Various Artists - "The Gift: A Tribute To Ian Tyson"
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Various Artists - "The Gift: A Tribute To Ian Tyson"


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"Various Artists - The Gift: A Tribute to Ian Tyson"

A FolkWax Reprint
This review originally ran in FolkWax issue #341 on 10/11/2007

Various Artists
The Gift: A Tribute to Ian Tyson

Stony Plain Recording Co

FolkWax Rating: 9 out of 10
A Flawless Diamond

Next year Ian Tyson reaches the ripe old age of seventy-five years and for five decades this British Columbia-bred Canadian has penned and performed songs that have kept him at the top of his chosen musical field. Initially there was a Folk music duo with Sylvia 'Tyson' Fricker, then the pioneering Country-Rock outfit Great Speckled Bird, while in recent decades Tyson has achieved success as a solo Country and cowboy musician. But for a teenage riding accident, Tyson might now be a long-forgotten rodeo rider, and on The Gift Canadian musicians, including a significant number of former sidemen and a few of Tyson's American pals, have gathered together to pay tribute to this roots music giant and his extensive songbook.

Before delving into the songs featured on The Gift let's focus for a moment on the liner artwork. Gracing the three way, fold-out card liner are a quartet of pencil sketches by that giant in the world of cowboy art - the Missouri-born, Montana-based western artist Charles Marion Russell [1864-1926]. More Russell sketches appear in the liner booklet. Formed during 1984 and following in the Country-Rock footsteps of Great Speckled Bird, Toronto-based combo Blue Rodeo launch this collection with a mellifluous (flows like warm honey) reading of "Four Strong Winds." In 1963 the latter tune graced Ian & Sylvia's sophomore album of the same name and it's probably the oldest tune in this collection - some say it's Tyson's reply to Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind." During the 1960s, the Tyson's and Dylan were managed by the late Albert Grossman [d. 1986] and Ian reputedly wrote the song in his manager's New York City apartment.

Based on the title, it's hardly surprising that there's a 'south of the border'-feel to "Blue Mountains Of Mexico" and accompanied by finger-picked acoustic guitar, accordion, strings, and tubular bells, Jennifer Warnes makes this song from Lost Herd [1999] totally her own. I'd guess that it's no coincidence that during his career that other Canadian Folk giant Gordon Lightfoot chose to cut Tyson's "Red Velvet" (this track first appeared on Lightfoot's album A Painter Passing Through, 1998). The song appeared on Ian & Sylvia's fourth album, a 1965 release that took its title from Lightfoot's early career gem "Early Morning Rain." Close to home, in the latter lyric a rancher contemplates life on his own after his girl leaves.

In the album title track David Rea, the first Tyson sideman to step up to the plate, recalls the life of Charlie M. Russell. I well remember the chills that ran up and down my spine on first hearing Cowboyography, Tyson's 1986 Juno-winning collection of western songs, old and new. Not wishing to dispel the magic of that (once in a lifetime pleasurable aural) experience, I didn't listening to the album again for some six months. Like Warnes, Rea's contribution truly cuts the mustard and he's followed by another, in this instance female, former Tyson side-person. Cindy Church performs "Range Delivery" from Tyson's most recent solo outing Songs From The Gravel Road [2005]. Jeremiah McDade's flute and whistle add a wistful edge to The McDade Trio's interpretation of the Lost Herd tune "Smuggler's Cove." Prefacing his crisp bass vocal interpretation of "Some Kind Of Fool," Amos Garrett recalls touring Japan and picking guitar with the Tyson's in the seminal Great Speckled Bird. "Some Kind Of Fool" first appeared on Ian & Sylvia [1971] and subsequently on Tyson's solo debut Ol' Eon [1973].

Having made its debut on Ian & Sylvia's Northern Journey [1964], in 1968 Judy Collins cut an up-tempo (and I have to say timeless) version of the 'don't fall in love with a rodeo rider'-themed "Someday Soon." Supported by pedal steel magician Buddy Cage (Great Speckled Bird, New Riders Of The Purple Sage), Doug Andrew, founder of Vancouver-based combo The Circus In Flames, takes the lead vocal on a slow-paced interpretation. The closing trio of tracks, as listed on the liner, feature two former Tyson sidemen and the band The Good Brothers, who, around 1970, traversed Canada with the Tysons on the financially disastrous Festival Express. The Good Brothers perform the paean to transitory workers "Summer Wages," a tune Tyson cut on three occasions (So Much For Dreaming [1966], Ian & Sylvia, and Cowboyography). One-time member of Tyson's Chinook Arch Riders, Stewart MacDougall delivers an achingly-beautiful reading of the waltz-paced love ballad "You're Not Alone Anymore," a song Tyson cut on two occasions (You Were On My Mind [1972] and And Stood There Amazed [1991]) and The Gift closes with the obscure Tyson composition "Moondancer." This waltz-paced instrumental has only appeared on a late 1970s solo single released by Boot Records and it's performed here by - FolkWax


The Gift: A Tribute To Ian Tyson - Stony Plain Records - 2007



The Gift: A Tribute To Ian Tyson
Stony Plain Records has recorded a tribute to Ian Tyson, an artist Stony Plain has worked with for over 20 years. Ian is one of this country's most influential songwriters, having had a number of songs covered by artists like Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Gordon Lightfoot. The tribute includes mostly new recordings of Ian's songs by artists who have been touched by Ian's music and in many cases have worked with him. Those artists include Corb Lund, Amos Garrett, Cindy Church, Stewart MacDougall, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Jennifer Warnes, and Blue Rodeo. Stony Plain Records’ president Holger Petersen and award-winning music journalist Peter North asked Tyson's friends, associates, admirers and one-time sidemen to contribute, and shepherded their songs through production. All of the songs were recorded expressly for this album, with the exception of Gordon Lightfoot’s track, “Red Velvet,” released on an earlier album of his, and Tom Russell’s cover of “Old Cheyenne,” recorded several years ago as a “promotion only” track. This is the first CD of Ian's songs done in tribute to him.