Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cowboy Junkies on a Sunday

Christmas brought music, some of it new, some of it old. I'm digesting the Avett Brothers cd, I and Love and You. Thanks to my cousin Hugh and Craig Jenkins for the tip here. But with a bit of leftover iTunes money I went old. I bought the Trinity Sessions cd by the Cowboy Junkies, circa 1988. This purchase comes at a time where there are so many others on my want list. So, its selection is a pretty big deal.

I had heard of this cd before, but didn't know it really, with the exception of the beautiful and haunting, Sweet Jane. When I drove the rental truck from Texas to Michigan, however, I heard an interview with Michael and Margo Timmons (Cowboy Junkies leaders and brother and sister). They talked about their new cd, but they also talked in reverent tones about the 20 year anniversary of the Trinity Sessions cd. I knew then I had to own it.

The Trinity sessions were recorded in The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. They talked in reverent tones about the "magic," even the spiritual quality of the room. This went beyond the magnificent acoustics. They experienced something "beyond" or transcendent in that space, a bond. Everything sounded better immediately. The room brought out something unique in their music. It is a uniquely beautiful cd.

When I saw Wilco a few years ago in Minneapolis, Jeff Tweedy paused between songs to talk about how great the room felt (an auditorium on the UofM campus). They had just come from Detroit and played in a room Tweedy described as a bomb shelter. He talked about what a miserable experience Detroit was and how equally wonderful playing that room in Minneapolis was.

I have played basketball in friendly gyms, places where the rims seemed close and the baskets wide (Benson High, Portland, OR), and I have played in rooms that I felt certain would never yield me any points (e.g., Sunset High in Beaverton, OR). And I have experienced the same thing in preaching. I love preaching in the space at the Richardson East Church of Christ, Richardson, TX, and the Westover Hills church in Austin. Conversely, it took me several times before I felt comfortable in the space at the Highland church in Abilene, TX, a congregation I attended for 6 years.

I can't tell you what it is about each space. In fact, in Austin, I shared very close quarters with an interpreter for the deaf which always distracted me a bit. In all of these cases, its more than just arrangement, lighting, etc. There is an affinity with the room, a link of some sorts. I'm sure it could all be analyzed and some scientist could tell me the exact factors. But for the moment I chalk it up to something uncanny.


divebarwife said...

I saw the Cowboy Junkies play on the Trinity Sessions tour in a little theater on the KU campus in Lawrence, KS... and I saw Tori Amos in a little theater on the UofM campus years later - I wonder if it was the same one you saw Wilco in. I've seen both again other times, both in bigger venues... and they're good, but you're right - there is something special about certain places...

Lisa Gonzales-Barnes said...

Space always matters. There are spaces that definitely have a sacred feel. Certainly, this was God's intent when incense, the candelabra, and special furniture were required in the tabernacle. It became a designated holy place. Some folks (I being one) believe there are "thin places" in the world.
My thinking is that these "sacred" spaces would certainly influence the events that take place within them.