Cowboy Junkies are releasing The Wilderness, Volume 4 of The Nomad Series on March 26, 2012, marking the conclusion of an ambitious schedule of four releases over an 18-month period. The group’s Michael Timmins says of the new CD, “The title, The Wilderness, in some odd way seemed to define what these songs were actually “about”: fragility, emptiness, loneliness, beauty, chance, loss, desperation – the delicate balancing act that makes up a life. They are about being lost in the wilderness of age, the wilderness of parenthood, in the wilderness of just trying to find meaning and substance, happiness and truth in one’s day to day life. They are about standing alone in middle of it all, breathing in the cold, still air and wondering.” Upon the release of the four volumes, 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 Timmins on The Wilderness:
I began work on many of the songs that found their way onto The Wilderness in late 2007 and early 2008, months before my family and I took off for China, the trip that would inspire Renmin Park, the album that would kick off The Nomad Series.
Some friends of mine had graciously given me the use of their writers’ retreat, an old crumbling cottage perched high upon the Niagara Escarpment about one hour north of Toronto. I spent several days a month, over the course of that winter, huddled by the enormous woodstove, watching the snow drift and the birds come into the feeders, plunking away on my J200, trying to figure out what direction our next album should take.
Some of these songs made it as far as the concert stage, and throughout the spring and summer of 2008 we performed them on tour. But, I could never get a handle on the collection of songs that was beginning to emerge. They never felt part of a single “piece”; I couldn’t figure out what tied them all together and therefore, had no direction to chase them.
Without a direction it seemed pointless to try and form them into a defined collection of songs. But then my trip to China intervened and with that came a whole set of new ideas and the preliminary concept for the Nomad Series. From the outset it was determined that many of the songs that we had been working on before China would be set aside until Volume 4. We figured that with the luxury of time and distance we would be able to get some perspective on these songs and so, we put them away.
Sure enough, time and distance did the trick, but so did the chance coupling of this set of songs and Enrique’s winterscape that graces the album cover. “The Wilderness,” which I had originally chosen simply as a “place holder” while we mocked up the cover, became the perfect title. Enrique’s painting became the physical manifestation of these songs and what they “looked” like. And the title, The Wilderness, in some odd way seemed to define what these songs were actually “about”: fragility, emptiness, loneliness, beauty, chance, loss, desperation, the delicate balancing act that makes up a life. They are about being lost in the wilderness of age, the wilderness of parenthood, in the wilderness of just trying to find meaning and substance, happiness and truth in one’s day to day life. They are about standing alone in middle of it all, breathing in the cold still air and wondering.
Michael sums up the band’s motivation for taking on such a massive project as The Nomad Series 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.”