Cowboy Junkies - The Wilderness - The Nomad Series Volume 4
The last eighteen months have seen the Cowboy Junkies release a number of albums in the Nomad Series. The Wilderness marks the fourth and final release of this series. Whereas volume three was a surprise to those expecting traditional fayre from this band, with the amps all turned to 11 and lead singer Margot Timmins seemingly possessed by Janis Joplin, this is more of the gentler folk rock you’d expect. Can we go back to their original template after volume three or should we welcome The Wilderness as a return to what the Cowboy Junkies do best?
Michael Timmins has described the band's motivation for undertaking the Nomad Series as “that as we steam through our twenty-fifth year, we feel that we have the energy and inspiration to pull it off." Perhaps we should applaud bands for continuing to literally play to their strengths. Whilst there’s always scope for reinvention I don’t think anyone’s looking for a Cowboy Junkies dubstep outing. There’s more than a hint of callback to the Junkie’s earlier career. This is reinforced by Timmins himself, describing the album as a collection of “reflective songs" with references to older material.
For some, this will be seen as indulgent wallowing of a band cannibalistically referencing their commercial heyday some twenty years distant. For others it will seen as a band continuing to knock it out of the park despite the vagaries of commercial success, allied to an idea of what their music means to them and sticking to it.
At its core, The Wilderness is an evocation of themes such as fragility, emptiness, loneliness, beauty, chance, loss and desperation. This is wrapped within Margot Timmins fragile yet resolute vocals together with the band's alt. country sparse - but encompassing - musical accompaniment.
If volume 3 of the Nomad Series was Cowboy Junkies as Led Zeppelin then volume 4 sees the Cowboy Junkies doing “Cowboy Junkies” but when you do it so well why do anything else?