The Cowboy Junkies first came to fame with 1987's "The Trinity Session," a strikingly lo-fi effort recorded through a single microphone at Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity.

That hushed affair, which blended folk, blues and rock in a fashion that most had never heard before, sold more than a million copies in the U.S. alone and produced many memorable tunes. It's long been considered a stone-cold classic.

And that's a major reason why fans are so excited about the Cowboy Junkies' upcoming trip the Bay Area.

The group will perform "The Trinity Session" in its entirety during each of its two local concerts -- Thursday at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco and Saturday at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley.

The Canadian family-centric band -- featuring guitarist-songwriter Michael Timmins, vocalist Margo Timmins, drummer Peter Timmins and bassist Alan Anton -- is always great in concert. Yet, these "Trinity Session" shows should be really special.

Fans evidently agree with that assessment. Both of these shows sold out very quickly.

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From the archives:

Here is my most recent interview with the Cowboy Junkies' Michael Timmins. I spoke to the fabulous songwriter-guitarist before the band's Bay Area dates last year.

Q I'm always impressed by how many tour dates the band does each year. What keeps you motivated to stay on the road?

A There is definitely an economic side to it, but, truthfully -- unless you are making millions of dollars doing it -- I don't think you could do it unless you really love it. It's hard work, especially as you get older. It's important to the band. It's important to our vitality. Every couple of years, we sit back and reassess how we approach the touring thing -- the number of days we want to do, how long we want to go out for and those kinds of things -- because it becomes more complicated with families. But it's still real fun, that's for sure.

Q What does Margo do with all the flowers she gets from the fans at your shows?

A If we have a bus, she often takes them. It drives us nuts, because the bus gets packed with flowers -- and vases filled with water aren't the best thing on a moving vehicle. Sometimes she'll give them away -- like she'll give them to a waitress or somebody who has been nice to her. Various things. She tries to make sure (the flowers) get appreciated, one way or the other.

Q Tell me about the band's recent "Nomad Series." Why did you decide to release a four-disc set, spread out over many months?

The music group Cowboy Junkies are seen Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007, in Madison, Wis. From left to right are Alan Anton, Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins and
The music group Cowboy Junkies are seen Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007, in Madison, Wis. From left to right are Alan Anton, Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins and Peter Timmins. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) (Morry Gash)

A We had shed ourselves of any (record) contract we had ever had. We were completely independent, so we had the luxury of doing whatever we wanted to do. We didn't need to get permission. We came up with an idea for a double album, then a triple album. That morphed into four albums in 18 months.

Q You're one of my favorite songwriters. Yet, the band is also known for doing incredible work with covers. To many people, "Sweet Jane" is now as much a Cowboy Junkies song as it is (author) Lou Reed's.

A I think that's a sign of a good cover, when people sort of associate it with you. Obviously ("Sweet Jane") is the classic case for us. But there is a few like that -- such as a lot of the Townes Van Zandt songs (that we cover). That's a compliment when people feel like you've taken a song and put your own stamp on it.

Q Plus, with these cover songs, you might be introducing songwriters to new listeners. That's got to be gratifying.

A People come to us and say that they got into Townes Van Zandt because they heard a couple of our (versions of his) songs. That's the best feeling. We are hoping that people will do the same with Vic Chesnutt once they hear some of his songs off the ("Nomad Series"). It's one of the many reasons you do a cover -- to point in a direction that you have been influenced, and hope that people sort of follow that.

Q The band began putting out records independently in the early 2000s, after a lengthy run on major labels. Why did you decide to go that route?

A We did 10 years with the majors. We did our time. Overall, it was very fruitful for us. Through the power that the majors had, we were able to reach out around the world and get our name out there. It allowed us to then, 10 years later, go out there and connect with the audience without the need for a major label.

As record labels were beginning to fall apart at that time, it was getting very stressful. We felt we were explaining ourselves and trying to get permission to do things, rather than making music. The energy that was being spent in that was taking its toll. It made making music not fun, and that's not good.

Q You write the songs that your sister, Margo, sings. That's an interesting band dynamic. What do you do with your compositions that you don't think are right for Margo?

A Even if I feel that a song is going to be tough for Margo to sing, but I like the song, I will present it to her anyway. Margo, over the years, usually surprises me. She usually finds a way into those songs. They might take on a different tone or meaning from what I initially had. That's the great thing about writing songs. So, I never try to second guess what Margo can or cannot sing.

Q Does she factor into your songwriting process? Do you find yourself trying to write a song that will work for her?

A I try not to, because then I might start to censor myself, thinking, "She wouldn't sound good singing this, so I won't write that." You're putting a whole other layer of expectation on the song. It's almost a sense of self-censorship by doing that. I try to just think of songs as mine, and they aren't going to go anywhere besides me and my guitar. Then I just present them.

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Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic and www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews.