Cowboy Junkies burst onto the music scene in 1988 with their classic album, The Trinity Sessions, and in particular their cover of Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane." Although that was the peak of their popularity, the band has continued to enthrall a devoted cult following throughout their tenure, which has seen the line-up remain amazingly consistence regardless of the fact that most are family members as siblings Wilson, Reid, Gallagher, et al., can attest to.
Guitarist Michael Timmins, the band's leader and creative force, has always been a captivating storyteller, presenting intriguing characters that listeners can identify with. In the liner notes, he explains his artistic goals with At the End of Paths Taken. "I set out to write an album that dealt with 'family' and all of the complex relationships that are suggested by the word. Those relationships and how they continue to echo down through generations is something that, as a parent of three young children and as a son of aging parents, has been playing/preying on my mind for the past few years."
"Brand New World" is the one a new parent finds herself in. "Mouths to feed/ Shoes to buy/ Rent to pay/ Tears to dry," but are the tears of children or her own? What's very compelling is that this parent freely admits, "I can't relate…and my heart is missing," revealing those moments of fear and doubt that some people surely must have but no one admits to. The band's musical palette is expanded as a string section backs Margo Timmins' vocals here and on other tracks.
Michael's fuzzed-out guitar appears on "Cutting Board Blues" and sounds great. The narrator is resigned to let him go, knowing full well she's better off, but only has one request, "If you gone and made up your mind/ 'bout leaving tomorrow/ take it all but leave my cutting board behind." She needs very little to survive without him.
A separation of another type occurs on "Spiral Down." It's a gut-wrenching song about losing a loved one, either parent or spouse, to the ravages of time and disease "as my mind begins to waver/ losing contact with you." The music is soft and gentle backed by acoustic guitar and a return of the strings, but it does nothing to ease the anguish as one of the characters sings, "I'm no where near my peace/ as you spiral down."