Cowboy Junkies Demons

Last week my order from Canada turned up – the latest Cowboy Junkies CD, Demons.  It is in what they are calling the Nomad Series – four albums in 2 years, an absolute joy for Junkies fans (especially this one!).  The first album was Renmin Park, for me, one of their top three albums.  And then Demons… wow, what an immediately accessible and beautiful record!  I have listened to the Junkies for 22 years now and have never missing getting an album, and never been disappointed.  It is an amazing thing that this Canadian band of three siblings and a school friend
can still be putting out such consistently creative and wonderful albums after so many years, but that they are getting better and better with each album is a real tribute to them.  (21st Century Blues along with their early The Trinity Sessions are my other favourites and I struggle to rank them separately.)

Demons is a collection of covers of songs written by their friend and one time collaborator (on Trinity Revisited) the late Vic Chestnutt.  Apparently he was
going to do the album with them but tragically he died – allegedly of suicide.  Chestnutt was a tortured soul and a close listen to the lyrics of the songs reflects his struggle with disability and alcoholism.

Demons however acknowledges his struggles in name more than tone.  The
quieter and sombre songs suit the Junkies tradition, but it is what they do with four songs in particular that have moved me in these early days that make this album spectacular.

Listening to the four songs in sequence is an utter joy: Flirted With You All My Life, Betty Lonely, Ladie & Supernatural.  Margo is at her best vocally, the band are
wonderful – the guitar work is stunning and the wonderful bass playing (Alan
Anton is sublime here) is what lifts Flirted… into the joyful song that it is.
Listening to Vic Chestnutt’s versions on youtube helps one realise how brilliant the Junkies work on these songs is.  Flirted… is a song to death – Chestnutt’s version is sombre – the Junkies turn it into an anthem for life… “I’m not ready (for death)” is sung with passion, conviction, and defiance.  That they sing and play like that for a song that Chestnutt must have ceased to find helpful shows just why this interpretation of his songs is so important.  What they do with Betty Lonely by putting in (an unacknowledged what-sounds-like) a Hammond keyboard just sends an ordinary song into a haunting stratosphere.  I have found that listening to it loud when you are driving is best!  Same for Ladie.

But the good news doesn’t stop here… their next album is being released in late
October… Sing In My Meadow can be pre-ordered on their website.  It is promised to be “eight songs, forty minutes of wailing and gnashing” – given that that is not the Junkies usual style is something to especially look forward to!

Have a listen for yourself on the Cowboy Junkies very generous website where every song they have ever done seems to be able to be listened to: http://latentrecordings.com/cowboyjunkies/

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Pajama Club


I’ve just purchased the debut Pajama Club CD and enjoyed a first listen.  Neil Finn has teamed up with his wife Sharon and a chap called Sean Donnelly.  Neil is at his usual best – drums, guitars, keyboards and sharing many vocals with Sharon.  They started jamming at night in their pajamas – hence the name.  Sharon’s vocal style is a bit hard to explain but her voice goes very well with Neils.

I am always intrigued by Neil Finn’s ability to keep rolling out the songs and pitch them in the right direction – sometimes solo, sometimes Crowded House, sometimes with brother Tim, and now with Pajama Club.

Next… a Finn family extravaganza… Neil – guitars, drums, keys and vocals; Sharon – bass and vocals; Liam – guitars, drums, keys, vocals and whatever else he plays; Elroy – drums and whatever else he does…

Why not?

some words after 9/11 from a sermon ten years ago

I said this then and still can say it now (not always the case!).
The setting was the southern hemisphere spring.

“I worry about how much these acts of terrorism
will make us retreat into winter darkness.
I worry that people in their call for vengeance
will lose sight of what has been achieved
across so many frontiers that once divided us.

I worry that in seeking to stamp out terrorists
we become instigators of terror
upon people just as innocent as those caught in the buildings.

