Remember the shock of hearing Bob Dylan’s completely transformed voice on Nashville Skyline? Gone were all the rough edges and idiosyncratic phrasings; suddenly Dylan was a velvety voiced country singer, crooning “Lay Lady Lay.” Well, veteran Canadian folkie Ian Tyson debuts an equally dramatic but rather opposite vocal metamorphosis on Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Stories, his first album in two years. Though his voice was recently as smooth as Gordon Lightfoot’s, he now sounds rough and gravelly—more reminiscent of Dave Van Ronk than of Lightfoot.
According to Tyson’s record company, the change resulted when he played a big outdoor show, “fought the sound system and lost.” But he may have gained as much as he gave up: His new voice exudes emotion and the wisdom of age and seems well matched to the material here.
Just as important, that material is terrific. This is the guy who wrote “Four Strong Winds,” which Neil Young has called “the most beautiful record I’ve ever heard,” not to mention “Someday Soon” and “Summer Wages.” New standards are bound to emerge from this melodic, poetic batch of majestic cowboy anthems about love and loss.
(Originally published in No Depression)