Cowboy Junkies: Languid Guitars Back the Ethereal Vocals of Margo Timmins


Margo Timmins, vocalist for the Cowboy Junkies, is known for her signature performance stance with hands draped over the microphone.

A seasoned Canadian band comes under the spotlight this month: the distinctive Cowboy Junkies, featuring Margo Timmins, with her haunting vocals and signature microphone stance. The Junkies’ cloudy mystique continues into the fourth decade of their music.

Since 1987, Margo Timmins has commanded center stage for the Cowboy Junkies with her moody, down-tempo blues style. Reviewers describe the Junkies’ music as simmering somewhere in the vicinity of country, alternative, and folk styles. Margo and the Timmins brothers can rock with electric guitars and harmonicas or take extended instrumental side-trips on acoustic or pedal steel guitars lost in the blues. They sing about love, loss, and reconciliation.

If you’re new to this group, you may want to may begin with Miles from Home (1998), The Best of the Cowboy Junkies (2001), and Trinity Revisited (2007).

The exquisite Trinity Revisited (2007) was recorded in Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity, the same venue as their 1987 debut album entitled The Trinity Session.  In Trinity Revisited, the original album is recreated with many new layers of musical richness. Adding splendid touches are guest artists Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams, and Vic Chestnutt. Natalie sings backup on several tracks, and takes the lead on “To Love is to Bury” and “Misguided Angel.” Adams and Chestnutt add eerie notes on the Hank Williams song “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry.”

Don’t leave this CD until you listen to the gospel-inspired “Working on a Building,” in which they do the Lord’s work in a swoon of swirling guitars, harmonicas, and vocals by Margo and Natalie.

The video of the Trinity Revisited session is a special treat not be missed; add it to your queue on Netflix.

On Best of Cowboy Junkies (2001), explore prime cuts from the first 14 years. Pay special attention to their cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” and Michael Timmins’s reflection about measuring love as an analogy to making tea on “Cold Tea Blues.” Dig deeply into the many outstanding songs on this collection.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked gems is the 1998 CD Miles from Our Home. If you appreciate 1970s music, you’ll want to spend time exploring here. In “Summer of Discontent,” Margo plays the role of someone who yearns for love that just doesn’t seem to come soon enough. She laments in seeing “another falling wave upon this crumbling beach.  How many more until we meet?” Then, “New Dawn Coming” brings hope for better times. Finally, in “Blue Guitar,” Margo sings, “I wish I had a blue guitar, a blue guitar to play all night long, singing songs of loss and love, singing songs till morning comes.”

These lyrics capture the tone of all the Cowboy Junkie music, in which love is the tonic we all long for. Join Margo and the CJs in the cool night air with a warm blanket of their music!

To acquire an audio file of this review, go to  Join Andy Bargerstock’s Fringe Toast radio show every Wednesday from 8-10 p.m. on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM in Fairfield, and available worldwide via