The Cowboy Junkies have long understood that their music was served best on record when it was least adorned by the recording process -- their commercial and critical breakthrough, 1988's The Trinity Session, was recorded live to digital tape using a single microphone during a single evening -- so it's not surprising that they've made a handful of live albums, where the interaction between the musicians is presented in its most natural environment. Only 18 months after releasing Open Road, a CD and DVD package recorded during their 2001 tour, the Cowboy Junkies issued another live document, Long Journey Home, which captures in both sound and image an appearance in Liverpool, England, during the fall of 2004. At this point in their career, the Cowboy Junkies have become thoroughly comfortable on-stage, but they've also learned to invite the spirit so even songs they've been performing for close to 20 years don't sound rote. On Long Journey Home, guitarist Michael Timmins, accordion man Jaro Czerwinec, and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird frequently weave improvisational spaces in and out of their songs, while vocalist Margo Timmins uses mellow scatting and repeated phrases to allow her instrument to join in the action; they certainly haven't turned into a jam band, but the Cowboy Junkies have learned how to use jamming to bring new life into their music, and their gift for playing off one another is quite impressive on these recordings. And though the slow tempos and dreamy atmosphere that have become the Cowboy Junkies' trademark haven't changed (thanks in part to the superb work of bassist Alan Anton and drummer Peter Timmins), the dynamics of their attack has certainly expanded. Margo Timmins' once-timid murmur now boasts a power and a bluesy growl that serves their material well, and her brother Michael can bring the noise with his guitar without shattering the mood of the performances. The Cowboy Junkies continue to evolve, with each concert recording showing new areas of growth and change, and while Long Journey Home isn't radically different from their last live outings, this CD allows you to hear (and the accompanying DVD permits you to see) a band that takes chances and does something different each night, and devoted fans will be grateful for this opportunity to once again explore their alchemy in the comfort of their living rooms.