In the world of rock and roll, most bands will spend a lifetime trying to outdo, or distance themselves from records that made them famous.
For the Toronto-based Cowboy Junkies, that record was 1988’s The Trinity Session, and the Junkies aren’t thinking about burying that record in their past.
In fact, the band — composed of siblings Michael, Margo and Peter Timmins, and bassist Alan Anton — has just released, almost 20 years to the day of Trinity Session’s coming out party, Trinity Revisited, which takes all the members, plus a few special guests, back to the church where the original recording was made to play the same songs in the same order — but definitely not in the same way.
First of all, the band members are all now 20 years older, 20 years wiser and 20 years more the musicians that they were when lightning struck in Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity two decades ago. The recording, anchored by a haunting, echoing cover of “Sweet Jane,” was a down-tempo revelation, an album that rocked and rolled, certainly, but which took its sweet time doing it.
Legions of fans joined the beginning of the band’s journey that winter and have stayed with it ever since. That ride has taken the Junkies all over the musical map — from country to rock to noise to traditional and acoustic — but the sound has always been uniquely, beautifully, Cowboy Junkies.
Through it all, from Caution Horses, through Lay it Down, to Open and last year’s critically acclaimed The End Of Paths Taken, The Trinity Session has remained a watershed moment. Fans clamber to hear Margo’s sweet, smoky voice croon through “Sweet Jane,” “To Love is to Bury,” “200 More Miles” and “Blue Moon (Song for Elvis).” Even if the album was not close to being their most musically accomplished, it remains seminal for its dedicated fans, many of whom are now introducing their children to the band.
Why on earth then would they choose to go back and re-record Trinity Session, and why with a trio of guests who would certainly put their own spin on such beloved songs?
“We felt that we had enough time and distance from the original recording that it wasn’t precious to us,” says Michael, “and we thought we could bring a different vibe to it. The idea of bringing extra guests who would also bring in their perspective and experiences to bear on the music is what made it intriguing for us. So, we thought, ‘Let’s take a shot at it and see where it goes,’ and we’re ecstatic with the way it came out.”
Unlike a lot of bands that spend their careers trying to get away from their breakout record, the Junkies have embraced the intense kinship their fans feel for Trinity Session. They were all, according to Timmins, very much aware of the approaching 20th anniversary and wanted to do something to mark the occasion, to celebrate it, even.
“We’ve always been saying, since the beginning, that every record we put out there’s always some reference back to Trinity Session,” Timmins said. “We do have the same sound, but if you listen to what we do now, and what we did then, it’s still identifiable as Cowboy Junkies, but it’s different. The thing about Tri