LIVE: Cowboy Junkies @ Revolution Hall, 5/7/10

Here’s something that you certainly don’t see very often – someone sitting demurely cross-legged on a stool, sipping tea as she sings a Rolling Stones cover.

And that’s precisely what makes Cowboy Junkies such a compelling band. The unexpected twist.

Truth of the matter is, Margo Timmins delivered one of her best vocal performances of the night on “Moonlight Mile.”

The band – who made their debut Nippertown appearance at the QE2 back in the ’80s – makes languid, hypnotic, low-key music with the very best of them, but the most memorable performances of Friday night at Revolution Hall were those rare moments when the band cut loose, cranked up the amps and wailed – the squalling freakout of “Sir Francis Bacon at the Net,” their volcanic cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and the frenzied, buzz-saw blues of “A Common Disaster.”

Back with a full complement – Margo’s brothers Michael and Peter Timmins on guitar and drums, respectively, along with bassist Alan Anton, guitarist-pedal steel player Aaron Goldstein and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird – after a quartet show at the Empire State Plaza two years ago, Cowboy Junkies still make haunting music, but the tunes from their new album, “Renmin Park,” are laced with edgy, angular asides.

You might expect a band with the name Lee Harvey Osmond to be all about jokes and novelty. Ah, but no. Led by thoroughly captivating frontman Tom Wilson, the quartet – which featured the Junkies’ Goldstein and Bird, as well as drummer Ray Farrugia – bounced back and forth from dry, sun-burnt desert music to ominous bayou blues.

They call it “acid-folk,” or, as one member of the audience remarked to me, “This is the soundtrack to ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.'” The chugging “Queen Bee” led into the spooky psychedelia of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” which spun into the beer-soaked, deep-twang country ballad “I’m Gonna Stay That Way.” Wildman Wilson regaled the crowd with stories about the road, professional wrestlers and whatever. Then he grabbed the microphone for an a cappella version of the folk standard “John Henry,” sung with total abandon.

A genuinely mesmerizing performance.

Cowboy Junkies will be performing at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington at 8pm on Saturday.

Read Michael Eck’s review in The Times Union
An excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review in The Daily Gazette: “This was in all ways a more satisfying show than outdoors two years ago on the (Empire State) Plaza as Cowboy Junkies conjured vivid fever dreams, lulled or excited and generally showed growth in both musical concepts and execution.”

Escape Is So Simple
Southern Rain
I Don’t Get It
A Few Bags of Grain
Stranger Here
Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning
Moonlight Mile (Stones)
Sir Francis Bacon at the Net
This Street, That Man, This Life (acoustic)
Lungs (Townes Van Zandt) (acoustic)
Renmin Park (acoustic)
Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Hard to Explain
Lay It Down
Misguided Angel
A Common Disaster
Walkin’ After Midnight (Patsy Cline)

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