Renmin Park, the first volume in the Cowboy Junkies' Nomad Series, was named for the park where guitarist/songwriter Michael Timmins spent a considerable amount of time while in the process of adopting two children from China. Built on a foundation of loops, conversations, street performances, and other found sounds from the region, the Junkies have crafted a song cycle that at first glance seems at odds with their rootsy Great White North Americana, but as it turns out, modern Chinese culture (as filtered through the deep calming voice of Margo Timmins) has inspired the veteran Canadian outfit to create one its best and most fascinating collections to date. Endlessly creative, while still holding true to the sanguine, country-kissed balladry that has become their forte over the last 25 years, songs like the harrowing “A Few Bags of Grain,” the windows-down (China National) highway rocker “Stranger Here,” and the bluesy, trip-hop-kissed "(You've Got to Get) A Good Heart” feel both lived in and raw. Renmin Park may find the band operating outside of its AOR comfort zone, but even at its most challenging, the Timmins siblings have found a way to remain connected enough to the material to provide comfort to even the most xenophobic Cowboy Junkies junkie.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger