COWBOY JUNKIES – THE TRINITY SESSIONS
Released: Early 1988 – 27 years ago
Recorded in one day with a single microphone inside a 150 year old Toronto church, The Trinity Session is not only considered one of the band’s best but was also groundbreaking. There weren’t too many late 80s indie bands playing slow, country-tinged sadcore crooners. There was some starkly beautiful chemistry caught on tape that night. Remarkable.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
The Cowboy Junkies formed in the mid 80s in Toronto, Ontario, and featured three siblings Margo Timmins (vocals), Michael Timmins (songwriting/guitar), and Peter Timmins (drums), along with Michael’s friend Alan Anton (bass).
According to the band, The Trinity Session was influenced by music they heard on the radio while touring the southern US on their first tour.
Production credit goes to Peter Moore, who was a self-taught producer/engineer that recorded the album using a single ambisonic stereo microphone connected to a DAT recorder. Ambisonic mics reflect a kind of surround sound recording. In addition to working on several Cowboy Junkies albums, he has worked with several other acts including: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Diana Krall, Bruce Cockburn and Neko Case.
The band was very short of money and Peter Moor suggested a single recording session using this ambisonic microphone at the Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto for its natural reverb. An Anglican church, The Church of the Holy Trinity was built in 1847 in the Gothic Revival design built mostly out of limestone.
To better persuade the Church officials, the band claimed to be “The Timmins Family Singers” and said they were recording a Christmas special for the radio.
The session took a bit longer than expected and the Cowboy Junkies collected $25 between them to bribe the security guard to stay an extra couple of hours so the could finish up.
The album’s liner notes state the recording was not mixed, overdubbed or edited in any way, but that the sound was created in the nave of the church itself.
First released in Canada on Latent Records, it was soon thereafter released on RCA Records worldwide to very positive critical reviews. The Los Angeles Times hailed it as one of the best albums of 1988 and was nominated for two Juno Awards, Canada’s answer to the Grammy Award. This acclaim has not waned, and, along with numerous Canadian music awards and other “best of” lists, it was named the 42nd best album of the 1980s by Pitchfork Media.
While the modern alternative country movement is often cited as beginning with the release of No Depression in 1990, this album pre-dated the Uncle Tupelo debut by two years.
In 2007, the Cowboy Junkies released Trinity Revisited, a re-recording of the original release featuring Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt, and Natalie Merchant among others.
The Cowboy Junkies have continued to tour on subsequent releases, but haven’t ever enjoyed the success they had with The Trinity Session. They last played Tucson at the Rialto Theatre in 2009.