A few moments ago, the Cowboy Junkies best album1 came on my stereo, The Trinity Session, and I listened to it intently for the first time in a long time. Such a timeless LP, and of course, hearing the album triggered a bit of reverie down my own memory lanes and paths. I recall many late nights putting this album on my turntable, and being enveloped by its mood, as I drank red wine with some people who have since faded from my life.
Per Wikipedia, The Trinity Session was released in 1988, but I don’t think I purchased a copy2 until 1989 or even 1990. I’ve never been enthusiastic towards opiate-induced dream stupors, but I’ve been around enough people who were, and the slow-placed, languorous tempo of the Trinity Session evokes a similar state of blissful melancholy.
Thom Jurek writes:
The Trinity Session was recorded in one night using one microphone, a DAT recorder, and the wonderful acoustics of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. Interestingly, it’s the album that broke the Cowboy Junkies in the United States for their version of “Sweet Jane,” which included the lost verse. It’s far from the best cut here, though. There are other covers, such as Margo Timmins’ a cappella read of the traditional “Mining for Gold,” a heroin-slow version of Hank Williams’ classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Dreaming My Dreams With You” (canonized by Waylon Jennings), and a radical take of the Patsy Cline classic “Walkin’ After Midnight” that closes the disc. Those few who had heard the band’s previous album, Whites Off Earth Now!!, were aware that, along with Low, the Cowboy Junkies were the only band at the time capable of playing slower than Neil Young and Crazy Horse — and without the ear-threatening volume. The Timmins family — Margo, guitarist and songwriter Michael, drummer Peter, and backing vocalist and guitarist John — along with bassist Alan Anton and a few pals playing pedal steel, accordion, and harmonica, paced everything to crawl.
(click here to continue reading The Trinity Session – Cowboy Junkies | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic.)
The lyrics and instrumentation of the album were lifted from the classic country groups the band was exposed to, and the song “200 More Miles” was written in reference to their life on the road.
As they had on Whites, the band wanted to record live with one stereo microphone direct to tape—it is stated on the album cover that the recording was made on 2-track RDAT using one single Calrec Ambisonic Microphone.
Peter Moore was enlisted and suggested the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto for its natural reverb. To better persuade the officials of the historic church, the band claimed to be The Timmins Family Singers and said they were recording a Christmas special for radio. The session began on the morning of 27 November 1987. The group first recorded the songs with the fewest instruments and then the songs with gradually more complex arrangements. In this way Moore and the band were able to solve acoustic problems one by one. To better balance Margo Timmins’s vocals against the electric guitars and drums, she was recorded through a PA system that had been left behind by a previous group. By making subtle changes in volume and placement relative to the microphone over six hours, Moore and the band had finally reached the distinctive sound of the album by the time the last of the guest musicians arrived at the church.
The band was unable to rehearse with most of the guest musicians before the day of the session. Considering the method of recording and time constraints, this could have been disastrous for the numbers which required seven or more musicians, but after paying a security guard twenty-five dollars for an extra two hours, the band was able to finish, and even recorded the final song of the session, “Misguided Angel”, in a single take.
Contrary to popular myth, the album was not entirely recorded in one day. In the hustle of the first recording session, the band forgot to record “Mining for Gold”. Margo and Moore recorded the song a few days later during the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s lunch break.
Sleeve notes state that the recording was not mixed, overdubbed or edited in any way.
(click here to continue reading The Trinity Session – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
Michael Timmins adds more detail of the album’s genesis:
We had spent the past year touring Whites Off Earth Now!! around Canada and the United States, grabbing gigs wherever and whenever they were offered. We had sold an incredible (by the Canadian indy standards of the time) 3,000 copies of Whites and had taken the little money that we had made from touring and placed it all back in the band. With a pocketful of change and the inspiration from our travels we began to conceptualize our next recording.
While touring Whites we had spent a lot of time in the Southern States, especially Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas. For some reason the club owners down there took a liking to what we were doing so we spent a lot of time crossing the kudzu choked highways that ran through the heart of the old Confederacy. Those were the days when having to spend a night in a hotel room would mean the difference between eating the next day or paying for the gas to get us to the next town, so we spent a lot of our time sleeping on the floors of friendly promoters, fans, waitresses and bartenders. One of the best part about being “billeted” was that each night we were exposed to a new record collection and each night we’d discover a new album or a new band or a whole new type of music that was springing up in some buried underground scene somewhere in America.
(click here to continue reading COWBOY JUNKIES | The Trinity Session.)Footnotes: