Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Fantasy Girlfriend - Margo Timmins

I've mentioned on here before my propensity to go weak at the knees over musical talent in a woman, and indeed to 'fall in love' with the singing voice of someone I've never seen.  The lovely Margo Timmins, voice of the excellent Canadian band Cowboy Junkies, is the prime example of this phenomenon. 

I discovered the Cowboy Junkies while living in Toronto a dozen years ago, recommended to me by a friend there.  I was immediately smitten with their superb second album The Trinity Session (I see they did a Trinity Revisited concert film and album a few years ago with a host of star guests, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original recording: I want, I want), and it has been an enduring favourite ever since - one of the very best albums for a three-in-the-morning happy-sad wallow in melancholy.  I hoovered up most of their back catalogue over the next few months (courtesy of the marvellous and ridiculously cheap Yonge Street record store, Sam The Record Man - demised for a while, but now happily back in business); although, sadly, I never got to see them live (strangely enough, although they tour almost constantly, they rarely seemed to play any dates in their native Canada, spending far more time in the US and Europe - at least during the period I was in Toronto!).  The band tend not to have pictures of themselves on their sleeve art, and so, for a long time, I had no idea what Margo looked like; I was simply mesmerised by her voice.

It was only some years later that I finally discovered (a discovery I found very pleasant, but somehow unsurprising) that she was, as I had always fondly imagined, a fairly tall and elegant woman - with the angular cheekbones and red hair that are my particular weakness.

She has a beguiling personality, too - very relaxed and low-key, with a self-deprecating sense of humour.  Her stage persona is very muted (I eventually got to see her sing live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in the early Noughties; one of my favourite concerts ever): she doesn't talk that much between songs, sits on a stool the whole time, and sips constantly on a cup of hot tea - yet I find that all rather charming.  It might not seem very compelling for a live performer, but that voice is so damn marvellous - and she projects such ease and confidence in her mastery of it - that she holds the audience's attention effortlessly.  And, of course, it helps that the band is so good: it's a family band, Margo and her two brothers and an old friend; they've been playing together pretty nearly their whole lives, and they often play a quite extraordinary number of gigs in a year.... they are the tightest unit I've ever heard.

One of my favourite - most heart-melting - Margo moments is the 'hidden track' at the end of Rarities, B-Sides, and Slow, Sad Waltzes (probably the best album of 'offcuts' ever produced by any band; I prefer it to most of their regular albums).  The band are taking a break from a recording session, waiting for pizza or something.  Margo's on her own, doing a mike check, launches impromptu into a gorgeous unaccompanied version of the Bruce Springsteen song My Father's House.  The other musicians join in towards the end, turning it into a rowdy singalong - and then they all collapse into giggles.  Then, the thing that really gets me (her speaking voice is as delicious as her singing one), Margo responds with wonderfully light sarcasm:  "Why, thank you, boys; that was just lovely."  [Buy the album: you'll see what I mean.]

Here she is doing her ravishing take on Elvis - Blue Moon Revisited.  [Swoon]


JES said...

Another excellent choice.

I read this post yesterday, a Sunday on which I had a jillion things to do (almost none of them at the computer). And of course my response to it quickly ate up almost all of the time I did have online...! (Among other things, thanks for leading me to the blog (maintained exclusively by Mike Timmins?) at the Latent Recordings site. Well-written, and just plain good. Loved his description of London rainfall in this post.)

The "Blue Moon Revisited" song is my favorite on that album. "Misguided Angel" is a close second -- a downer, thematically, but such an excellent downer that I almost never noticed.

(I never forgot a review I read of the "Trinity Session" album, which described the CJs' genre as "Thorazine rock.")

From certain angles, at certain moments, Margo Timmins reminds me a lot of Juliette Binoche.

Froog said...

Juliette Binoche? Hmm. I sort of see it. More manner or essence, though, than physical resemblance.

If I'm allowed only one song from Trinity, it has to be '200 More Miles'. But it's not an album where you can play only one song. And that's where I miss vinyl: being lost in the reverie (and perhaps - though not necessarily - near alcoholically comatose), and hearing the sssh-bump-sssh-bump of the needle reaching the inside of the record; rousing yourself to start it again (or turn it over). The CD experience is lacking so much.

Anonymous said...

You said it! I completely agree.

Same goes for former (?) actress Elizabeth Shue.