As soon as I heard the cover of Sweet Jane by the Cowboy Junkies I knew two things. I wanted to live inside this dark and mysterious world, and that I wanted to marry Margo Timmins.
It was sweet 14 year old love. And for budding indy kids in 1987, this was a very unusual album. Combining haunting Emmylou Harris styled vocals in a nicoesque delivery over sparse Americana. There was not a lot of this music in 1987. It was distinct and otherworldly. The single that got released was only a teaser for the rest of the album. The simple instrumentation and hushed rhythm section was anathema to the rest of the 80s. There was no zing, no pop, no bubblegum whiz. It was hushed and yearning, rather than urgent and zippy. The drumming never gets louder than brushes on snares. I hadn’t heard that before. The whole album seemed like a dreamlike waylay in a cool truck stop from the 50s in the American southwest.
The album immediately calls to mind road trips with my Dad. We traveled a lot together in the 80s to go skiing, or to see far flung Wikles all over the country. Dad played a lot of Willie Nelson and some Merle Haggard and George Jones. This seemed to fit neatly into that country “mixtape”. This album taught me that good country music packed a powerful punch. You can’t ask for more from an album than this.
Standout tracks for me.
I love this original song and the backing vocals with her brother. The bass line like a lot of the bass on this album is so pure it hurts.
“Misguided angel hangin’ over me
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead
Misguided angel, love you ’til I’m dead”
So Lonesome I Could Cry
This song always seems like a slow dance hall tune from a 1950s black and white film where it’s clear that someone is dancing with a partner they don’t love, but they are waiting for someone who is never coming back. Another great bass line. And some fine lap steel guitar playing. Margo takes the yelping Hank Williams melody and turns it into a beautiful whispering call. This was my introduction to Hank Williams as a kid, and after this, I kept looking for more and more of his stuff.
“The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple haze
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry”
Dreaming my Dreams with You
I’ve put this song on every mix tape I ever made for somebody I loved. Laura has hers in a box somewhere. The floating dreamy world that this bass line lives in, always put me in the same place. A car on the road with Dad. While this is a great Haggard tune, what the band does with it is completely different.
“Someday I’ll get over you.
I’ll live to see it all through.
But I’ll always miss,
Dreaming my dreams with you.”
No long road trip I’ve ever done has had this album missing.