Cowboy Junkies Early 21st Century Blues

It’s inevitable that all the global tension in the past five years was eventually going to infiltrate music on a large scale. The amazing thing is that it’s taken this long, but the Cowboy Junkies are weighing in here with an anti-war statement based largely around some thoughtfully-chosen covers. Of course, they have been down this path before, doing their own version of the blues with Whites Off Earth Now, and country with The Trinity Session, so in some ways Early 21st Century Blues completes the trilogy by exploring folk/protest with songs like "Two Soldiers,” "No More My Lord” and John Lennon’s "I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier.” However, this is not the same band who would have raggedly attacked this material 15 years ago. The Timmins siblings and Alan Anton are now well-travelled and settled in their personal lives. Like their great mentor Bruce Springsteen showed with The Rising, they realise the fragility of modern life, and that makes all the difference in their laconic treatment of this material, including Bruce’s own "Brothers Under the Bridge” and "You’re Missing.” Whereas on recent albums, the band have shown too many MOR tendencies, here the utter sadness inherent to most of the performances is stirring. The danger in doing an album like this is drudging up ghosts of the Vietnam era, but Michael Timmins tries to avoid that with two original compositions — "December Skies” and "This World Dreams Of,” which provide a bit of modern perspective. Still, it’s not a stretch to say that overall this album is nice companion piece to Springsteen’s Devils & Dust, and I’m sure that Michael wouldn’t have a problem with that. (Latent)