“The Gift is the definitive tribute that the legend and his songbook deserve.” - Elliot Garnier
— Arden Theatre, St. Albert
When Ian Tyson arrived in Alberta in the mid-seventies he took some time before taking to the honky-tonk stages of the foothills.
Once he did however, the landscape of the Alberta roots music scene changed, the bar of excellence was set at another place.
Ian brought to the music community a CV that was chock full of accomplishments that had been validated and celebrated by his peers, the press, and audiences across the continent.
This singer and songwriter was also a bandleader, onetime host of a popular national television series shot in Toronto and serious horsemanIt might have taken him a while to find his bearings on the Alberta music scene but for his long-time fans, there was a window where you could catch Tyson in honky-tonks like Ranchman’s in Calgary and hotel cabarets in south and central Alberta. Memorable times indeed.
Old Corrals and Sagebrush and a self-titled recording announced a new artistic vision and thrust that was created on both the history of “the west” and the impending changes that were rapidly moving in on western culture, and the characters that inhabited those worlds.
He began venturing south again, across the border, mining an American audience that was invested in a western lifestyle. Ian Tyson became the artistic beacon at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada and the albums kept coming, with Cowboyography in 1986 taking his popularity to a new level. A television show that he hosted out of Edmonton for a few years once again put Tyson in front of national audiences on a weekly basis.
Along with the new original songs, there were notable collaborations and he continued to be a great interpreter of other writers’ material. As a bandleader he brought together top-drawer musicians who became finely tuned ensembles, many of those players and singers going on to impressive solo careers of their own.
From the honky-tonks and rural community halls it was on to theatres, major festival appearances and dates that would find Ian sharing the stage with symphony orchestras.
While Neil Young’s cover of Four Strong Winds arguably remains the best-known cover of a Tyson classic, stunning interpretations of his songs continued to be released, thanks to artists like Nanci Griffith, Tony Rice, Michael Martin Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker, Tom Russell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Suzy Bogguss, who took Someday Soon to close to the top of the country charts one more time.
He lost that immediately identifiable, smooth and pliable voice, not once but twice, yet he didn’t hesitate on finding a way in which to vocally deliver his songs. And the discography he created is unlike any other as it traverses across a far-reaching musical landscape that envelopes so many influences.
It’s a songbook that is staggering in terms of volume and stunning in terms of imagery and insight, all cinched together with a poetic, highly literate and informed intent.
Quite the gift he passed to his audience and we’re proud to keep on delivering his songbook to long-time fans and those that are just discovering the brilliance of Ian Tyson’s work.