Dan Krejci recently dusted off At the End of Paths Taken, a gem of an album from Cowboy Junkies, and decided to write about it for his Staff Pick of the Week:
What a treat 2007 was for those of us who were reared on the haunting melodies of Rickie Lee Jones and the angelic inflections of Emmylou Harris, for the band that encapsulated the extreme highlights of both of these influential artists are the Cowboy Junkies, and they were kind enough to re-release two very fine recordings this last year—one, a rediscovery of their earth shattering Trinity Sessions and this release of wonderful wanderlust, At The End Of Paths Taken.
Yes, this is not a very positive album title for us diehard fans, but I am going to approach this with a positive attitude and not read into the fact that the title is not a subtle message that the Cowboy Junkies are finally calling an end to their inspirational career, because this album just opens up a brand new Pandora’s Box of prolific sources of goodness to overcome the evil thoughts that this may be their last recording.
At first listen, the word “atypical” comes to mind. Lyrically, the Cowboy Junkies have always been profoundly personal but never critical or brooding, and this time out Michael Timmins has explored some of the darkest crevices of his personality and its role in a genealogy where matrilineal myopia is overshadowed by patriarchal progeny and the role of motherhood is objectified while the role of fatherhood is pontificated. This is quite the departure from previous Cowboy Junkies’ lyrical endeavors, for the entire album is focused and conceptual; each song a prelude to the next so that by album’s end the whole truth and nothing but the truth about family values are revealed.
Musically, the Cowboy Junkies have always relied on their Xanax-influenced instrumentation guided by the Valium-voiced vocalizations of sister Margo Timmins, and for you old traditionalists, they do not veer too far from this eponymous—and that is a beautiful thing. The canons may be controversially complex, but the modulations are mystically melodic.