Various Artists - The Gift: A Tribute To Ian Tyson
Canadian Ian Tyson (Ian & Silvia, Great Speckled Bird) was a sensitive songwriter who dipped his toes into the folk renaissance of the early 60s and the country rock later that decade, and had a hand in helping to define both genres. For is influence and his gentle, bittersweet tunes of love, place and lessons learned, his tribute record is apt and well deserved. That is not to say, however that it is a winner.
Most tribute records are a mixed bag at best. Though the arrangements are genuinely solid not slick, and incorporate many of the cowboy, Western and steel guitar elements of the originals, a lot of these songs are delivered too reverently, and often sound watered down. Jennifer Warnes' tepid cover of "Blue Mountains of Mexico" and contributions by Corb Lund and Gordon Lightfoot are especially bathetic.
All is certainly not lost, however. Blue Rodeo do a masterful job with their country-rock take on "Four Strong Winds," and former Byrd Chris Hillman mandolin shuffle on "What Does She See" are brilliant and moving. Likewise Ramblin' Jack Elliott does the cowboy ballad "Will James" proud, as you'd expect from the master.
"A Tribute To Ian Tyson," in its present form, would make for a great EP. Perhaps that is not as fitting attribute to such an influential and at times powerful songwriter as Tyson. A more lasting tribute will be that his songs will continue to be covered, by artists from a number of genres. Even in the missteps, his lyrics and his passion are in there.
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