Cowboy Junkies Waltz Across America

More of a love letter to their fan club than an official release, Waltz Across America was recorded while the Junkies were promoting a B-sides compilation and navigating the waters of post-major-labeldom. "We got a lot of taping done, and when we listened to it, it reflected the good time that we had," says vocalist Margo Timmins. "And a lot of the same people kept coming back. So we decided, why not? There are no rules in our world; there are in the major label world, but we can put out whatever we want, whenever." As a result, the song selection is pleasantly unpredictable, with the highlights being "Blue Guitar," an 11-minute slice of psychedelia co-written by Townes Van Zant, and the feedback-drenched rocker "I Saw Your Shoes," where Margo Timmins belts it out like never before. The side players provide the best moments: the versatile virtuoso Jeff Bird, keyboardist Linford Detweiler and vocalist Karin Bergquist. The latter marks the first time Margo has shared vocal duties in the band. "Maybe there was some subconscious thing about having another singer there being a threat to you, unless you feel strong about your own position," she says. "I felt I wasn't ready to have someone there before because I didn't know what I was doing, so what were they gonna do?" It works perfectly, however, and the whole set bodes well for the band's next studio album, due in the spring. (Latent)