Album Review: Ian Tyson - Carnero Vaquero

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Leonard Cohen isn’t the only Canadian octogenarian making fine music these days. Country/folk/rock pioneer Ian Tyson, who turns 82 this month, has just delivered his 13th CD—and it’s a winner.

Like his other recent work, this latest effort displays a dramatically different voice from the silky one we heard on his 1960s duets with then wife Sylvia. He has reportedly recovered from a 2007 accident that severely affected his vocals, but he still sounds sandpapery and weathered—and far more emotive than he once did.

Tyson, who continues to manage a ranch south of Calgary, hasn’t changed his lyrical preoccupations. The man who gave us such unforgettable classics as “Four Strong Winds,” “Someday Soon,” and “Summer Wages” still writes about love and loss, the life of the cowboy and the fading of his beloved Old West. And he still does so compellingly.

Carnero Vaquero, which mixes ballads and folk rockers, showcases five new originals, among them the poignant “Chantell” and the midtempo “Cottonwood Canyon,” the latter about a place where “there ain’t no cellphone towers [but] maybe some coyote will give you a call.” Other highlights include a cover of the traditional “Doney Gal”; “Wolves No Longer Sing,” which Tyson cowrote with the great Tom Russell; and Will Dudley’s well-hooked “Colorado Horses.”

Tyson has said he thinks of his work as “music for grownups who live in the country.” That’s a reasonable description, but I suspect a lot of city dwellers will like this album just as much.

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Jeff Burger (byjeffburger.com), a longtime magazine editor, has written about music, politics, and popular culture for more than 75 periodicals. His books include Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon as well as Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches and Encounters and Leonard Cohen…

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