Stony Plain Records
By now, the story of Ian Tyson’s losing much of the range in his voice is well known. And you can hear that loss on his last couple of albums. However, as I noted in a concert review about a year-and-half-ago, Ian’s got his voice back thanks to successful vocal cord surgery.
And that voice – familiar from those great Ian & Sylvia albums of the 1960s and early-‘70s and from so many great solo albums in the decades since – is in fine form on Carnero Vaquero a terrific collection that includes six new songs written or co-written by Ian, one of this country’s finest songwriters for more than a half-century.
My favorite of the new songs is “Wolves No Longer Sing,” a beautiful, poetic song co-written by Tom Russell about the changing West and the passage of the old ways. It’s even a lament for the days when music and songs came from people’s lives rather than a place of commerce. (The song first surfaced earlier this year in a version sung by Gretchen Peters on Tom’s brilliant folk opera The Rose of Roscrae: A Ballad of the West.)
Other favorites from among the new songs are a couple co-written with Kris Demeanor. “Jughound Ronnie,” is a contemporary take on the traditional “Black Jack David” story that is very much in the tradition of what Woody Guthrie did with the traditional source material in his “Gypsy Davy,” while “The Flood” uses the backdrop of the terrible floods in Alberta two years ago to set the scene for a story of a broken relationship.
Other highlights include the beautiful traditional cowboy song “Doney Gal,” Will Dudley’s infectious “Colorado Horses,” and new versions of “Will James,” Ian’s tribute to the great cowboy author (who was actually a French Canadian born in Quebec) and “Darcy Farrow,” Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell’s beautifully crafted traditional-style ballad first recorded 50 years ago by Ian & Sylvia.
Ian recorded the album on the ranch in Alberta with his working band and they know just what to do with these songs. At 81, Ian Tyson sounds as great as ever.