Cowboy Junkies. Photo by Heather Pollock

“The band gets better because musically we’ve put in our 30,000 hours,” Cowboy Junkies singer Margo Timmins said in an interview earlier this month. “We now breathe together.”

The Cowboy Junkies released their first album almost four decades ago, yet all the original members remain – three Timmins siblings and a good friend.

In June, Cowboy Junkies released their latest album, “Such Ferocious Beauty,” and this week they’ll be playing at the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield. I reached singer Margo Timmins over the phone, and we spoke about the upcoming performance; her brother, guitarist/lyricist Michael Timmins; the impact of the band’s 1988 album “The Trinity Sessions”; and what her life looks like now.

The band’s other two members are drummer Peter Timmins and friend Alan Anton on bass.

Many fans, me included, discovered The Cowboy Junkies through the “The Trinity Sessions,” home to a cover of the Velvet Underground song “Sweet Jane.”  I’ve since seen Cowboy Junkies several times and have followed along with most of their discography, which now stands at about 25 albums.

Margo’s celestial vocals against an alt-country backdrop with a tapestry of Michael’s deeply intimate yet relatable lyrics shine as bright as they ever have with “Such Ferocious Beauty.” Some of the songs, including “What I Lost” and “Shadows 2,” trace the loss of their father, who had dementia and died last year.


Michael, who is 18 months older than Margo, has been bringing her songs for many years, and she said she is still often blown away by his insight and wisdom. “This happens to me all the time. There are songs, especially on this album, that are so personal.”

It helps that the siblings lives have followed similar trajectories, both Michael and Margo marrying and having children around the same time. “We’re always sort of shadowing each other, so I get that these songs are expressing exactly where I am,” Margo said.

Then, sometimes Michael comes in with a song like “Circe and Penelope,” about two famed figures of Greek mythology, Odysseus’ faithful wife, Penelope and the Goddess Circe, who became friends.  The lyrics, in part, “And I don’t know what you got, but I got a bag full of heartache and yarn/I think of them almost every day, by pulling seams and keeping them all at bay.”

“That’s one of those songs that I do not know how he understands what these women are thinking,” she said. “Mike is a great songwriter, and certainly as a singer, in order to be able to be a good or great singer, you have to have a great song.”

Margo believes Michael is able to share private, intimate thoughts in his songs because he isn’t the one who will sing them. “He writes it and gives it to me, and I think that helps him to not feel so exposed. It’s made our singing-songwriting team that much stronger.”

When they were growing up, the siblings listened to albums by artists like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Margo would often sing backup vocals as the records played, and also had big roles in musicals at summer camp and school. But once she reached high school, she lost interest in being on stage.


Eventually, as Michael and Peter continued to craft their sound, they realized they needed a singer. Handily, they also realized they had a talented sister, with just the sort of vocals that Michael knew were the missing ingredient. The brothers asked Margo to join them. Despite her initial hesitation, she said yes.

Michael had known that Margo’s voice would change everything. He was right.

Just where does that name come from? Margo said the group came up with the name under pressure, and her memories of just who did so are fuzzy. The band, then nameless, had already booked its first gig. The club owner insisted on a name so he could advertise the performance in the local paper. During a rehearsal, band members tossed out name after name. As far as Margo can recall, it was Anton who hit on Cowboy Junkies.

When RCA Records released “The Trinity Sessions” in 1988, “Sweet Jane” was a single with an accompanying video.

Cowboy Junkies were huge fans of Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, and the song’s bridge of “heavenly wine and roses seems to whisper to me when you smile” assured its place on “Trinity Sessions.” The album received critical acclaim.

“When we recorded ‘Trinity Session,’ we knew we had done something special. Whether the world would see it, hear it or know it, we didn’t know,” Margo said. “It was a trip, our whole adventure. It still is.”


Now in her 60s, Margo still loves to perform live despite the time away from home. “It’s really quite magical, at least for us anyway.” She loves the release of performing and likened it to an addiction.

“I’m that much older, but I feel beautiful on stage,” she said, making it clear she didn’t mean physically. “I feel in control and I feel strong,” she explained.

“That we can still do this at our age, that people still come back and that we get to play beautiful venues like Stone Mountain. No one’s complaining.”

And certainly no one will be when they hear Margo step up to that microphone and start to sing.

Cowboy Junkies
8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Stone Mountain Arts Center, 295 Dugway Road, Brownfield, $100.

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