Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Long Trail

My Life in the West
Ian Tyson
Ian Tyson of the sixties folk duo Ian and Sylvia, the seventies country rock band Great Speckled Bird and the authentic singing cowboy of the eighties wrote this memoir with the ghostwriterly help of fellow Canadian, Jeremy Klaszus. The book is an interesting blend of brutal honesty and self deceiving disingenuousness. Honest because Tyson admits that he wanted Sylvia out of his television show and musical career, so that he could be a solo act and disingenuous because he claims to believe that they just drifted apart due to lack of common interests.

Starting, briefly, with his childhood in Victoria British Columbia, the son of an Englishman who came to Canada to be a cowboy and became a life insurance salesman, Tyson wrote this book to establish his credentials, successfully, in my humble opinion as a genuine cowboy with the rights and privileges thereof, including the right to write and sing cowboy songs.  I think that at some time his authenticity has been questioned. He did make his show business start singing French Canadian folk songs and English ballads. Those critic, the ones that I imagine, were not aware of Tysons summer job at the age of fifteen running a pack string of horses into the mountains for a wilderness tour outfit or his youthful foray at horse breaking. Before he became half of Ian and Sylvia Ian Tyson was following in the footsteps of fellow Canadian, the western artist and author Will James.

Tyson admired Will James as a youth and followed his example in becoming a cowboy. In The Long Trail, Tyson is a bit disparaging of Jame's cowboy cred. I find that odd. They guy spent time in a Nevada jail for cattle rustling. How much more credible can you get? Did he have to be hanged? Being a Will James fan myself, I think that James has at least as much credibility ad Ian Tyson. Both came from Canadian non-ranching backgrounds to work with horses and cattle and quickly moved to other, more creative careers. Both retained their love of the cowboy life and used it in their art.

Tyson talks, in the book about the process of writing and recording his cowboy songs.  I recommend putting a copy of one of Tyson's cowboy albums, perhaps Cowboyography or And Stood There Amazed in the CD player while reading this book. It will get you in the mood.

This post is in the 71st
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Colloquium.