1988's Trinity Sessions revealed the Cowboy Junkies to the world, and remains one of the most beautiful albums of the past 20 years. Somewhere between that second album, and their next, the gorgeous The Caution Horses, the band peaked and their trajectory since has been a slow but steady decline. The intensity of the sparse, spare music and the setting - the Holy Trinity church in Ontario - recorded onto one stereo microphone, produced a wonderful bluesy, country dream of an album with perfect interpretations of songs by Lou Reed and Hank Williams, and some stunning originals.
Such an icon is it in retrospect, and so relatively unknown at the time of its release, that the desire to have another go was clearly strong. So, joined by guest artists Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt and Natalie Merchant, the band revisited the same church and recorded the album again. Some, such as Mining For Gold, are even better than the first time. However, lovely though it is to hear Margot Timmins and the band on their songs again, it is jarring to hear Merchant and Chesnutt - the songs don't benefit in any way from the reworking or the fitting in of their guest vocal. Ryan Adams does a lot better - his voice working much more in tune with the songs. In the end, the big question is 'why?' - the album didn't need revisiting, and to do it in a way that doesn't improve on the original seems a little pointless.