Demons

Review Type:

When I first read that Demons, the second album in Cowboy Junkies 4 part Nomad Series, would be a collection of covers of songs written by some guy called Vic Chestnutt I was disappointed. I had never heard of Chestnutt and I was hoping for more original material penned by Junkies songwriter Michael Timmins... so I decided that 3 out of 4 (in the series) wouldn't be a bad outcome.

I was wrong. Very wrong. Demons is one of the most amazing albums I have ever heard. Chestnutt's songs are dark and disturbing, exploring his depression in a very direct and often challenging way. Cowboy Junkies have taken the songs and delivered them in a variety of powerful ways: sometimes laid back with a jazzy swing (We Hovered With Short Wings) and sometimes loud and heavy (Ladle). Margo Timmins' vocals switch between bitter, melancholy and soaring, as required by the lyrics. The whole band seems to revel in being able to pay tribute to their friend Chestnutt.

The guest performances are outstanding. Joby Baker's contributions on keyboards are amazing, with swirling organ filling many of the tracks. Jeff Bird's mandolin is delicate on the quiet tracks (for example, the amazing Supernatural) and absolutely tortured on the bigger numbers (such as the opener Wrong Piano). There are also cellos, horns, clarinet and more. Everything is beautifully balanced.

Highlights? This album is one of the highlights of my collection. I'm serious. It really isn't worth pulling out one or a few songs here and deciding they're the pick of this album. When I try to do that by focusing on a particular song, I find myself reaffirming the wonder of that song.

OK, I'm a Cowboy Junkies fan. They're probably my favourite active band. So this review is biased... however...

Cowboy Junkies exploration of Vic Chestnutt's demons is one of the best albums you're likely to hear. The big shame here is that the Junkies aren't a mainstream band so most people aren't likely to hear Demons. It is amazing.