The Trinity Session

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The Trinity Session
A grainy black-and-white photo of Cowboy Junkies sitting in a semicircle, with a rust-colored logo
Studio album by Cowboy Junkies
Released 1988
Recorded 27 November 1987 (1987-11-27)
Studio Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genre Alternative country, country rock, folk rock
Length 52:36
Label RCA / Latent
Producer Peter Moore
Cowboy Junkies chronology
Whites Off Earth Now!!
The Trinity Session
The Caution Horses
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau C+[2]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[3]

The Trinity Session is a 1988 album by Cowboy Junkies, their second album.

The music was recorded at Toronto, Ontario's Church of the Holy Trinity on 27 November 1987 (1987-11-27), with the band circled around a single microphone. The album includes a mixture of original material by the band and covers of classic folk, rock and country songs, including the band's most famous single, a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane", based on the version found on 1969: The Velvet Underground Live, rather than the later studio version from Loaded.[4] Also included is "Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)", which is both a cover and an original, combining a new song by the band with the pop standard "Blue Moon".

The album was released in early 1988 on Latent Records in Canada, and rereleased worldwide later in the year on RCA Records. "Working on a Building" and "Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)" did not appear on the Latent Records release. "Blue Moon Revisited" was originally released on It Came from Canada, Vol. 4, a compilation of Canadian independent bands.

In 2007 the album was performed live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series. Also in that year, the band returned to The Church of the Holy Trinity to record a new version of the Trinity Session with guest musicians Natalie Merchant, Vic Chesnutt and Ryan Adams. This new set of recordings was released as Trinity Revisited, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of The Trinity Session.

According to website Acclaimed Music,[5] the album is the 893rd most acclaimed album ever released. It was named the 42nd best album of the 1980s by Pitchfork Media in 2002 and the 36th best Canadian album by Chart in 2000. It was also ranked 62nd in Bob Mersereau's book The Top 100 Canadian Albums in 2007.

The recording sessions[edit]

According to the band's website,[6] the direction of The Trinity Sessions was influenced by music they heard while touring the southern United States in support of Whites Off Earth Now!!. The lyrics and instrumentation of the album were lifted from the classic country groups the band was exposed to, and the song "200 More Miles" was written in reference to their life on the road.

As they had on Whites, the band wanted to record live with one stereo microphone direct to tape—it is stated on the album cover that the recording was made on 2-track RDAT using one single Calrec Ambisonic Microphone.

Peter Moore was enlisted and suggested the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto for its natural reverb. To better persuade the officials of the historic church, the band claimed to be The Timmins Family Singers and said they were recording a Christmas special for radio. The session began on the morning of 27 November 1987. The group first recorded the songs with the fewest instruments and then the songs with gradually more complex arrangements. In this way Moore and the band were able to solve acoustic problems one by one. To better balance Margo Timmins's vocals against the electric guitars and drums, she was recorded through a PA system that had been left behind by a previous group. By making subtle changes in volume and placement relative to the microphone over six hours, Moore and the band had finally reached the distinctive sound of the album by the time the last of the guest musicians arrived at the church.

The band was unable to rehearse with most of the guest musicians before the day of the session. Considering the method of recording and time constraints, this could have been disastrous for the numbers which required seven or more musicians, but after paying a security guard twenty-five dollars for an extra two hours, the band was able to finish, and even recorded the final song of the session, "Misguided Angel", in a single take.

Contrary to popular myth, the album was not entirely recorded in one day. In the hustle of the first recording session, the band forgot to record "Mining for Gold". Margo and Moore recorded the song a few days later during the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's lunch break.

Sleeve notes state that the recording was not mixed, overdubbed or edited in any way.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Mining for Gold"   trad. arr. James Gordon 1:32
2. "Misguided Angel"   Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins 4:52
3. "Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)" (not included on the original vinyl release) Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart 4:28
4. "I Don't Get It"   Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins 4:34
5. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"   Hank Williams 5:25
6. "To Love is to Bury"   Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins 5:16
7. "200 More Miles"   Michael Timmins 5:29
8. "Dreaming My Dreams with You"   Allen Reynolds 4:31
9. "Working on a Building" (not included on the original vinyl release) Traditional 3:49
10. "Sweet Jane"   Lou Reed 3:34
11. "Postcard Blues"   Michael Timmins 3:22
12. "Walkin' After Midnight"   Don Hecht, Alan Block 6:00


Cowboy Junkies
Additional musicians
  • John Timmins – guitar, backing vocals
  • Kim Deschamps – pedal steel guitar, dobro, bottleneck slide guitar
  • Jeff Bird – fiddle, harmonica, mandolin
  • Steve Shearer – harmonica
  • Jaro Czwewinec – accordion
Technical personnel
  • Peter Moore – producer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1988) Peak
Canadian RPM Top Albums 28
Canadian RPM Country Albums 30
U.S. Billboard 200[7] 26
Year Single Peak chart positions
CAN CAN Country UK US Modern Rock
1989 "Sweet Jane" 75 5
"Misguided Angel" 24 39
"Blue Moon Revisited" 87

Sales certifications[edit]

Organization Level Date
CRIA – Canada Gold 31 March 1989 (1989-03-31)[9]
RIAA – U.S. Gold 19 July 1989 (1989-07-19)[10]
CRIA – Canada Platinum 27 September 1989 (1989-09-27)[9]
RIAA – U.S. Platinum 15 March 1989 (1989-03-15)[10]
CRIA – Canada 2× Platinum 13 March 1996 (1996-03-13)[9]

Other Media[edit]

"Blue Moon Revisited" is heard playing in the background in the bar scene near the end of the 2004 film Silver City.


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (14 March 1989). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Anthony Decurtis (9 February 1989). "Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Session : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Theodore Gracyk (1 October 2001). I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity. Temple University Press. p. 27-28. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Acclaimed Music:The Most Recommended Albums and Songs of All Time". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  6. ^ Timmins, Mike. "Trinity Session". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  7. ^ "allmusic ((( The Trinity Session > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  8. ^ "allmusic ((( The Trinity Session > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  9. ^ a b c "CRIA Certifications". Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  10. ^ a b "RIAA Gold and Platinum". Retrieved 2008-08-21. 

External links[edit]