To say that the Cowboy Junkies’ new record, Open, washes over you is a bit of an understatement. It’s more of a riptide, really. If you let yourself get pulled in, you’re underwater till they’re good and ready to let you up.
The Timmins family rides the unconscious psychological current, conjuring disturbed back-basin washes of emotion — Margo insinuating looking-glass, deep-woods dark imagery and Michael laying on swirls and waves of feedback and a general sonic murk that, though they might seem innocuous at first glance, refuse to let go your gaze.
Let’s face it, when you have titles such as “Dragging Hooks (River Song Trilogy: Part III”) and “Upon Still Waters,” this kind of semitortured metaphor is inevitable. But with the Cowboy Junkies, it’s totally appropriate too. They’ve always been a reflection of rainy-day people, broken hearts, an autumn chill and the passage of time reflected upon with clarity and more than a modicum of subtle, slightly rockish beauty. Stark? Yes. Haunted? Yup. Does Margo Timmins make you think that Alanis, Paula Cole and the rest of the Jenny-come-latelies have all learned a bit at her writerly feet? You betcha. And she still leaves ’em on the banks wondering while she drifts away, afloat on the intimate, delicate, raw passages of brother Michael’s languorous frettery.
Sure, the Junkies stray sometimes from tight, artful storytelling into summer-shed-show wanking turf, but these moments are thankfully few. Deep waters sometimes aren’t still. Sometimes they just look like they are till you jump in.
The Cowboy Junkies perform July 6 at Royal Oak Theatre.
E-mail Chris Handyside at firstname.lastname@example.org.