Cowboy Junkies, "All That Reckoning" (Latent Recordings)
Cowboy Junkies return from a yearslong recording sojourn with "All That Reckoning," one of the best albums of their extended career. Occasionally ramping up the quiet, haunting sounds of "The Trinity Sessions," their 1988 classic, with doses of tougher arrangements and topical themes, the three Timmins siblings and bassist Alan Anton again perform up to their high standards.
Some albums are love at first listen, others take a while to sink in and some just sink. "All That Reckoning" definitely belongs in the first batch, a record that's instantly accessible, likable and memorable without merely trying to repeat old triumphs.
Guitarist-songwriter Michael Timmins says the reckoning is both personal and political and the title track launching the album with the Junkies' trademark reverberations is definitely in the personal realm — "You took my heart and softly asked for more." Others in that category are "Wooden Stairs," ''Shining Teeth" and "The Possessed."
"The Things We Do to Each Other" reflects the wider context, a song about manipulation and power: "Fear is not so far from hate/So if you get the folks to fear/It only takes one small twist/To kick it up a gear." Another peak is "When We Arrive," which combines individual and ideological issues.
Vocalist Margo Timmins excels on both the intimate and the communal songs. Even on the louder tracks, like "Missing Children," ''Sing Me a Song" — which echoes Richard and Linda Thompson — or a crunchy reprise of the title tune, she's never shrill but never drowned out, either, as the Canadian band expertly maintains its balance.
Over 30 years into their career, "All That Reckoning" shows Cowboy Junkies in peak form, adding another inspired, alluring album to their repertoire.