Monday, June 04, 2012

songs of the real west: Ian Tyson: Raven Singer

Charles Goodnight’s Grave, Rio Colorado, Song in a Dream, Winterkill, The Circle is Through -- the titles of the songs on Ian Tyson’s recording Raven Singer evoke the rugged landscapes of the North American west, and the complex challenges of lives lived out through their mountains and plains.

That perspective is bone deep for Tyson, a man who says music and horses have always been his loves. He is a rancher in Alberta as well as a writer and musician, a man ian tyson canada musicianwho has twice risen to legendary status in music, first as half of the duo Ian and Sylvia during the folk revival days and in more recent times as a cowboy poet in song of the real west.

On Raven Singer, Tyson continues that latter role with stories that go back to his early days and early running mates when he first learned guitar, in the song Blackberry Susan, all the way to recovering from a broken relationship in distant lands in Under African Skies. Charles Goodnight’s Graves draws you to the current windswept stillness of the west and to the ghosts of history that play out along its ways, while Rio Colorado heads into the call of landscape and how it might make a space heal old wounds. There’s also a moving revisit to a song from the past with The Circle is Through, which Tyson first recorded twenty years ago in a duet with country singer Suzy Bogguss.

Tyson’s voice is weathered now, the result of a battle a few years ago with a soundian tyson
system at a tough outdoor performance and a virus that followed. For a time Tyson thought he might not sing again, but the drive and the poetry remained, and the voice, though changed, works still. It is a weathered voice, indeed, and it suits the songs and stories. Should you need to lean in a bit to hear the words and follow those stories, that’s not a bad thing.

you may also wish to see

from Ian and Sylvia’s folk song revival days, Four Strong Winds

western music from Tish Hinojosa and Robert Mirabal
road trip music: New Mexico

a conversation with Ian Tyson

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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