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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Album Review: Pale Sun, Crescent Moon

A finger traces the path of a satellite
you're drawn to a distant copse of trees
a voice as sweet as mares tail clings to the prairie breeze.

Nothing to particularly talk about today so I’ll review one of my favorite albums

Cowboy Junkies
Pale Sun, Crescent Moon

Cowboy Junkies are:
Margo Timmons (Vocals)
Micheal Timmons (guitar and main writer)
Peter Timmons (Drums)
Alan Anton (Bass)

If there was ever an album that garnered a certain mood or feeling Pale Sun, Crescent Moon would definitely be a huge candidate. When I spent a summer in South Dakota working for the Forest Service this was the album that stayed in my cd player throughout the duration of the trip.

Although their success has never been as high as it was during their first effort, The Trinity Sessions, the next series of albums have shown that the band can be as diverse as any. Their previous effort, Black Eyed Man, explored the genres of blues, folk, and country and spends a great amount of time explaining intricate battles in relationships and the beauty of friendship and love. Pale Sun explore deeper topics of native Americans, domestic abuse, and struggles of young mothers.

1. Crescent Moon
One of Margo’s finest vocal efforts in her high, sultry voice melts over the relaxing beat of symbols and whiney strums of Micheal Timmon’s guitar. The lyrics spend a great deal of time describing the sky and the symbols of a past love and her emotion shows how long it’s been since the last meeting.

2. First Recollection
Definitely one of the best Junkies songs ever. The song takes you through one complete year of the struggles of motherhood and keeping a new family in the north. The song also talks about the mother leaving this struggling life behind due to all the disrespect she’s receiving.
I've sat and watched my troubles
pile through the summer
now I'm sitting, hearing my youngest cry
down the hall

The song is one of the faster Junkies songs and it allows the listener to feel what a Montana winter could be like with a spouse that doesn’t give respect.

3. Ring on the Sill
This could almost be a reprise of First Recollection except that it focuses on the good times for both the man and woman. The music is slow and picks up in the middle of the reminiscing until it is determined that these memories are “nothing to hold on to”. In the end they both realise that relationships are a constant road of understanding and that “there’s a long road ahead”. A very touching way to end the song.

4. Anniversary song.
Without a doubt the most positive Cowboy Junkies song in their entire catalogue. This song is more or less a celebration of love and marriage. It’s not really my cup of tea because I love the dark nature of the band, but it’s definitely a decent change of pace. One interesting thing is that, for a love song, Micheal Timmons has a way to strip off all the pick fluff of ballads and use more metaphors and down to earth examples of proposing.

5. White Sail
I guess in my opinion this song explains the start of a fantasy relationship with comparisons of midevil times. Tons of metaphors in this piece and a mellow song that showcases Margo’s voice.

6. Seven Years
Very interesting song that could easily deal with a mother putting his kid up for adoption.
Haven't seen the sun for seven days
November's got her nails dug in deep
Haven't seen my son for seven years
and the chances are we'll never again meet

The lyrics refer to places filled with judgment and how “she recalls what senses eagerly leave behind”. Along with the haunting lyrics is the haunting music with the wild slide guitar and the unusual beat. It definitely has the western feel without the twanging and whining.

7. Pale Sun
This could be my all-time favorite song. The lyrics are amazing in how they portray the hidden issues behind the Black Hills and what happened in the 1800’s.
White Cadillac, white man at the wheel,
white faces on the mountain,
wounds that will never heal
The song definitely sympathizes with the native Americans and how their land has drastically changed in the last couple centuries. Whenever I hear this song it instantly takes me back to the Black Hills and the overall feel of the land. The particular lyric I always found fascinating is in the chorus,
Pale sun falls without contest
Here is obedient darkness
Which is another outstanding metaphor referring to Pale Sun as a representative of a Native American and the fall of his tribe.

The gentile riff of the guitar and the background of guitar feedback and harmonica only add to the mood of this song as Margo narrates the downfall of the native Americans.

8. Post
The song is interesting in that the verses feature nothing more than adverbs stretched over fantastic slide guitar and simple beats. This is also a candidate for best vocal performance by Margo Timmons in that her sultry voice touches on surreal beauty while balancing the slide guitar. Definitely a western feel but more honest and genuine. It’s almost as if the Cowboy Junkies wanted to make a country song from their perspective and without the help of Hank Williams or Johnny Cash.

9. Colt Tea Blues
Very strange in that the song is about two in a half minutes long and sounds like a hallmark greeting card. If it were a card, it would be better than 90% of all the shit cards out there. There’s only two verses that act like choruses and it compares love to making tea. I must admit that I never really got into this song.

10. Hard to Explain
Blues coming from the Junkies sounds excellent because they take in all their influences and actually perform blues (or country, or folk) in their own way that conveys their message. Hard to Explain takes the feeling of a bar and takes the listener through Micheal Timmon’s reflection of love. Just another reason why I love this band.

11. Hunted
This song pretty much takes on men’s asshunts into a woman’s perspective as a woman’s struggle to keep men from ogling and glaring at her in public. The song talks about three woman being eyed by bad boyfriends, thief’s, and the threat of ass hungry guys. Definitely a clearly conveyed woman’s perspective in being surrounded by men or criminals.

12. Floorboard Blues
I love this song for how simple it is. This example of blues by the Junkies could be a reprise to Hunted with a lonely highway type of feel. The song spends time identifying some old rich pig that picks her up and has bad intentions. The song and album ends with the woman basically telling the guy to ‘fuck off’ which serves as a damn great ending to an album that explores the difficulties that a woman can have with relationships, marriage, and everyday life. Not that I know what it feels like, but it it’s a damn fine way (and album) to figure it out to.

It’s gems like Pale Sun, Crescent Moon that gives distinct hope that little known gems of music exist. When picking this album up a few years ago, I never thought I would hear such remarkable lyrics, beautiful music, and wonderful lyrics. The price of the album is about $15 but the music is priceless and some of the best I have ever heard.

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