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The Cowboy Junkies' Black-Eyed Man is an excellent return to form following their disappointing third LP, The Caution Horses. Where Michael Timmins' songwriting was stilted and overly self-conscious on the previous record, here his character studies are literate and finely-etched; like Robbie Robertson before him, Timmins' Canadian roots allow him to view the rural American experience with unique objectivity, and narratives like the opening "Southern Rain" and "Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park" are told with compassion and cinematic detail. Black-Eyed Man also broadens the Junkies' musical horizons: "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man," a duet with John Prine, is like a '50s-era love song intercepted from an alternate reality; while tracks like the lilting "A Horse in the Country" push the group closer to the folk-pop territory of 10,000 Maniacs. At the same time, their country roots are further reinforced by a pair of outstanding Townes Van Zandt covers, "Cowboy Junkies Lament" and "To Live Is to Fly"; sandwiched between them is Timmins' own tribute, "Townes' Blues."