Review: Ian Tyson's "Raven Singer"

Ian Tyson''s 14th solo release blends silky-smooth vocals with cowboy wit and wisdom.
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Ian Tyson''s 14th solo release blends silky-smooth vocals with cowboy wit and wisdom.

Ian Tyson is not one to rest on his laurels—though he’d certainly be entitled to. His career spans more than 50 years, from his early days with folk duo Ian & Sylvia to modernizing the Western music genre in the mid-’80s. He’s gathered numerous awards and recognitions along the way, and most every performer in the field (from busker to headliner) covers a Tyson song or at least concedes his influence. And officials in Calgary, Alberta, recently inscribed lyrics from a Tyson song on a downtown public building.




Raven Singer is Tyson’s 14th solo release and his second album since his silky-smooth vocal chords were affected by a virus that altered his signature timbre and tone.



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“I think I’ve learned how to make my ‘new voice’ work,” Tyson says in a press release. And indeed his voice is less “grainy” than it was on the prior Yellowhead to Yellowstone.



Lyrically, Tyson has never been stronger. The nine vocal tracks on Raven Singer cover familiar territory—love songs, cowboy culture, biographies, metaphors, and place (sometimes mixing them all together)—but are spun with Tyson’s wit and wisdom. The mix is buoyed by melodies that artfully carry the word paintings that he is so famous for. Musically, the backing is solid and reinforces Tyson’s more “experienced” vocals perfectly in mood and tone. There’s even an instrumental, an Ian Tyson first!



Diehard Tyson fans will embrace Raven Singer wholeheartedly, but will it achieve the success of Lost Herd or All The Good Uns, which just turned gold?



“That’s the beautiful mystery of the whole deal,” says Tyson on his website. “That’s what keeps us goin’. You never know. It’s not a money thing. You can’t make a great horse with money, and you can’t necessarily make a great album with money. The muse is out there somewhere. That’s the magic. It’s lookin’ for it.”




Stony Plain, iantyson.com