet to what we do. We do have a multi-faceted personality as a band. It’s not just one thing.”

And The Nomad Series has done more to illustrate the multiple sides to Cowboy Junkies’ music than anything the Canadian group did before.

Each album displays a distinctly different sound and style. The series of records started when Timmins came up with a concept for the first: Remnin Park.

In 2008, the guitarist, his wife and their two daughters lived in China for three months. While there, Timmins took to making street recordings of street musicians, children and a host of other sounds as he explored. When he returned, he had a wealth of recordings to loop and write songs around.

For the second album, the band toyed with the idea of doing a covers record. After Vic Chesnutt, the acclaimed singer-songwriter who had toured with Cowboy Junkies, died in 2009, the group quickly decided Demons should be a collection of Chesnutt covers.

That idea, though, posed a challenge — even for a band like Cowboy Junkies, whose biggest hit was a version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”

“Of all the people to cover, when you listen to Vic’s material, you don’t immediately think ‘Oh, I can do that,’ because it’s so particular to him, his writing, the way he sings, his vocal style, his production style. Like, everything he does is very unique and very Vic,” Timmins says. But to the surprise of Timmins and his bandmates, once they began working on the songs, they started making sense.

In concert, the band is known to jam on certain songs, showing a bluesy, psychedelic side to its sound that had never been represented on its studio albums. The third record, Sing In My Meadow, was a chance to make an album in that vein.

When it came time to make the fourth album, Timmins realized the first three showcased lesser-known facets of Cowboy Junkies. The band decided to return to its familiar folky acoustic-based sound.

Material from The Nomad Series figures strongly into Cowboy Junkies’ current live show, making up the first set of a two-set evening. But for the April 28 show at the Bing Crosby Theater, the band is doing something special — performing all of its platinum-selling second album, 1988’s The Trinity Session, during the second set. 

Cowboy Junkies • Sun, April 28, at 7:30 pm • Bing Crosby Theater • 901 W. Sprague Ave. • $30-$35 • • (800) 325-SEAT

Everdream: A Celtic Christmas @ Panida Theater

Wed., Dec. 7, 7 p.m.
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