Women in music: Cowboy Junkies and The Trinity Sessions

Part way through Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Trent Reznor, who compiled the soundtrack, drops the needle on one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. A slow bass comes in and over the top of it the beautiful, soulful voice of Margo Timmins fronting the Cowboy Junkies, singing a deep and slow version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”.

The version is so true and so perfect that Lou Reed himself described it as “the best and most authentic version I have ever heard” .  I’d not heard of the Cowboy Junkies or Margo Timmins, but I walked out of that movie theatre wanting more.  I went to a music store near where I lived at the time looking for compilation that would give me an overview of the band, as well as a copy of that extraordinary song.

Fortunately the only album I could find was The Trinity Sessions. I was reluctant to buy it because it sounded like it must be demos and it wasn’t an overview of the band.  Stupid, stupid me.  I bought it and stumbled into one of the most wonderful albums I’ve ever heard.  An entrancing mix of originals and covers, it opens with Timmins singing an acapella version of the traditional miner’s ballad “Mining For Gold”. The moment I heard it I knew the album was something special, something different.  The album continues through a revisited version of “Blue Moon” (appropriately subtitled ‘Song for Elvis’ – Timmins sometimes sound like some magical female Elvis singing the blues) and more.

They say that great art takes time. The stunning thing about The Trinity Sessions is that it didn’t take much time at all. Apparently, planning time aside, Timmins and the other Junkies recorded the album in a single night, 27 November 1987, at Ontario’s Church of the Holy Trinity with just a single microphone.  Well, not one night. They had to go back and finish one track during the Symphony’s lunch break later that week, but the point holds.  Perfect, spontaneous, and soulful it’s one of my favorite albums of all time.