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Cowboy Junkies - Renmin Park

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 11 / 10 / 2010

Cowboy Junkies - Renmin Park
Label: Proper Records
Format: CD


Thoughtful and moving latest album from the Cowboy Junkies, which was conceived by songwriter and guitarist Michael Timmins during a three month visit to China

The setting is China on the Cowboy Junkies’ latest 'Renmin Park', an album of subtle and graceful beauty. Songwriter and guitarist Michael Timmins conceived of 'Renmin Park' during a three month stay in China. While Timmins’ sojourn is highly influential on the album, the record retains the Cowboy Junkies signature spare bluesy melancholy. 'Renmin Park' is the first of four albums in the band’s Nomad Series set to span the next 18 months. It is clear from the start, with its varied textures and ambient noises that this album is both diverse and challenging as the 'Intro' begins with the sounds of a Chinese parade. In certain places 'Renmin Park' utilizes sound collages taken from field recordings of Chinese life. The album begins in earnest with the title track 'Renmin Park' with Margo Timmins’ trademark ethereal vocals. Accompanied by an easy acoustic guitar, Margo Timmins’ vocals are so poignant from the get go as she captures the imagery of Renmin Park. “Watch the darkness leach away into the haze of another day.” The mood here is sombre. 'Stranger Here' is lovely for Margo’s vocals, a compelling tune and the song's evocative lyrics: “Communing with the planets above/I am a righteous man, the one you’re looking for/I’m a stranger here.” The effect is like the call of God’s presence to a weary searching soul. 'A Few Bags of Grain' is a weathered beleaguered tune that speaks to “a world gone insane.”'I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side' includes a haunting vocal that tells a story of heartbreak. Meanwhile the music is at once folky and industrial. 'Interlude' includes the sound of bullets fired, evoking past violence that has erupted in China. 'My Fall' includes the thought provoking lyric “All the things you ever wanted are the things that now haunt you.” 'Little Dark Heart' is one of the album’s very finest moments and goes straight to the soul. The song is vintage Cowboy Junkies- beautiful and stirring. By the album’s end, the listener is fully won over. For being open to a long journey to China, we are simultaneously rewarded with the home spun sounds of classic Cowboy Junkies.

Track Listing:-
1 Intro
2 Renmin Park
3 Sir Francis Bacon at the Net
4 Stranger Here
5 A Few Bags of Grain
6 I Cannot Sit Badly by Your Side
7 (You've Got to Get) A Good Heart
8 Cicadas
9 Interlude
10 My Fall
11 Little Dark Heart
12 A Walk in the Park
13 Renmin Park (Revisited)
14 Coda

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