Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Cowboy Junkies – Glasgow – 1990

28th March 1990

Glasgow Pavilion

Sometime early in 1989 I was listening to the radio, whilst performing a bit of painting and decorating.  I cannot recall which station I had on, but remember they did appear to be playing Gloria Estefan’s I Can’t Stay Away From You at least once every half-hour.  After the most recent airing, the DJ segued straight into this sparse melancholic number sung by an angel.  A few minutes into this tune, which I did not know, there came a short two note guitar break and I remember thinking at the time “That sounds likes Blue Moon”.  The guitar then did indeed play a few bars from the Rogers & Hart classic.

“Now what would be just perfect” I thought to myself “would be if that singer would now give us a few lines from the song Blue Moon itself”.  Which was, to my surprise exactly what she did.  I am not going to say I fell off my ladder in shock at this point, but I certainly endured a serious wobble. 

The song was, of course, Blue Moon Revisited by The Cowboy Junkies, and I suppose I have prefaced these scribbles with that rather tangential anecdote purely as a way of attempting to highlight the fact that in my opinion there can have been few more seamless merging together of a new song with an old standard, than may be heard on this particular recording.  They seemed born for each other.

Thus was Blue Moon Revisited my introduction to The Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions album.  This was the Canadians’ second release; the first entitled White’s Off Earth Now!! had been a collection of blues standards rendered almost skeletal by the band’s stripped-down walking-pace arrangements.  The set was mildly diverting, but little more.

The brainwave was to invite a number of experienced C&W musicians as “Honorary Junkies” to the party for The Trinity Sessions recordings, with the resulting album a mesmeric concoction of blues, folk and rock.  Some of the covers on the collection, notably the funereal-paced rendition of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane, I felt overdid the world-weary woe is me aspect to the vocal almost to the point of parody, but the originals were quite special. 

Misguided Angel, a tale of falling for the wrong person (or perhaps the correct one) boasted as sensual a lyric as can be found anywhere, and Margo Timmins’ voice when she shifts key during the second verse to sing the “Sister Don’t You Understand” lines is simply chilling.  To Love is to Bury is as stark and soul-bearing as the title suggests, but is uplifted by the wonderful slide-guitar work of Kim Deschamps.  200 More Miles and I Don’t Get it are also highlights.

Just a coincidence?

I had introduced a former colleague DM to the album and the pair of us made our way through to Glasgow for this concert.  Attending gigs with DM was never less than entertaining, for I recall on the bus down to London for a Lou Reed concert his irony-free assertion, as we passed through the wooded Scottish Borders: “There are an awful lot of trees in this neck of the woods”.  Rather more surreally, he accused my car of giving him a fright by saying “Hey” to him, as we parked it before this CJ concert.  Again, with a totally straight face.

The support act for the evening was one Luka Bloom, whom I later discovered to be Christy Moore’s younger brother.  Bloom was promoting his Riverside album, and I am guessing songs like Dreams in America, Gone to Pablo, I Need Love and his cover of The Waterboys’ This is the Sea may have been performed, but I can regretfully recall naught.

The Cowboy Junkies' set list below is taken from a Cologne concert a few days later on the tour, and is probably a close enough representation of the songs we heard them perform.  I don’t see To Love is to Bury there, nor one which Margo introduced as being a Whaler’s Song, but the rest look fine.

Early in the set the band played a new song called Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning, before which Margo took the time to explain that the word “feet” in the song line:

“I kind of like the feel of this extra few feet in my bed.”

referred to the space left by her departed lover, rather than her indulging in threesomes or moresomes.

Whilst she was relating this tale, the mike stand came loose and the mike instead of sitting at a jaunty 45o suddenly drooped.  She said something like “That’s always happening to me”, realising her faux-pas just a second too late.  When some sharp witted Glasgow wag shouted out “Aye, nae luck!” she blushed deeply and really rather endearingly.

Set list (from Cologne 5/4/90)

Walking After Midnight
‘Cause Cheap is how I Feel
200 More Miles
Me and the Devil
Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning
Rock and Bird
Escape is So Simple
Shining Moon
You Will Be Loved Again
Thirty Summers
Sweet Jane
Misguided Angel
Dust My Broom
Blue Moon Revisited

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