And, I worry that the message to our young people
will be to retreat back to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

These godless acts of terror must not be responded to with godless acts of terror.”

9/11 anniversary

I’m preaching tomorrow from Matthew’s gospel and Jesus calling Peter to forgive seventy seven times or more likely, seventy times seven – more than he can count.

I’m reflecting on 10 years passing since the 9/11 attacks in New York and Pennsylvania and asking what the forgiveness option might have yielded.  Who knows?  But it seems to me that it beats the alternatives…

Here is an excerpt from tomorrow’s sermon…

“Everyone was angry and affronted and a call for forgiveness would have been seen as weakness, and nations are not allowed to show weakness are they.  Well, that is the rhetoric… I wonder what the laying down of ‘strength and might’ in the face of attack, would have meant.

I suspect that something like that would change the world… that was, after all, exactly what Jesus taught, and did.

Instead, a variety of sources, including the Associated Press, estimate the civilian
deaths in Iraq from 2003-2006 stands somewhere between 90,000 and 111,000.  The death toll from the 9/11 attacks was 2,751.  Afghanistan is another story altogether.

I do not believe anyone who thinks they are winning anything when that is the result of trying to seek justice for the deaths of 9/11.”

I found this statement from the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper’s (of Trinity Church in Wall Street, New York City) preaching notes:

“Let’s try to make this anniversary more like a season and not just a day.
Let’s look back ten years and remember. Let’s also look ahead ten years, considering
how we might make the world better, and remembering that as God loves us and
forgives us, so too do we love and forgive.”

RWC – Rugby World Cup

It has started and the opening evening was thrilling.  I was moved by the spectacular opening ceremony – the karanga (call of welcome by the Maori woman) matched with the fantastic imagery of the fish-hook drawing people to her was a work of genius. The music was powerful and made wonderful use of the Maori and Pacific rhythms of our country – I particularly enjoyed Tiki Taane’s song.
I loved the wide use of the city of Auckland rather than just running the show in Eden Park.  The images of the Waitemata Harbour glowing in the vibrant colours of the fireworks is the lasting image for me.  Fantastic – what a brilliant show case for New Zealand’s most significant event on the world stage.
The image is from the web, rugby world cup.com

Pylons I have known

I love the look of electrical pylons on the New Zealand landscape – especially through the MacKenzie Country which seems to have a sky and landscape big enough to embrace them.
I also like that hydro power is able to harness the water resources in that area without polluting the environment.  I guess some might say that the human intrusions on that landscape are a form of pollution but actually, I reckon the canals and dams enhance the landscape – even to the point of framing the beauty of the mountains.

Barge on Lake Wanaka

At around 8.30am one morning we encountered the strangest sight on Lake Wanaka near Makarora, a large barge crossing the lake with tractors and other  vehicles on it.  It seemed so out of place. It turned out that it was the barge belonging to Minneret Station – a high country run at the head of Lake Wanaka (south side) that has no access road.  The barge, we found out, is used for carrying stock, bales of wool, fertiliser, trucks carrying equipment, etc.

What was also amusing was the small boat used to ferry a school pupil who is then picked up by a van and taken to Makarora and back each day.  I wonder how often the excuse for not making it to school is because of the lake being too rough!
Someone has since written in and suggested looking at these settings on Google Earth:

Look at Google Earth 44°27’1.18″S 169° 6’43.15″ E

There is the barge turning if you zoom in – brilliant!

more pictures from the holiday

a couple of lakes… Lake Matheson at dawn on the Saturday just past with striking views of Mt Cook/Aoraki & Mt Tasman…

Lake Matheson is so still that it throws wonderful reflections of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the main divide of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. We had to walk in pre-dawn to capture this image - fortunately the track was excellent!

and Lake Mapourika also on the West Coast just north of Franz Josef Glacier…

The human-made jetty at Lake Mapourika seems to add something to the beauty - that cannot be said for all human interventions on the landscape!