MUSIC REVIEWS: Cowboy Junkies and Matt Pryor
The Cowboy Junkies 1988 breakthrough album has received a celebratory 20th anniversary makeover including a DVD documentary of the recordings filmed at the Church of Holy Trinity in Toronto. It’s obvious the band soaked up the church’s warm ambiance. Trinity Revisited is a haunting alchemy of quiet emotion, top-flight country/rock, and Margo Timmins’ whispery vocals.
This time around, the Junkies are joined by Natalie Merchant, who has the presence of a melted fudgicle and the tight-lipped pipes of a stroke victim; a wobbly Ryan Adams, and craggy Vic Chesnutt. Guest star failures aside, the Junkies can mine a slow groove, particularly Jeff Bird, who provides woodsy back porch harp for “Blue Moon Revisited,” blares like a passing train in the bluesy “I Don’t Get It,” and turns Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” into a threatening stroll. Adams regroups with a cozy campfire rendition of “200 Miles,” and the group’s languid reworking of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” still oozes with backwoods sensuality.
If you happen to be out driving the open road in Middle America spending time thinking about changing your life, maybe for a montage sequence in a film- Matt Pryor’s album Confidence Man might be a good soundtrack for you. Confidence Man is the first solo offering from Matt, who was formerly of The Get Up Kids and continues to play with The New Amsterdams. The album is more of a showing of potential than a finished piece with a few moments of greatness like the title track, which blends a number of different melodic sections, layered instrumentation, and original lyrics. Unfortunately, it has a number of unoriginal coffeehouse tunes that cry of immaturity and could be used as waiting room muzac or a sleep aid at an old folks home. Some songs such as: “Dear Lover” and “Where did I go Wrong” are a bit too musically reminiscent of 90’s tunes “More Than Words” and “She Talks to Angels” and end up being blandified. There are a few glimmers and sparks like lead track “A Totally New Year” and “Lovers Who Have Lost Their Cause” but they don’t rise to the occasion in the same way the title track does. Matt clearly has potential but his freshman effort comes off just as that- a freshman effort.