Describing 78-year-old Ian Tyson as â€ślegendaryâ€ť isnâ€™t mere hyperbole. If one face and voice is the embodiment of what â€śrootsâ€ť is all about, itâ€™s Tyson. His career kicked off in 1959 when he was half of the Toronto-based folk duo, Ian and Sylvia. In the late-'60s, the pair fronted the country band, The Great Speckled Bird, before Tyson hosted his own TV music show. For over 50 years, his compositions like â€śFour Strong Windsâ€ť were Canadian hits covered by folks like Bob Dylan with The Band, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, and Judy Collins.
In 2006, Tyson suffered irreversible scarring to his vocal cords, resulting in what he calls his â€śnew voice.â€ť While his old tones and low-range delivery are now gone, in 2008 he released Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Stories. This led to his being nominated for Best Solo Artist of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards. Along the way, he wrote a best-selling memoir and still maintains two careers, as a touring musician and cattle rancher.
Now itâ€™s 2012, and Raven Singer presents a Tyson apparently very comfortable with his â€śnew voice,â€ť as if thatâ€™s exactly the gravely, hoarse, world-wise instrument he should be using at age 78. The title is more than appropriate, as Tysonâ€™s Nakoda First Nation name—â€śKa-ree-a-hiathaâ€ť—translates to â€śRaven that Sings.â€ť All the new songs seem to come from a figure whoâ€™d deserve such a title.
This â€śRaven Singerâ€ť sounds like he remembers the times and places where cowboys still rode and coyotes howled in the distance. After all, this is a singer who learned the guitar after recuperating from a rodeo fall. The new 12 songs were composed in a 100-year-old stone building a mile down the gravel road from his ranch house. Ian Tyson is walking, talking, singing Old West history.