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Cowboy JunkiesCowboy Junkies
Album: Live At The Belly Up
Label: Noisetrade
Tracks: 12

When Cowboy Junkies' magnetic vocalist, Margo Timmins was once asked to describe the music industry in three words, she replied in a no-nonsense way - dying very slowly.

It's good to report then that the Canadians are still very much a vibrant part of today's music scene and this solid, 12-track album, Live At The Belly Up indicates their appeal for many is being upheld.

Unrushed, cultured and considered is the way the Cowboy Junkies perform with material created in the main by guitarist, Mike Timmins, glowing as brightly as ever today. Plucked from countless albums and collaborations, this song collection - recorded in the summer of 2014 at The Belly Up in San Diego - showcases the band as consummate artistes.

Misguided Angel, from The Trinity Sessions released in 1988 is one of the oldest here, and it is a cracker with subdued acoustic guitar, harmonica, and mandolin leading into the gentlest of country warmers with Margo in scintillating form. Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning, a personal favourite, gets the all over sublime treatment, the band flowing and nudging the vocals to make this song from 1990's The Caution Horses timeless and memorable.

Totally different in tone and strength is 3rd Crusade from The Nomad Series of 2011 - this is a full frontal rock outing, squalls and feedback that don't distract from the Canadian's unhurried vocals in the slightest: in fact, she relishes it all.

The Junkies do covers so well. In concert I've heard them offer up Townes Van Zandt's Lungs and Don't Let It bring You Down by Neil Young in stellar fashion: here it's Sweet Jane, one of their favourites. A two-minute cacophonous, freeform intro swoons into a searing, dark and muscly version with Mike Timmins' ice like guitar riding the drum and bass waves in style.

With Margot draped over the mic and the other Junkies drawing us in within superb musicianship, this live outing will make everyone check dates for the band's next visit to their hometown. I'll be there when they come to mine.

Mike Ritchie