concert reviews

Cowboy Junkies Mosey Into a Too-Noisy Saloon
the Cowboy Junkies at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Wednesday 8 June 2005

Despitetheir name, the Cowboy Junkies aren't really a country band. Instead, their twangy folk is strung out (as the word "junkies" suggests) to a leisurely tempo. The six-piece group -- four of whom are siblings -- did balance its set on Wednesday night at the 9:30 club with a few uptempo numbers ("Common Disaster," "Southern Rain"). But mostly the group seemed content to plod through such laid-back and repetitive songs as "Now I Know" and "Dragging Hooks."

The Junkies' most distinctive element is the voice of Margo Timmins, whose sultry moan cast a melancholy glow on even the cheeriest of songs. Minimal enunciation turned her voice into another instrument in the songs' lush arrangements. On the traditional "The Water Is Wide," a blurry blend of guitars transformed her vocals and a harmonica countermelody into a fetching duet.

Not surprisingly for a group that is most famous for a remake (the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane"), the Junkies' 90-minute set was strewn with covers, from a mandolin-driven version of Neil Young's "Powderfinger" to a meandering rendition of U2's "One." While a few Bruce Springsteen songs received a warm reception, the unfortunate drawback for a mellow band playing a large venue is the crowd's short attention span. What would have been a warm performance in a more intimate venue didn't project much beyond the stage because of the steady chattering all night.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 10 June 2005
.: Selected discography: One Soul Now (Cowboy Junkies, 2004); Open Road CD/DVD (Cowboy Junkies, 2002); Open (Cowboy Junkies, 2001); Miles From Our Home (Cowboy Junkies, 1998); Lay It Down (Cowboy Junkies, 1996); Pale Sun, Crescent Moon (Cowboy Junkies, 1993); Black Eyed Man (Cowboy Junkies, 1992); The Caution Horses (Cowboy Junkies, 1990); The Trinity Session (Cowboy Junkies, 1988); Whites Off Earth Now!! (Cowboy Junkies, 1986).