Ian Tyson- Yellowhead to Yellowstone and other Love Songs   Leave a comment

Ian Tyson

Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Songs

Stony Plain


Much has been written about the vocal change Ian Tyson has undergone over the recent past.


Reading about such an alteration doesn’t really prepare one for hearing the deeper, weathered voice that comes through the speakers from Tyson’s latest release. The voice that was once so immediately identifiable is gone, ravaged by a destructive virus.


Tyson’s new voice may not be embraced straight away by casual fans, but those of us who have stuck with Ol’ Eon through the highs and lows- including the personally disappointing Songs from the Gravel Road will find much to enjoy on this ten-track collection. And indeed part of what makes this album of such interest is Tyson’s new sound.


It may appear unfair or even asinine, but at times in the past it has seemed almost too easy for Tyson to be Ian Tyson. The changes and challenges he’s faced over the past few years have made him more accessible to listeners, perhaps more personable, and have brought a new dimension to his music.


This is likely Tyson’s finest collection of songs in a decade, possibly longer. As the title indicates, relationships are at its core, and the separation of partners is a prominent theme. The title cut traces the life of a pair of alpha wolves relocated from Alberta to Wyoming. It is an instant Tyson classic, and joins the legion of songs he has written that will stand the test of time.


Abandonment is metaphorically explored within Lioness; as in Yellowhead to Yellowstone, the male survives the relationship, but this time his strength fails him. My Cherry Colored Rose, a song not written by Tyson, explores Don Cherry’s loss in a way that reminds us that Canada’s favourite buffoon is more than the caricature we see on our television screens.


Elsewhere, relationships go fallow (The Fiddler Must Be Paid) and flourish (Go This Far) and folks that are the type Tyson appreciates are recognized (Ross Knox and Bill Kane). One song is apparently about Tyson’s daughter, and Estrangement doesn’t paint a pleasant picture.


Unlike Tyson’s previous foray into jazz territory, this time out the instrumentation is solidly within the western and country structure in which he has been most successful. Much of the credit for the success of this album goes to producer Harry Stinson; the former Dead Reckoner has framed Tyson’s lyrics and voice with supportive sounds that complement the images created.


No one knows how many more albums Tyson has in him. Recent interviews give the impression he would be comfortable fading into the sunset someday soon. With sensitivity and depth, Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Songs provides ample evidence that Ian Tyson still has a great deal to offer.


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