Cowboy Junkies: Demons – The Nomad Series Volume 2

Cowboy Junkies: Demons – The Nomad Series Volume 2
Canadian quarter, Cowboy Junkies commercially peaked early in their career. Their 1988 sophomore album, The Trinity Session went double platinum in their native Canada and single in America. The album remains their only platinum effort in America. Over two decades later the band still toils away, releasing Renmin Park – The Nomad Series Volume 1 last year to some mild critical acclaim. Now the band releases Volume 2 of the series.
Demons is very different from Renmin Park. Demons is actually a tribute album to late singer/songwriter, Vic Chesnutt. Cowboy Junkies pay tribute to Chesnutt by recording 11 of his songs.
On tribute albums like this, there are a couple of points of interest. One is song selection and the other how the songs are handled. On the song selection front, Cowboy Junkies seem to cover none of the obvious choices. Of the top fifteen scrobbled Vic Chesnutt songs on Last.fm, only one is covered on Demons and that is “Flirted With You All My Life.”
Because of its popularity, it is probably easiest to look at “Flirted With You All My Life” to exhibit how the covers are handled. When dealing with songs that are deadly serious like Chesnutt’s, it is hard to do anything to fancy with them but Cowboy Junkies definitely put their own spin on the track. The original track features sparse drums and little fanfare in way of guitar. The Cowboy Junkies cover seems bombastic compared to the original; it uses piano, electric guitar, bass, organ, and full drums. The extra-embelishments on the track make for an interesting listen but I can not help but feel like something gets lost in them. What made Chesnutt’s work so beautiful was the sparseness of it. His words were so desperate and raw that to have all that empty space really showcased how alone he felt. To pump up the instrumentation and volume on his songs makes his words lose a piece of their meaning.
That is not to say that Cowboy Junkies over-arrange every song on the album. “Supernatural,” which is off of Chesnutt’s 1993 album Drunk, is given a more traditional treatment. The track is nearly identical to Chesnutt’s original version except with a female vocalist.
In the end, I’m not sure which I prefer the sparse tracks or the over-arranged tracks. Perhaps, I feel like Vic Chesnutt songs should not be covered at all? I am leaning towards that one because not many of the covers on Demons really do it for me.
Rating: 4.5/10
MP3: Cowboy Junkies “Flirted With You All Of My Life”
Buy: iTunes or Amazon