Cowboy Junkies PhotoFORMED: 1985, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Although it was solely a way to gain attention, the Cowboy Junkies' name goes a long way in describing the Canadian band's sound. At its core, the group's music is based in country and folk traditions, except their tempos are slow and lethargic, their guitars are languid, and Margo Timmins' vocals are lovely, yet hauntingly detached.

The Cowboy Junkies have their roots in the Hunger Project, an unsuccessful Toronto-based group formed by guitarist/songwriter Michael Timmins and bassist Alan Anton in 1979. After the band failed, the duo moved to the United Kingdom and formed an experimental instrumental group called Germinal. It was also unsuccessful, so the two musicians moved back to Toronto, where they began playing with Timmins' sister Margo and his drummer brother, Peter. Under the name Cowboy Junkies, the group recorded their first album, Whites off Earth Now!!, in 1986, releasing it on a Canadian independent label. Two years later, they recorded The Trinity Sessions in an abandoned church, using only one microphone. The album may have only cost $250 to record, but it sparked a small sensation, with the band's reworkings of "Blue Moon," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Walking After Midnight," and "Sweet Jane" earning them a diverse and dedicated cult following.

The success of The Trinity Sessions allowed the band to record on a bigger budget. The result was 1990's The Caution Horses, which featured more of Michael Timmins' original songs. The Caution Horses didn't earn as much press as their previous album, yet they maintained a sizable cult, which stuck by the band through their next two records, Black-Eyed Man (1992) and Pale Sun, Crescent Moon (1993). After the stop-gap live album in late 1995, 200 More Miles, Live Performances 1985-1994, the Cowboy Junkies returned with Lay It Down in 1996. Miles from Home followed two years later. Following 1998's Miles From Our Home, the group parted ways with Geffen and revived their own Latent label. Their first release was the 2000 live album Waltz Across America, which was initially available only through the band's website. They followed it a year later with an album of all-new material, Open. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide