Cowboy Junkies Getting Back To 'The Folk Vibe' on 'The Wilderness'

As Cowboy Junkies prepare to wrap up their four-album Nomad Series with the March 27 release of "The Wilderness," guitarist and chief songwriter Michael Timmins is "kind of stunned" at the breadth and scope of the 18-month project.

"It's a lot of music and a lot of writing and recording and mixing that goes into making an album -- a lot of work, but it really went effortlessly," Timmins tells Billboard.com. "We started from a really loose concept; we never planned to link all four (albums) together with any kind of conscious stream. We knew that the time constraints we placed on it would give (the series) a certain amount of cohesion, anyway. But we definitely wanted each record to have its own feel and vibe and singular concept."

Timmins feels "The Wilderness," due out March 27, is distinguished by "a return of the folk vibe the band made its first noise with in the early 90s and late 80s," while some of the songs were inspired by the group's earlier works.

"They're all very reflective songs," Timmins explains. "I started to think in terms of an album of songs reflecting on the lives of characters I'd written about early in the bands career and bringing those characters 20 years into the future to see where their lives were at now. Some of those songs have little touch points where, if you're a real freak and analyze the music, you can see how they connect to earlier songs -- even character's names and stuff pops into them, and that's intentional. It was fun to sit and go over those older songs and some of the ideas I was thinking about and exploring and believed in and seeing 20 years later where I sit with some of those ideas. It's always fascinating to do that with yourself and with the songs. It's a treat for me, anyway."

"The Wilderness" is not the very end of the Nomad Series, however. Later this year Cowboy Junkies will publish a book based on the albums, with artwork by Enrique Martinez Celaya -- the Cuban-American artist whose "Nomad" paintings helped to inspire the series -- a fifth CD of material, photographs and lyrics to all the songs. "It's really beautiful," Timmins says of the volume. "I'm a book person; when you come across a really nice book, texturally...it's that type of book. It's something you can browse through and really look at. It's just another way of looking at the series."

Cowboy Junkies have become nomadic in advance of "The Wilderness'" release, with a North American tour that will take the group into late March. The group will probably do more touring this year and is also contemplating its next project -- which will likely be more modest than the Nomad Series, Timmins says. There's also the question of the 25th anniversary of the recording of the landmark group's landmark "The Trinity Session" album at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, which Timmins says the band would like to commemorate in some way.

"That album's never been reissued," he notes. "It's an album that was made with very primitive digital equipment back when it was the newest thing. I'd love to clean up the tracks and remaster it and reissue it. But dealing with the people who own it (BMG Canada/Sony) is very difficult -- not that they don't want to do it, but they have a bureaucracy, so we're trying to get through that to the right person. We'll do all the work, it's just a matter of somebody saying, 'OK, this is an important record. Let's do it right.' So hopefully we'll be able to settle all that soon and get to work on it."

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