Album Review

Cowboy Junkies - At The End Of Paths Taken

Cowboy Junkies - At The End Of Paths Taken

The Cowboy Junkies' early efforts were distinguished in large part by their internal consistency in tone and content: the bluesy urgency of Whites Off Earth Now, the hushed tones of The Trinity Session, the countryish charm of The Caution Horses. They were mood pieces, if you will. By contrast, At The End Of Paths Taken is all over the place. There's lilting balladry awash in string-section swells ("Spiral Down", "Follower 2"). There's skronky metallic junkyard clang ("Cutting Board Blues"). There's gloomy experimentalism driven by dark rhythms ("My Little Basquiat", "Doesn't Really Matter Anyway", "Mountain"). There's starkly simple strum-and-sing-along folk ("Someday Soon"). There's even a hymnlike closing track featuring a children's choir ("My Only Guarantee"). And yet...somehow this stuff all still sounds of a piece. It helps, of course, that they have a signature centerpiece in the voice of Margo Timmins, one of pop music's most distinctive singers. She's also proven, over the course of the past couple decades, to be far more versatile than the whispery stereotype she was saddled with early on. Her voice shifts surely and sharply to fit the constantly changing soundscape here. The album's broad sonic palette might have produced a scattered sensibility, yet somehow its many faces feed off each other. The points of tension provide contrast to the tender moments, resulting in a record that ultimately feels, as its title suggests, like a full and fated journey.