Blesok no. 105, January, 2016
Sound Reviews

Down Elvis’s Road: Herzegovina Winters and American Prairies
Translated from Bosnian: Elizabeta Bakovska

Mehmed Begić


    Before their quality became known outside Canada, Cowboy Junkies issued two albums with their own record house “Latent Recordings”. It was “Trinity Sessions” which interested RCA, the same record giant which bought Elvis’s contract from Sam Phillips and his legendary house “Sun Records”.
    This is where things become interesting, when I realise that everything comes together and I reach Cohen via Elvis and Cowboy Junkies, in the reincarnations of Tim Gibbons, or his friend Tom Wilson, who is more known as LeE HARVeY OsMOND.
    LeE HARVeY OsMOND has been “marked” as the acid folk project of Tom Wilson, with the help of his friends from Cowboy Junkies and Skydiggers bands. Both Lee Harvey and Tim Gibbons issued albums for “Latent Recordings”. And Gibbons also acted in Wilson’s awarded music video for “I'm Gonna Stay That Way” from his first album “A Quiet Evil”.
    When I was younger I could not help sharing my music revelations. Later I learnt that not everybody gets excited as me, and that I need to hold my horses. But with the first listening of LeE HARVeY OsMOND’s new album, I had to share my thrill.
    I might have forgotten the rules.
    Here are just two reactions.
    Fedja said: “ Lee Harvey Osmond makes even me feel sexy.“, and Luka followed on this: "Lee Harvey Osmond is great. I get it, if Cohen would start making music just now, he would sound something like this!”
    Is there anything better than someone so close reading your mind?
    “Beautiful Scars” is a great album, and yes, there’s something of Choen there, I definitely feel what Fedja mentioned, and what is most important is that neither of these is pushy, but it is just as much as it is needed, so it still remains on its set trail of acid folk, i.e. what Tom Wilson is incarnated in LeE HARVeY OsMOND.


    If I had to answer, under the threat of death, which album is my most favourable one, it is very possible that the answer would be “Shylingo”. And I would not be very wrong, because, even when I am the most relaxed, it is among the top five. And then, you listen to everything that Tim Gibbons made before and after this album, and there is no trace whatsoever of what so closely tied me to “Shylingo”.
    It turned out that “Shylingo” is a connection of moments as Gibbons was getting off alcohol and complete devastation he had been heading to, as well as the production influence of Mark Howard, who then provided him with spiritual and physical shelter, along with Daniel Lanois.
    It was in Los Angeles, in 1996, when the two of them recorded the soundtrack for “Sling Blade” movie, in their Teatro studio, located in the rubbles of the former Mexican porn movie. Decades earlier, in 1982, Gibbons had been the one who introduced Lanois to Howard and was the godfather to their decades long cooperation.
    I persistently waited for something like “Shylingo” album to happen again, and instead I came across a guy whose name was Tim Gibbons and he would not let his banjo out of his hands. And I could not be persuaded that it was the same man. And it was. Later he named himself Cootes Leland and this phase lasted for an album, “Trail Of Smoke”, which was released by the Cowboy Junkies’ recording company. The version of the song “Medicine Girl” from this album was sung by Lee Harvey Osmond.
    His most recent reincarnation was the band TG & Swampbusters, he finally hung his banjo on the wall, and took an electric guitar in his hands. The return to the roots, to rock'n'roll and blues, and playing in inns – the vagrant and musician has been riding again


    The album was called Trinity Sessions. The year was 19 It was the second album recorded by Cowboy Junkies, made in a Toronto church (Ontario's Church of the Holy Trinity), with a single microphone placed in the middle of the room, and the band around it.
    Imagine the joy when I found out that the album was being recorded again, some twenty years more experienced, at the same place. The script was identical, the same church as a studio, and Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams and Vic Chesnutt as reinforcement. ”Trinity Revisited” is a magic album, and Sweet Jane is more intoxicating than ever, with the introduction that looks as if it has survived watching the movie “Natural Born Killers” and returned us the song that was there.
    Maybe it was the song about Elvis that made me listen to the album, but the verso of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” has tied me to it. And there was no way for us to ever break up. Even before I knew who Hank Williams was, I hummed his “I'm so Lonesome I could Cry”.
    That is how I easily exchanged the windy Herzegovina winters for an American prairie as probably there is none in America. And I was the lone cowboy with the red horizon in front of me and Americano in my heart, searching for something that would never have a name, but id worth every wandering.


    With me, everything somehow starts with Elvis. As an old and faded sweetheart, but also love, in the sense that I have discovered that emotion via it. That is how it goes with music and Elvis. Thanks to him I came across pieces that still active under my skin even nowadays, equally effective as in the very beginning.
    As I grew up, I broadened my appetites for music, discovering on the way everything that could not fit within the frame of the 1950es music. But still, Elvis was the silent roadmap and via him I found details that would make me try new things. That is how I got to love Strummer’s band The 101 mostly because of their version of Elvis’s song “Heartbreak Hotel”. Dire Straits were but a name of the MTV screen until the moment I heard them calling Elvis as I passed by.
    Things went one after another and the years passed by, and then Nick Cave came; I didn’t get along with him in the beginning. He claimed that Elvis gave mostly and that he was the best at the end of his career and life, in the 1970es, stoned under the bright lights of Las Vegas. Many years passed by before I understood what he had talked about. And that what he said absolutely made sense.
    And then I discovered Cowboy Junkies and their song about Elvis.

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