The Long Trail: My Life in the West
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A Canadian icon on his longstanding love of the West and his life in "one of the last true cowboy countries on either side of the border."
"I live on a ranch about six miles east of the town of Longview and the old Cowboy Trail in the foothills of the Rockies. On a perfect day, like today, I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world. Of course, I'm not going to say there aren't those other days when you think, 'What am I doing here?' It's beautiful country and it can be brutally tough as well." —Ian Tyson
Ian Tyson's journey to the West began in the unlikely city of Victoria, BC, where he rode his dad's horses on the weekends and met cowboys in the pages of Will James's books, and eventually followed that cowboy dream to rodeo competition. Laid up after breaking a leg, he learned the guitar, and drifted east, becoming a key songwriter and performer in the folk revival movement. But the West always beckoned, and when his marriage to his partner and collaborator Sylvia broke up and the music scene threatened to grind him down, he retreated to a ranch and work with cutting horses. Soon, he'd bought a ranch in Alberta and found a new voice as the renowned Western Revival singer-songwriter and horseman he is today. This book is Ian's reflection on that journey...
From the Hardcover edition.
station and I were kind of squeezing her out. I wanted to learn how to sing solo country music. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it or not and I figured the show would be a test for that. My goal was to find a good generic country music style — a radio-friendly style — and there was no way I could do that in the context of our duo. The duet is a pretty restrictive format because you always have to blend and there’s little room for extemporaneous vocals. You’re always throwing your voice up against
of guys were writing incredibly stupid country songs, and they’d become hits. That scene didn’t interest me at all. In Nashville I cut some decent demos that didn’t go anywhere. I think the Nashville producer types saw through me — saw that I probably wouldn’t commit and be the indentured servant type of artist they wanted in those days. They wanted you to get on the tour bus and stay there. And the more success you got, the harder they were on you. They made you a slave, basically. I’ve heard
30. I didn’t know it then, but I had just started creating the pieces that would make up the biggest album of my career. I kept writing songs all through 1986. At this point I hadn’t yet bought the quarter-section with the little stone house, so my friend Einar Brasso kindly let me use his log cabin in the Alberta foothills for writing. After I got up in the morning, ate breakfast and fed the horses, I’d drive southwest for an hour to the cabin, which was just off Chimney Rock Road. It’s pretty
unfamiliar with the country, so they didn’t realize how fast the temperature could drop. A blizzard hit and they never made it back home, even though the trip was only about twenty miles. They froze to death at Stimson Creek, which is across the Highwood River just south of my place. It’s a classic indication of the violence of our weather. I’ve experienced some of that brutality first-hand. On the way back from Elko in the late 1980s (after selling some five hundred copies of Cowboyography at
of Fame in Colorado Springs. It’s a real cowboy story that I chose to tell from the point of view of the saddle, but I put it to a jazz setting. It might not have been the flavour of the day, but I like how it turned out. Corb Lund also liked Gravel Road. He really got it. I first ran into him in 2002, backstage at an Ian Tyson tribute concert at Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, where he played “MC Horses.” Corb is a great big, burly Alberta guy — looks like a football player — and very