Cowboy Junkies have been progressively turning up the guitars in their sound since about 1993’s Pale Sun Crescent Moon. But Open has more edge than just about anything the band has done as they delve deeper into a heavy, dark electric folk-blues sound. Unfortunately, it’s also their dullest album. That’s saying something for a band that has based its career on an egregiously laid back style. But on past efforts, guitarist and chief songwriter Michael Timmins could always be counted on to deliver at least a couple of pretty melodies and a few sexy lines for sister Margo Timmins to sing (hey, don’t go there). But on Open, Michael’s guitar is pushed to the forefront and Margo’s vocals have faded into the background. More importantly, Michael has neglected to write any particularly compelling songs for this record.
The opening “I Did It All For You” is a dark, melancholy number with a feedback-drenched guitar wail intro. “Upon Still Waters” has an exotic sounding beginning, a wank-a-thon guitar solo, and a chorus that sounds partially borrowed from Pearl Jam but it ultimately goes nowhere. Even more conventional Junkies tracks like “Bread And Wine” fail to provide much spark, despite Margo singing lyrics like, “Your thoughts ain’t nearly as wicked as mine.” Michael turns down the guitar histrionics and Margo finally gets a vocal showcase on the mellow, piano-tinged ballad “Thousand Year Prayer.” Too bad it has a completely uninteresting melody. “Beneath The Gate” is delicately pretty and organ-soaked, and “I’m So Open” is the record’s most upbeat track with a cool electric mandolin solo. But the record concludes with the thoroughly underwhelming “Close My Eyes.” “Let’s get outta here,” Margo Timmins sings. I’m all for that.
Zoe Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140