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At the End of Paths Taken

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 17, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Despite its title, the new Cowboy Junkies album, At the End of Paths Taken, is as much about new beginnings as it is about endings. It is also about human connections, the struggle to sustain those connections over time, and the complexities that can arise even when those connections are maintained. It is, in other words, a classic Cowboy Junkies album - a suite of smart, richly textured songs that value subtlety over broad, generic strokes, songs that prize insight and casual revelations over easily digestible clichés. Family lies at the heart of the album's eleven songs, and, of course, that is appropriate, too. Three of the band's members - singer Margo Timmins; songwriter, producer and guitarist Michael Timmins; and drummer Peter Timmins - are siblings, and bassist Alan Anton has been a member since the group formed in Toronto in 1985. Few bands have lasted nearly as long with their original line-up intact, and fewer still have created as consistently satisfying a body of work.

The Cowboy Junkies' gothic Americana takes a psychedelic hue on At the End of Paths Taken, replete with Beatlesque string sections and snarling, distorted guitar leads. It's an often epic album, exemplified by the opening track, "Brand New World," which starts off like a lament and ends with a triumph of surging strings. Atop it all sits singer Margo Timmins. She's the lover everyone wants, a voice that is at once world-weary and inviting, domineering and seductive. She's the perfect vehicle for writer and brother Michael Timmins--especially on an album that deals with adult themes--because if nothing else, Margo sounds like an adult, a woman who has experienced the world and life and things that maybe we shouldn't talk about. A mother's frustration never sounded as ominous and threatening as on "Cutting Board Blues." Sitting astride a buzzsaw guitar riff and a groove of doom, she talks about walking away from it all, leaving her cutting board behind. Many of the themes concern adulthood and children with a sense of despair about the world those children are entering on songs like "My Little Basquiat." There are moments of light and hope on At the End of Paths Taken, but overall it is a deliriously dark and brooding album. --John Diliberto

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Brand New World
  2. Still Lost
  3. Cutting Board Blues
  4. Spiral Down
  5. My Little Basquiat
  6. Someday Soon
  7. Follower 2
  8. It Doesn't Really Matter Anyway
  9. Blues Eyed Saviour
  10. Mountain
  11. My Only Guarantee

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 17, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Zoe Records
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,117 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This album is very different from the work the Cowboy Junkies did in the nineties and late eighties (I haven't listened to the 2004 One Soul Now, so I'm not sure how it compares). Their characteristic harmonica has taken a vacation, and drums have a much larger role along with several additional instruments (many that I can't even correctly identify). Further, the music is more complex, layered and psychedelic than in their 80's and 90's albums. Finally, their themes have changed, and instead of being about heartbreak, violence and despair and they are now about "family" (using Margo's term).

I have noticed these same changes in other artists' music as they have matured. In most cases, I have found these developments disappointing (Sting, Annie Lennox, Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel) as it seems like the angst and edge that originally drove these artists' creativity later gave way too something over-worked, something more science than art, something more benignly pleasant than engaging. In this case, however, I am not disappointed for the most part. Margo's hauntingly beautiful voice is still entrancing (although its changed a little too). The family themes are real rather than overly sentimental. The Cowboys still have some edge, as shown in Cutting Board Blues. And there's still some of that forlorn feeling of their earlier work in Spiral Down. It Doesn't Really Matter Anyway has a little of each and is a great song. Someday Soon didn't work for me at all, but maybe its just a matter of taste. Also, even though Mountain could be a great song, I don't like the rambling male voice in the background, its too distracting. And I wasn't hip on the kids' voices in My Only Guarantee, even though it would also be an otherwise great song.
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Format: Audio CD
I've just listened to this once, so there's probably so much more that I didn't catch yet. But what a fantastic, gorgeous, and enthralling album. This is the Junks 11th studio release - and it's the same band from when they began more than 20 years ago. But this is not the same sound sonically. Michael's guitar playing and approach continues to mature and grow (listen to Cutting Board Blues). Margo's voice has never sounded better, IMO - it's like a fine wine aging to perfection. Peter is here, along with long-time guests Jaro Czerwinec and Jeff Bird. Alan's trademark bass is very under-stated on most of the tracks, though. But the big difference is the presence of strings on nearly all of the songs. It's a great fit with Margo's voice and the tone of the album, which is very oriented towards family. There's a children's choir on the ending song, along with a recording of Father Timmins (which makes up the under-lying element of Mountain).

Highlights of the album are Cutting Board Blues, My Little Basquiat, Follower 2, and It Doesn't Really Matter. The album reminds me of Open in some ways - a big departure in sound from their previous albums. I'd rank it up there with One Soul Now, which is my favourite album of theirs in the last decade (Caution Horses remains my personal favourite).

Buy the album - and don't forget to see the band live if they're coming to your neck of the woods (unfortunately no Texas dates yet - drat).
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Format: Audio CD
How anyone could rate this less than five stars is completely beyond me. I have followed the Junkies since their second album, and really got into them with an assigned review of 'Lay It Down', which I still consider a masterpiece. But this recording is something else entirely. I've lived with it now for quite awhile (I think I had it about a month before official release, so add that time to the date of this 'review'), and I'm still awed by its strength in all directions. The writing is superb, Michael's guitar work gets better and better as time goes on, Margo's voice sounds more tuned and better than it did twenty something years ago with 'Whites Off Earth Now', and the arrangements (including strings) are simply amazing. Try listening to 'Brand New World' (the first track), and see if you don't feel optomistic about the world today. By the time the closing track, 'My Only Guarantee' finishes, it's clear that you've reached the end of THIS path taken, but I can't wait to hear where they will go next. I stand up and applaud this grand achievement of the Junkies, quite possibly the finest recording of their long career and one I will treasure for years to come. Now if they would only issue it on vinyl too...
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Format: Audio CD
I am a longtime Cowboy Junkies fan. Their sound has taken various twists and turns over their various releases, but overall they still find a way to keep their "signature" sound within each release. "At The End of Paths Taken" is yet another example. They still sound like the Junkies, but again, they have found a way to incorporate something different and new in this release. I love it. The mellowness, the moodiness, the creativity, the complexity. I think it's one of their best. There's something that just grabs you in from the first song, and makes you want to keep listening until the last. It's easy to get lost in this CD. Thanks for more great music, CJ's!
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