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[music, albums]

XXIV: 1996 Cowboy Junkies - Lay It Down

Cowboy Junkies - Lay It Down

If someone wanted to know what my dearest voice in music was three women would immediately come to mind: Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell and the singer of the Cowboy Junkies. Margo Timmins would be it, I guess, as Billie Holiday is too far away, too classic somehow and Joni Mitchell has tainted her voice in my mind with all her bloated ego talk. Margo Timmins tender dreamy voice has got this warm embracing quality. If you asked a baby it would choose Margo to sing the lullaby. The softest, smoothest pillow to fall asleep on.

Lay It Down is my favourite Cowboy Junkies album. Margo's voice is on its apex and it is very well mixed into the foreground. All songs on Lay It Down are phantastic. It all flows majestically like a river flowing into a warm ocean. The atmosphere is as laid back as on The Trinity Session which a majority seems to consider their best but which lacks the tunes and the songwriting.

The Cowboy Junkies are a family enterprise from Toronto. Michael on guitar writes the songs, Peter is on drums, only the bass player, Alan Anton is not a member of the family. There is a cohesion in this band which must have to do with the family bounds. Other bands with similar strong ties come to mind. Yo La Tengo and Low, both couples and a bassist. They all make highly original, distinctive, timeless, atmospheric music.

Lay It Down is an album in the same vein as Velvet Underground's third self-titled. It is as spiritual without ever mentioning Jesus. Another record I'd compare this to is Mazzy Star's Tonight That I Might See. There is a psychedelic vibe, though it veers more towards the relaxed effect of dope than the almost aggressive weird colourful properties of LSD. Margo's voice is so much more expressive than the languid, sexy-too-sexy voice of Hope Sandoval.

The songs on Lay It Down are wistful but not depressive. My favourite is probably Speaking Confidentially which kind of interrupts the stream of slow, intense campfire songs for a grooving more lively rendition without being less touching. That string arrangement with the solo violin hitting the sky and the cello right behind is about the most perfect one in pop music this side of the arrangements on the first two Nick Drake records.

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XXIV was this post.


last updated: 2/23/21 8:55 AM
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