The Trinity Session
I’ve been in love with Margo Timmins since I first laid eyes on her and heard her voice. There is a luminescence about her when you mix her beauty with the heartache in her voice. I simply couldn’t get enough of her and the Cowboy Junkies back in the day, and the opportunity to see them live wasn’t something I was going to pass up.
The Phantasy Nightclub and Theater in Cleveland was a great venue. I always imagined it as our very own version of Manchester’s infamous Free Trade Hall. In the same way that there was the Free Trade Hall and the Lesser Free Trade Hall (a smaller venue upstairs), the Phantasy has the theater downstairs for bigger acts and the nightclub upstairs for a more intimate setting. And when the Junkies toured behind The Trinity Session back in ’89, the nightclub was the perfect venue. I attended that show with my girlfriend Pam and a couple other friends. It was an amazing night.
When I reviewed the Cowboy Junkies’ Long Journey Home: Live in Liverpool DVD for PopMatters a few years ago, I opened it with a description of how I remember that long-ago show to provide perspective:
“The audience was scattered throughout the tiny room – sitting cross-legged on the small dance floor and at the tables scattered about the perimeter. When it was time for the Junkies to take the stage (a riser not more that a foot above the dance floor), a side table was brought out, a piece of lace and a vase of roses were placed on it, and a barstool set beside it. Margo Timmins shimmered in the smoky dim light. It was a moody evening – in my mind there were candles on the stage, but I don’t know that even then someone could get away with an open flame in that setting. Someone called out his love for her midway through the set – we were all feeling that way. Obviously uncomfortable, she blushed. I think she gave the guy one of the roses from the stage.”Along with that experience of seeing them live, I have all sorts of feelings tied up in the Cowboy Junkies and that era...
I remember listening to “Dreaming My Dreams with You” over and over after Pam moved to San Francisco the summer before I headed to Bowling Green. I remember the full-page black-and-white Herb Ritts photo of Margo I ripped out of Rolling Stone and put it up on the wall in my Chapman Hall dorm room. I remember discovering the The Trinity Session wasn’t their first album when I stumbled upon Whites Off Earth Now!! on vinyl at Madhatter Music Co. (another independent music store now gone) in downtown Bowling Green. I remember hearing “Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning” for the first time and being blown away by their cover of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” from the follow-up album, The Caution Horses.
So many great songs off that first album I could have picked here, but I went with the most well-known tune, a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”. Even back when The Trinity Session was originally released, I remember the owner of Digital Daze saying he’d read that Lou Reed said it was the best version of the song he’d ever heard. It’s an organic, on-the-verge-of-tears reading that feels genuine and earthy. It’s a lights out, curtains pulled, candles lit, quiet night soundtrack kind of song if ever there was one.