Cowboy Junkies release Renmin Park - listen to album via widget

Cowboy Junkies - Renmin Park

"For the first time, we are completely free of any recording contracts and obligations. We find ourselves writing and recording more than we have in years, our studio feels more and more like home, and the band now has twenty-five years under the hood and is sounding so darn good." - Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies

Cowboy Junkies

Very few bands have lasted so long with their original line-up intact, and fewer still have created as consistently satisfying a body of work as Cowboy Junkies.

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Albums like The Trinity Session (1988), Black Eyed Man (1992), Miles From Our Home (1998), and Early 21st Century Blues (2005) are just a few of the milestones which chronicle a creative path that has remained impervious to trends.

Now, with the release of Renmin Park, Cowboy Junkies are beginning their most ambitious period yet. Inspired by a three-month stay that Michael and his family spent in China - which he describes as "an other-worldly experience" - Renmin Park is the first of four releases planned over the next 18 months, collectively titled "The Nomad Series."

Renmin Park (translated means,"People's Park") is a celebration of the sights, sounds, and characters of Jingjiang, a small town situated on the Yangtze River.

Several of the tracks were actually built on loops made from "field recordings" that Michael made in China where he recorded a myriad of sounds from music and conversations - from badminton games to students chanting their lessons.

The album also includes covers of songs by two of the country's most important rock artists - "I Cannot Sit Sadly By Your Side" by Zuoxiao Zuzhou (ZXZZ) and Xu Wei's "My Fall."

"Renmin Park is a fictional love story about two people whose two worlds will forever keep them apart," says the guitarist. "It's a thank-you letter to an obscure city and the people who opened up their lives to five very strange strangers. It's a document about a bewilderingly complex culture that is, once again, experiencing a massive upheaval."

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This album will soon be followed by Demons, on which Cowboy Junkies will cover the songs of their late friend Vic Chesnutt, who passed away in December 2009. "His catalogue is so deep and, for the most part, so overlooked," says Michael. "It will be a labor of love."

The final two volumes of the Nomad Series will be titled Sing in My Meadow the contents of which are still being discussed and The Wilderness, a full album of new songs.

The band's recently revamped website will play an important role in the Nomad Series by taking fans inside the creative process.

Timmins adds that the band will be blogging about the series from the inception to conclusion of each album and will be posting demos, works in progress, rough mixes and the occasional aborted effort.

After all four volumes are released, plans call for a book that will delve into the character, nature, and inspiration behind each of the albums. It will be published by Whale and Star, the publishing house of the band's friend Enrique Martinez Celaya, a Cuban-American artist whose "Nomad" paintings helped inspire the series.

Michael sums up the band's motivation for taking on such a massive project quite simply. "The main reason for wanting to do it," he says, "is that, as we steam through our twenty-fifth year, we feel that we have the energy and inspiration to pull it off."

Renmin Park is set for release June 15, 2010.

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