Back in the saddle
Cowboy Junkies are galloping toward Granite State on latest tourBy CHRIS BIERI
Special to the Union Leader September 27. 2017 12:59PM
If you go...WHO: Cowboy Junkies
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 So. Main St., Plymouth
TICKETS: $39.50 and $49.50
INFO: flyingmonkeynh.com; 536-2551
When the Cowboy Junkies emerged as alt-country trailblazers in the late 1980s, Margo Timmins’ voice quickly became the band’s trademark.
Her almost reluctant delivery seemed to embody a wandering horse’s slow amble.
With a harder charging new album set for release next year, Timmins is taking that trot to a gallop.
“If there’s a record where I’m going to let it rip, this will be the one,” she said. “There are a lot more heavy rock songs (on the album), more so than what we’ve done in the past. They’re really fun — hard and heavy.”
Timmins and the Cowboy Junkies will visit Plymouth on Friday for a concert at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center.
While Timmins promises the still-untitled release will be more rollicking, concert-goers can expect the same type of intimate performance the band has delivered for over 30 years.
Formed in Toronto in 1985, Cowboy junkies brought together Timmins and her brothers, Michael (guitar) and Peter Timmins (drums), and bassist Alan Anton.
Despite being Canadian, the Cowboy Junkies made Americana music before the designation was popularized. Blending blues, country and jazz, the group highlighted Michael Timmins’ spartan songwriting style and Margo Timmins’ hushed vocals and unassuming stage presence.
“I didn’t come to this easy,” Timmins said. “My reticence was part of how my voice was developed. I was never a loud person, and that’s never been my personality. (My brothers) never said you had to sing loud and project. My voice developed naturally, and I wasn’t copying anybody. I was just trying to cope with the fact I’m standing on stage with a microphone.
“Now, on stage is a place I’m happy and comfortable to be,” she said. “(The process) was finding out who I am and who I want to be and who I could be. I knew I wasn’t this big dynamic personality dancing around.”
The band’s breakout album, “The Trinity Sessions,” introduced mass audiences to the group’s spare sound.
Recorded at Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity in 1987, the record quickly became an alt-country standard, and included a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”
The band’s success left Timmins grappling with her burgeoning fame. But she said avoiding playing the role of a performer left her more comfortable with herself and able to more easily connect with audiences.
“For me, whether I had a right to be up there, I really questioned it,” she said. “It took a long time. In the early days when I was trying to figure it out, I decided ... to keep it honest. The person on stage is the person I am. If it wasn’t, I would probably forget who I am supposed to be.”
In recent years, the band has recorded its most ambitious project, the four-volume “Nomad Series,” which was released in consecutive years from 2010 to 2013.
The releases showcased Michael Timmins’ prolific songwriting, to the point that his sister joked it’s nearly a curse.
“The faucet comes on, and oh, my God, we’re going to have to take away his pen,” she said.
With siblings comprising three quarters of the band, Timmins said focusing on the larger family has allowed the band to sustain success and sanity without squabbling.
“The one thing with us (is that) the larger family is just as important as Cowboy Junkies,” she said. “My parents are still together. We are very involved with each other’s lives. When we get to the point when Mike and I are mad at each other, I think what happens is there’s a thought of a larger more important entity — the family.
“Whenever it’s got to that point where it’s not happy, we’ve been able to sit down and talk,” she said. “I also really believe playing in the Junkies is something the four of us love, and we wouldn’t risk jeopardizing it.”
After three decades of being on stage, Timmins said the music now means more to her than it ever has.
“As I get older, it’s even more important to me,” she said. “It’s the thing I have that’s just mine. It’s just about me and playing music, and I need it. I’m much more intimate with the music.
“When you’re younger, you’re much more aware of the stupid stuff — your hair and how much you’re making and if the manager is coming and I don’t want to talk to him. As you get older, you don’t focus on that crap, and it allows you to have that intimacy. If there are two people out there listening, I don’t care.”