March 25, 2008

The Junkies ride again

The Cowboy Junkies: are made up of Michael Timmins, Margo Timmins, Peter Timmins and Alan Anton.Thursday, March 27Michael Timmins, Margo Timmins, Peter Timmins and Alan Anton are a relatively obscure but enormously influential family act that has endured with dignity and assurance for several decades. This Canadian outfit, known as The Cowboy Junkies, is the fruit of a childhood friendship between Anton and Michael Timmins.“I’ve known Alan longer than some of my siblings,” Timmins says. “And there’s always been something of a musical dimension to our relationship. As young boys, we shared our record collections and traded tapes long before any of us ever thought about forming a band.”Not that they weren’t sufficiently entranced by the pop stars of the 1960s.“You know, we were totally obsessed with music, but in the late ’60s, being a musician was something that larger-than-life people like Keith Richards and David Bowie did,” he says. “So, it wasn’t until the ’70s, when punk rock and the whole do-it-yourself approach of that scene arrived, that we began to think seriously about going for it.”The Junkies’ initial efforts at rock ’n’ roll were modest. “At first, Alan and I had a band that tried to be very Joy Division, and then another one that was more experimental, I guess,” Timmins says. “We were constantly evolving and searching for our sound in those days.”Eventually, these boyhood buddies recruited the rest of the Junkies from the Timmins family. Anton’s warm bass lines and Michael’s haunting guitar progressions were perfectly suited for Margo’s sexy, smart vocal delivery. Peter proved to be a sufficiently stable force behind the drum kit. Together they stumbled into their own proper rhythm — and a recording contract.Unlike the Beach Boys or the Gallagher Brothers, the Cowboy Junkies cite their familial ties as a key to their sustainability.“Family bands who bicker constantly probably make for better press,” Timmins says. “But with us, being so close has actually allowed for more tolerance of and appreciation for each other over the years.”The Junkies made their biggest splash, commercially or otherwise, with their 1988 sophomore release The Trinity Sessions. That album, which was recorded spontaneously in an old sacred space, turned the world onto the Junkies’ charming blend of folk, blues and old-school country. As such, it still holds a special place in the hearts of their fans, says Timmins. “Because it was (unique), we were thinking about doing something to commemorate the 20th anniversary, and that germinated into us going back to Holy Trinity Church in Toronto to revisit the songs with an assortment of friends and special guests.”A handful of friends, including Vic Chesnutt and Natalie Merchant, turned up for the celebration that is documented on a new disc and companion video, Trinity Revisited.Still soulful and moody, the Junkies and their quintessential songs have aged well. This time around, the standout tune is “200 More Miles,” with Ryan Adams handling the lead vocals.Attempting to make an impact on other souls, young and old, with their massive back catalog, the Junkies are out on the road ostensibly in support of their nostalgic new release.“As a real music fan, I know that there is a spiritual aspect to it all. You can reach many people in a deep and profound way. And it’s humbling to know that we have actually been able to do that through our work.”The Cowboy Junkies appear with Mary Gauthier as part of the First Capital Bank Live at the Clifton Center Concert Series on Thursday. Showtime is 8 p.m. at the Center’s Eifler Theatre (2117 Payne St., 896-8480). Tickets are $29 in advance.