Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
IAN and SYLVIA
Folk/country duo. Ian Tyson (b 25 September 1933, British Columbia) worked as lumberjack, rodeo performer, attended Vancouver art school; worked as a commercial artist in Toronto, played guitar and sang with friends in folk clubs. Sylvia Fricker (b 19 September 1940, Chatham, Ontario) worked in her home town, travelled to Toronto weekends to sing; they began performing together '59, married '64. To NYC, managed by Albert Grossman; their first LP on Vanguard Ian And Sylvia made fans happy, but Four Strong Winds '63 (Neil Young covered Ian's title song) and Northern Journey '64 (with Sylvia's 'You Were On My Mind', no. 3 hit USA '65 by We Five) attracted international attention and made the Billboard album chart. More Vanguard LPs included Early Morning Rain, Play One More, So Much For Dreaming '65-7 all charted; Nashville was recorded there with top-notch sidemen and fully acknowledged their debt to country music, putting off a few of the more ignorant folkies. Lovin' Sound '67 on MGM charted; they formed band Great Speckled Bird but separated after two LPs for Columbia.
Ian produced Sylvia's solo LP Woman's World on Capitol, had his own Canadian TV series; his first solo LP was Ol' Eon on A&M/Canada '75, later Old Corrals And Sagebrush and Ian Tyson on Columbia, Cowboyography '87 on his own Eastern Slope Label: the album and 'Navajo Rug' (co-written with Tom Russell) won country album and single of the year. He was busy ranching in Alberta, but still wrote songs that communicate 'like two horses nickering to each other in the dark' (Swing 51), winning major Canadian country music awards '88, '89, '90. With Gordon Lightfoot he opened the Calgary Olympics '90. Further albums were I Outgrew The Wagon '89, And Stood There Amazed '91, Eighteen Inches Of Rain '94, all on the marvelous Canadian label Stony Plain.
Sylvia continued writing songs, radio and TV work in Canada; joined Colleen Peterson, Cindy Church and Caitlin Hanford as Quartette '94, winning awards and acclaim for albums Quartette '94 and Work Of The Heart '95, also solo work including Gypsy Cadillac '95 on Round Tower, teaming with Russell on some songs.
Ian's Raven Singer on Stony Plain was his first album of new songs in several years. He had injured his voice in a concert in 2006 and sounds gravelly now, but still knows how to tell a story: 'Charles Goodnight's Grave' is about a Texan who allegedly invented the chuck wagon, and the closer is an uplifting instrumental, 'The Yellow Dress'.