The music of the late Vic Chesnutt radiated black humor, ragged charm and a vulnerability that was often alarming. Cowboy Junkies successfully retain those qualities on Demons, a collection of Chesnutt covers that sets his striking lyrics against coiled guitars and baleful church organs. With her smoky alto and expertly restrained delivery, Margo Timmons turns out to be the perfect conduit for Chesnutt's tales of loneliness. She can make songs like the slowly drifting "Betty Lonely" radiate desperation while barely raising her voice above a murmur. Occasionally, things get too sleepy: The demure, supper-club reading of Chesnutt's magnificent "Square Room" fells a bit too wistful to be paired with lyrics about drinking yourself to death. But the Junkies' grizzled, slightly-snarling take on the cynical celebrity put-down "Ladle" more than compensates.
Listen to "Wrong Piano":