Songs from the Gravel Road
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6
Written by John Metzger
In the early í60s, Ian Tyson garnered widespread acclaim and recognition as one-half of the legendary folk duo Ian & Sylvia, and over the years, his songs have been covered by everyone from Neil Young and Glen Campbell to Judy Collins and Crystal Gayle. After the duo disbanded in the mid-í70s, however, Tyson temporarily retreated from the music business in order to ride in the rodeo and work on his ranch in Alberta, Canada. When he did emerge with new material, it was rooted in his love for cowboy culture, and it crossed traditional Western fare with contemporary country arrangements.
Itís been six years since Tysonís last studio recording, and his latest effort Songs from the Gravel Road finds him once again changing direction. Assembling a band of well-respected jazz and pop musicians from Torontoís music scene ó guitarist Kevin Breit, saxophonist Phil Dwyer, and trumpet players Guido Basso and Steve McDade, among them ó he affixed his compositions with arrangements that are as spacious and open as the Canadian plains. Unfortunately, the ensembleís cross-pollination of ideas doesnít always work. Tysonís rustic tales, which occasionally are delivered in a half-spoken fashion, donít mesh with the airy sophistication of the instrumentation, and too often, the collection sounds like an uncomfortable collaboration among Willie Nelson, David Crosby, and Sting. None of it is unlistenable, and on occasion, the group does stumble upon success ó the bubbly, reggae-tinged Range Delivery; the radiantly wistful Land of Shining Mountains; and the graceful, but somber Road to Las Cruces, for example. In the end, however, Songs from the Gravel Road is an album with a promising premise that largely remains unfulfilled. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box