Fans of Cowboy Junkies are very vocal about pointing to the alt-rockers’ 1988 release of “The Trinity Session” as being one of the decade’s best. Recorded inside Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity on one single night, with the band circled around a single microphone, the album consisted of material both old and new, with the band’s cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” making the most lasting impression.
And while people still talk about that album, Cowboy Junkies have achieved so much more during its 37-year career, releasing a critically acclaimed body of work that has endeared them to a loyal audience. With more than a dozen studio albums, and a handful of live LPs, the band is known for its engaging covers of some of their favorite songs.
The Toronto foursome, siblings Michael Timmins on guitar, Peter Timmins on bass, and Margo Timmins on lead vocals, and Alan Anton on bass, is the same lineup since the group’s inception.
On April 10, Cowboy Junkies will be performing at The Birchmere, touring in support of its latest release, “Songs of the Recollection.”
“We’re always adding new tunes to our repertoire,” says Michael. “For the Birchmere, we’re going to be doing two sets; in the first we’ll add some of the covers from the new album, and we also have some songs from the ‘Ghost’ record, which we put out during the pandemic and never toured. Then a lot of the favorites from the catalogue. We try to spread it around a bit.”
The band is no stranger to the Birchmere, having played the popular “listening room” countless times over the decades.
“We know people that are there are there to listen and the shows are really focused, and it’s up to us to make it an enjoyable evening,” Michael says.
During the pandemic, the Canadian natives faced a bit more stricter quarantine than those in the U.S., which made it somewhat difficult to get a lot done. Michael spent a lot of time getting the new album in shape, recording tracks in the studio then sending them around to the others so they could work on things individually.
“I found it to be a good way to refocus on what I do and make music for the pleasure of making music, with no end-game necessary,” he says. “The worst part was obviously we couldn’t tour, so that was hard on all of use.”
Cowboy Junkies played a socially-distanced Canadian festival last summer as its first gig back, and then in October, did a series of dates before Omicron reared its ugly head, and it was only last month when it really started to regularly play in front of live crowds again.
“We’ve been doing this forever, and we were at a point where it was very second-nature, but having to be off the road for two years, we were surprised at how hard it was to regain the confidence,” Michael says. “It was hard at first to feel like we were supposed to be there. We’re finally getting past that and hopefully after this run of the tour, we will get back into the right headspace.”
Besides the fact that 75 percent of the band are siblings—something that doesn’t always lead to longevity in a band—he believes the secret for everyone staying together for so long comes down to enjoying each other’s company and being inspired by one another.
“We feel like we’re still growing—especially as a live band,” Michael says. “We respect each other’s position in the band and we have a lot of fun.”
Once this tour ends, Cowboy Junkies have an album of all new material on the wya. It’s currently in the mixing stage, and expected to be out by the end of the year.
“But we have a lot of shows to make up and lost time to make up for, so 2022 is going to be a very heavy year of touring, and we’re all looking forward to it,” Michael says.