January 29, 2024 newsletter

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Monday, January 29, 2024

Howdy everyone!

For last year's Gathering program, singer/songwriter Brenn Hill wrote a tribute to Ian Tyson (1933-2022). He said, "Few songwriters have left a lifetime of anthems quite like Ian Tyson has. Most strive for a few good songs, maybe even a great one or two. Ian Tyson wrote anthems, a lifetime of them. He was a visionary, and he crafted the soundtrack for the life of the working cowboy."

Ian Tyson didn't start out singing cowboy songs, and he didn't grow up on a ranch, though he got into bronc riding as a young man in British Columbia. After art school, he was a folk singer in Toronto and New York as part of Ian & Sylvia, then in a country-rock band (Great Speckled Bird), then host of a Canadian TV show. By 1978, he was divorced, and seemingly past his own musical success, although his songs were being recorded by a Who's Who of other artists. When he received a large royalty check for Neil Young's cover of his song "Four Strong Winds," he bought a ranch southwest of Calgary. He fell in love with a younger woman who also loved horses, and his songwriting kept evolving. Albums followed, and in 1986 Tyson released Cowboyography on his own label. It went platinum in Canada, on the strength of songs like "Navajo Rug," "Fifty Years Ago," "Own Heart's Delight", and "The Gift." Many more albums of great songs followed, as did years of performances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko.

As Jeremy Klaszus, the ghostwriter of Tyson's 2010 memoir, said, "Ian's true love was the West — on both sides of the Canadian-American border. . . .[His music] spilled over the border like it didn't exist. His people were in Longview, Alberta, and Elko, Nevada, and the many forgotten backroads and towns in between where people had Cowboyography cassette tapes in their trucks. Ian trusted these people — people, by and large, with fading economic and cultural cachet in an increasingly urbanized society. And they trusted him, because he was writing specifically for and about them. His fans in the West saw themselves, and their lives, in his songs. He was one of them. It was something they were not used to."

Tyson continued evolving throughout his life. Medical issues in 2006 and 2007 caused his voice to change dramatically, leaving him with a raspy whisper. Yet somehow this new voice communicated just as strongly. His 2008 album Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Stories was a strong seller.

Klaszus highlights songs like "The Ambler Saddle," "Charles Goodnight's Grave," and "Yellowhead to Yellowstone," which "tell stories of the West in sweeping yet singular narratives. The relentless precision and regionality of Ian's songs gave them their strength—the cattle drive from Lampasas County to the Little Bighorn, the specific saddle, the dying wolf in Wyoming. Springtime in Alberta."

Tyson was a mentor and musical colleague to younger songwriters and singers, including Utah's Brenn Hill and Alberta's Corb Lund, who performed often with Tyson. This year, the 3:30 PM Gathering show on Saturday, Feb. 17 will be "Fifty Years Ago: The Songs of Ian Tyson," featuring Corb and Brenn. We don't know what songs they'll play at the show, but we know they will be special.

Tickets are available now.

For more on Tyson, see "The Gift: What Ian Tyson Left Us," by Jeremy Klaszus and "Ian Tyson: The many faces of a Canadian icon," by Kolya Witko (Alternative Trends, Fall/Winter 2010).

All the best,
Kay and Gene Nowell
Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering

P.S. Here's that ticket link again. See you in Alpine!

Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering
January 2024

Board of Directors
Elizabeth Baize, Fort Davis
Robbie Burns, Alpine
Marian Freeland, Alpine
Bill Jones, East Tennessee
Karen Lloyd, Alexandria, VA
Karen McGuire, Alpine
Kay Nowell, Alpine
Gene Nowell, Alpine
Vess Quinlan, Alamosa, CO
David Richmond, Lindrith, NM
Chris Ryden, Midland, TX
Jim Street, Alpine
Parick Sullivan, Fairfax Station, VA

Event Producer
Bob Saul, Fort Worth

Film Production and Advisors to the Board
John and Erika Moore, Durango, CO

Advisors to the Board
Rachel Barrett, Alpine
Jim Goodnight, Dallas
Andy Hedges, Lubbock

Mailing address:
Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering
P.O. Box 1076
Alpine, TX 79831


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