- 25 Mar 22
Covers records are tricky propositions. The more beloved the original recording is, the more you’re sticking your arse out and asking for a kick. Torontonian troubadours Cowboy Junkies have form for this kind of thing. They’re still, despite decades of recordings, probably best known for their ethereal run at the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane’ on 1988’s The Trinity Sessions, which also memorably featured on 1994's Natural Born Killers soundtrack.
That being said, covering songs as well known and beloved as Bowie’s ‘Five Years’, The Stones’ ‘No Expectations’ and Neil Young’s ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ are acts of bravery that should earn anyone medals just for sheer neck. Will they replace the originals in your affections? Of course not, but the keening slide and tasteful drums and piano on what was basically a Stones Robert Johnson cover in the first place is worthwhile - although you should also seek out Johnny Cash's version on 1978's Gone Girl - as are the strings and guitar crescendo and suitably regretful and resigned vocal that close out one of Bowie’s finest codas. The tremolo and (what sounds like an) ebowed guitar develop into a fairly rousing freak out for Young's forlorn classic.
Gram Parsons’ ‘Ooh Las Vegas’, previously available on the excellent 1999 tribute album, Return Of The Grievous Angel, benefits from a more radical reinterpretation with its scatter-gun slide guitar and the slightly unnerving feeling that the singer is now a ghost haunting the desert after a trip to sin city ended badly. Points for good taste are also earned by selecting what might be the best Bob Dylan song of the last several years - unlikely to be the last cover of this you ever hear - in ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You’. Kudos too for adding in some Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid flamenco guitar flourishes.
Margo Timmins is in fine voice throughout, as she always is, it's all beautifully played, and lesser-known – to me at least – material from Vic Chesnutt and Gordon Lightfoot fares equally well. Perhaps the most surprising inclusion, however, is a run at The Cure's slight 'Seventeen Seconds' which recasts The Junkies as Crazy Horse on a downer with guitarist Michael Timmins doing a decent impression of a particularly pissed-off Neil Young. Songs Of The Recollection isn't going to change your life, or replace the records they're paying tribute to, but it's a worthy endeavour nevertheless.