Cowboy Same Tune

Cowboy Junkies Didn’t Carry the Same Tune For All

If you were depressed and brooding on Friday night, Pollak Theatre would’ve been the perfect place for you. The event was called “An Evening with Cowboy Junkies,” but probably should’ve been renamed “Three Hours of Depressing Songs and Awkward Swaying.”

Cowboy Junkies, despite their name, are not actually a country band with a penchant for drugs. They play a mix of rock, folk and blues. It culminates in them sounding a lot like 90’s alternative music like The Cranberries or Alanis Morissette.

Singer Margo Timmins acknowledged their love for depressing songs. They sang a song that is apparently famous in China, but had to translate it first. Timmins laughed, “We found the song, translated it and found that [the Chinese singer/songwriter] likes depressing songs too.”

The Canadian band, which was formed in 1985, divided the set into two parts. The first part consisted of all of their new songs, without much reaction from the audience. Timmins acknowledged that the audience probably didn’t come to hear songs they didn’t know. “Grin and bear it,” Timmins said to the crowd, “Maybe you’ll like some of them.”

The new songs were from four albums, collectively known as The Nomad Series, which were written and recorded over 18 months. Why record four different albums in 18 months? They just wanted a challenge. Timmins said that each album can be listened to on its own, as there isn’t much linking the four together. I’d have to disagree and say that based on the sampling they gave the audience, all four albums sounded exactly the same.

Listening to Cowboy Junkies is a lot like listening to a Nickelback album. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the music. It’s actually pretty good for the first few songs, but after three hours everything sounds exactly the same.

After an intermission they came back and played their old songs with a lot more enthusiasm from the audience. The increased enthusiasm was particularly weird because the old songs sounded pretty much the same as the new ones. Their pianist would make some odd sounds on the synthesizer, the drums would kick in, and Timmins would awkwardly sway along while singing about how she’s alone and sad.

Timmins also read her lyrics off of a binder that stood in front of her the whole time, which struck me as odd. If her band wrote and recorded the songs, shouldn’t she know the songs? She was honestly the strangest part of the show. She spoke and sang in this airy, whimsical voice that gave off a lot of hippie vibes. During one song, there was a minute or two where she didn’t sing so she walked off stage and then returned when she had to sing again. Perhaps that was to save us from the awkward swaying.

Each of the songs also included a pretty awesome guitar solo by Michael Timmins. He used about half a dozen different guitars throughout the night, and was by far the best part of the show.  Longtime fan, Andrew Klobeucar of Jersey City said, “Mike is an even better guitar player than he was [in 1985].”

Klobeucar and the rest of the over 40 crowd, which made up a majority of the audience, enjoyed the show. He added that he enjoyed the small, intimate settings that the band has played over the years. Sherri Cook of Butler, NJ also enjoyed the show. Cook even skipped out of work early to drive down. “I definitely enjoyed the show,” said Cook. “I loved that it felt intimate.”  Some of the other longtime fans complained that they didn’t play enough of their older music. Cowboy Junkies did seem to know that they were playing for a specific audience. They did a couple of acoustic songs which were actually requests that they had taken from fans on their website.

Younger audience members didn’t enjoy the show quite as much. Freshman Raquel Warehime said, “It was very mellow. It made me depressed.” Courtney Carr, also a freshman, said, “It wasn’t our thing, but the audience really liked it.”