Ian Tyson,
Live at Longview
(Stony Plain, 2002)

The first live recording in Ian Tyson's long and noteworthy career, Live at Longview will be a valued addition to any collection of authentic cowboy music -- and a listening treat for any fan of country, folk or cowboy music.

The CD was recorded live at East Longview Hall in Alberta, Canada, "just down the road from Ian's ranch." Although there is some crowd noise from his appreciative audience, it is much less intrusive than on some live recordings, where the music can hardly be heard above the background bedlam.

The first song of 17 in the collection is a wonderful remake of the Jerry Jeff Walker tune "Navajo Rug," a catchy toe-tapper with a humorous twist. Then follows a selection of classic Tyson cowboy songs ("Old Corrals and Sagebrush," "Desert Motel" and "I Outgrew the Wagon") replete with Tyson's robust vocals and classic cowboy styling reminiscent of the Sons of the Pioneers and other great singing cowboys of the past, right down to the hint of twin fiddles.

Most of the songs on the album, in the tradition of true cowboy music, are rather slow. Cowboys sang while riding herd at night so that the cattle wouldn't stampede; the soft voices and rhythmic noise soothed them. The words are authentic, too -- jinglebobs, cavvy. Cowboys are notorious for sneering at the "wanna-bes" who try to sound like them. No fear of that here, though -- Tyson is obviously the real thing.

The song that is perhaps Tyson's best-known hit, "Someday Soon," is featured and there is a jazzy version of "Blue Moon." Don't miss "Bob Fudge," a true-life story of a great cowboy, and "Little High Plains Town," a plaintive song about what happens to little cow towns in this age of Wal-Mart and dot-coms.

According to the liner notes and promotional materials, Tyson was 68 years old at the time it was recorded. Amazing! He doesn't look it, nor sound it -- his voice is vital and strong, with an impressive versatility. He has five decades as a recording artist, the notes continue, a feat not many can boast of. In fact, the only real weak point of the collection is the song "Jerry Ambler," a free-form verse tribute to the late, great rodeo star done as a sort of cowboy rap with heavy drum backup. There is a reason why cowboy's don't usually rap, and that's all I have to say about that!

One more tiny little gripe -- although the cover design is beautiful, with wonderful full-color photos of Ian and his horse riding around a gorgeous ranch (Ian's, I presume -- and boy do the fences look tight), the notes are lacking. Some of the song lyrics are printed, but not all -- and there are only minimal notes explaining who wrote what, who the musicians are, and so forth. Not a big deal, certainly doesn't detract from the quality of the music, but mildly annoying to we people who just have to read along.

- Rambles
written by April Chase
published 1 March 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.