Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”
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Cowboy Junkies mesmerize at The Belcourt
by Dave Carew
So I’m sitting at my desk on Tuesday afternoon and I get an e-mail from my buddy. “Just won two free tickets to the Cowboy Junkies show at The Belcourt tomorrow night. Wanna go?”
This one is exceptionally easy to answer. With their dark, hypnotic alt-rock supporting the haunting voice of Margo Timmins, the Cowboy Junkies still are—in their consummately anti-show-business way—one of the world’s must-see concert bands.
The first half of the show featured material from the band’s new The Wilderness album. Before performing it, Margo Timmins seemed to almost apologize that the first half of the show would feature new material rather than Cowboy Junkies classics (which the band played later in abundance). Margo didn’t need to apologize. As my friend posted to FaceBook during the performance “Margo kept saying, ‘I know people want to hear the old stuff, it’s coming later,’ but the new stuff is absolutely brilliant. Better than the old stuff in my opinion.” I wouldn’t completely agree with my friend—simply because I like the old stuff so much, too—but he was dead-on in saying the new Cowboy Junkies material is brilliant.
After a brief break between segments, the Junkies returned with the swirling sonic darkness of their classic “Sweet Jane,” followed soon by other indie-rock gems such as “Common Disaster” and “Anniversary Song.” The show concluded, in a tip of the hat to Nashville, with a beguiling version of Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight, transmogrified by the Junkies into a three-chord swamp blues that took you way, way past midnight.
As we left the show, my buddy and I tried to answer the question: How would you describe the Cowboy Junkies sound? We came up with words like “mystical,” “haunting,” “evocative,” and “hypnotic” . . . but didn’t feel we ever quite got there.
Maybe we weren’t supposed to get there. Maybe the Cowboy Junkies are about taking you on a journey that never quite ends, to a sonic landscape inhabited by ghosts and shadows and poetry and artistry. If so, they do that better than anyone else around.
David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.