Album Review: Demons: The Nomad Series, Vol. 2 by Cowboy Junkies
Excellent, Based on 4 Critics
Rolling Stone - 100 Based on rating 5/5
The music of the late Vic Chesnutt radiated black humor, ragged charm and a vulnerability that was often alarming. Cowboy Junkies successfully retain those qualities on Demons, a collection of Chesnutt covers that sets his striking lyrics against coiled guitars and baleful church organs. With her smoky alto and expertly restrained delivery, Margo Timmons turns out to be the perfect conduit for Chesnutt's tales of loneliness.
There is little doubt that the forlorn songwriting and achingly beautiful yet at the same time deeply discordant vocal tone of folk troubadour Vic Chesnutt is an acquired taste. He achieved his most wide-spread acclaim when he recorded and performed with previously established peers who were already fans of his intricate and honest songwriting, such as Widespread Panic, with which he released two albums under the band name Brute. Partially paralyzed in a 1983 drunk driving accident, in severe pain, great debt, and understandably depressed, suicide—which he attempted several times—was often a subject of his songwriting.
When a band's been making records for as long as the Cowboy Junkies (26 years by the time of Demons' release), it's easy to get stuck in a rut if you don't make a concerted effort to keep things fresh. That's probably at least part of the reason the stalwart Canadian folk-rockers conceived their Nomad Series, whose first volume came out just eight months before the second, Demons. The idea was to release four albums within 18 months, each of which would represent a thinking-outside-the-box approach to music making for the band.
Last spring the Cowboy Junkies realized that being without a record contract meant they were free to release as much music as they wanted to on their own label. Feeling exceptionally productive, they launched the Nomad series, which will see the Canadian icons release four albums over 18 months. Demons, the second in the series, lacks the raw, ragged glory of Renmin Park, the first instalment, but there's still a lot to love here.