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
ReleasedNovember 15, 1988
RecordedNovember 27, 1987 (1987-11-27)
StudioChurch of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
GenreAlternative country, country rock, folk blues
LabelLatent, RCA
ProducerPeter Moore
Cowboy Junkies chronology
Whites Off Earth Now!!
The Trinity Session
The Caution Horses
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Sun-Times3.5/4 stars[2]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[3]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[4]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[5]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[6]
The Village VoiceC+[7]

The Trinity Session is the second album by alternative rock band Cowboy Junkies, released in 1988.

The music was recorded inside Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity on November 27, 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. Notable among the songs is 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.[8] 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 by Latent Recordings in Canada,[9] and re-released 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' Don't Look Back series. Also 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.

The recording sessions[edit]

According to the band's website,[10] the direction of The Trinity Session was influenced by music they had heard while touring the southern United States in support of Whites Off Earth Now!!. The album's lyrics and instrumentation were lifted from the classic country groups to which the band was exposed, and the song "200 More Miles" was written in reference to the band's life on the road.

As they had on Whites, Cowboy Junkies wanted to record live with one stereo microphone direct to tape. Although it is stated on the album cover that the recording was made on two-track RDAT, according to recording engineer Peter J. Moore, it was actually recorded on a Sony Betamax SL-2000 video cassette deck connected to a Sony PCM-F1 analog/digital converter, using one single Calrec ambisonic microphone.[11]

Moore 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 November 27, 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' 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.[12][13]

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 songs that required seven or more musicians, but after paying a security guard $25 for an extra two hours of recording time,[12] the band was able to finish, recording the final song of the session, "Misguided Angel", in a single take.[citation needed]

Contrary to popular myth, the album was not entirely recorded in one day. In the hustle of the first recording session, the band did not have time to record Timmins' a cappella chanting on "Mining for Gold". She and Moore recorded the song a few days later during the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's lunch break.[12]

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


According to website Acclaimed Music,[14] the album is the 946th-most acclaimed album ever released. It was named the 42nd best album of the 1980s by Pitchfork 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. In 2015, the album was named the winner in the 1980s category of the inaugural Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, an annual Canadian music award for classic albums released prior to the creation of the Polaris Music Prize.[15] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[16] and ranked number 999 in All-Time Top 1000 Albums (third edition, 2000).[17]

Track listing[edit]

1."Mining for Gold"traditional, arranged by James Gordon1:34
2."Misguided Angel"Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins4:58
3."Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)" (Not included on the original vinyl release)Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart4:31
4."I Don't Get It"Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins4:34
5."I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"Hank Williams5:24
6."To Love Is to Bury"Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins4:47
7."200 More Miles"Michael Timmins5:29
8."Dreaming My Dreams with You"Allen Reynolds4:28
9."Working on a Building" (Not included on the original vinyl release)Traditional3:48
10."Sweet Jane"Lou Reed3:41
11."Postcard Blues"Michael Timmins3:28
12."Walkin' After Midnight"Don Hecht, Alan Block5:54
Total length:52:36


Cowboy Junkies

  • Margo Timmins – lead vocals
  • Michael Timmins – guitar
  • Alan Anton – bass
  • Peter Timmins – drums

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[18] 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 March 31, 1989 (1989-03-31)[20]
RIAA – U.S. Gold July 19, 1989 (1989-07-19)[21]
CRIA – Canada Platinum September 27, 1989 (1989-09-27)[20]
RIAA – U.S. Platinum March 15, 1996 (1996-03-15)[21]
CRIA – Canada 2× Platinum March 13, 1996 (1996-03-13)[20]

Other media[edit]

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

The album's version of Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" is featured on the soundtrack of Oliver Stone's 1994 movie Natural Born Killers.


  1. ^ Jurek, Thom. "The Trinity Session – Cowboy Junkies". AllMusic. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  2. ^ McLeese, Don (November 28, 1988). "Cowboy Junkies, 'The Trinity Session' (RCA)". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  4. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (February 9, 1989). "Cowboy Junkies: The Trinity Session". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (2004). "Cowboy Junkies". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 196. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  6. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 14, 1989). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  8. ^ Theodore Gracyk (October 1, 2001). I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity. Temple University Press. pp. 27–28. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  9. ^ MacInnis, Craig (March 4, 1988). "Toronto trio getting a Rush out of reality". The Toronto Star. p. D12. The proof of that is in the grooves of The Trinity Session, which is the reason for the Toronto group's record party tomorrow night at the Rivoli
  10. ^ Timmins, Mike. "Trinity Session". Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  11. ^ "Cowboy Junkies 'Sweet Jane'". Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Doyle, Tom (October 2015). "Cowboy Junkies 'Sweet Jane'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  13. ^ "Cowboy Junkies - Cold grey light of dawn". No Depression. April 30, 2001. Archived from the original on April 23, 2017. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  14. ^ "Acclaimed Music: The Most Recommended Albums and Songs of All Time". Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  15. ^ "Joni Mitchell, Cowboy Junkies, Sloan and Peaches Take Home Polaris Heritage Prizes". Exclaim!. October 9, 2015.
  16. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (February 7, 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  17. ^ "Rocklist". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  18. ^ "Cowboy Junkies - Chart History - Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  19. ^ "Cowboy Junkies - Chart History - Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  20. ^ a b c "CRIA Certifications". Archived from the original on May 1, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  21. ^ a b "RIAA Gold and Platinum". Archived from the original on June 26, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2008.

External links[edit]