At the Mahaiwe: Cowboy Junkies makes own kind of sound


GREAT BARRINGTON -- For those looking for deep meaning in the Cowboy Junkies’ band name, Michael Timmons’ advice would be not to knock yourself out.

"We had our first show coming up," he recalled in a recent interview. "The club owners needed a name for the club listings. We sat around and threw names and words back and forth and eventually, the words ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Junkies’ stuck together.

"We liked the sound of it," he continued. "It had no meaning at all. we just liked that it was odd sounding and didn’t really define us.

"Oddly," concluded Timmons, "eventually it did define our sound."

The Cowboy Junkies will be playing the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening at 8.

The four-piece band has been together since 1985, and, unlike many bands, have retained the same personnel throughout that period.

That would be Michael Timmons on guitar, sister Margo Timmons on vocals, brother Peter Timmons on bass and drummer Alan Anton.

In addition, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird has worked with the band in both the studio and on the road. Bird plays acoustic and electric mandolin, harmonica, percussion and sampling.

After 28 years, "the playing is still fun," said Michael Timmons. "The touring gets a little harder because of responsibilities at home and wear and tear on the body. But once you start playing, it becomes worthwhile again."

The band is touring in support of its 2013 release, "The Kennedy Suite." The disc is the band’s 17th album. Since their 1986 release, "Whites Off Earth, Now!" the Junkies have had three gold albums, a platinum disc and a double-platinum record, the legendary "Trinity Sessions."

That was the album that shot them into stardom in 1988, with its iconic version of The Velvet Underground’s "Sweet Jane," which got to No. 5 on the U.S. charts.

"It was based on the version that the Velvet Underground recorded on their live album ‘1969,’ " said Timmons. "It organically developed into what it became as our sound developed."

Timmons admitted that actually defining the sound of the Cowboy Junkies is not really easy.

"Yeah, I find it hard to categorize," he said. "I would say that it has roots in the singer-songwriter genre. But there are elements of country, blues and psychedelia. ‘Our’ sound is specifically our own."

That sound is mostly the creation of Timmons, who generally does most of the songwriting.

"After I write a song, I’ll present it to the band," he said. "They then grow the song from there as far as structure and overall vibe is concerned.

"Occasionally, we will develop-create a song as a collective with everyone pitching in ideas and things grow organically," he said.

To reach Derek Gentile:, or
(413) 496-6251. On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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