Ian Tyson is best known for being half of the folk revival duo Ian and Sylvia, and for penning the country & western classics “Four Strong Winds”, “Summer Wages” and “Someday Soon”. So why is he performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on his second sequential collection of favorite sides, All the Good ‘Uns Volume 2? The 80-year-old cowboy singer more frequently sings of the West on titles such as “Brahmas and Mustangs”, “Elko Blues – The Roan Mare”, and “Yellowhead to Yellowstone”. But Tyson’s decision to cover the young Judy Garland’s sugar-coated dream of paradise makes intuitive sense. Tyson lives the real life of a Westerner on a rural Canadian ranch. His credentials for realism are solid; but as a singer-songwriter, he’s a mythmaker and fabulist. His West is as authentic as Oz.
Tyson badly damaged his vocal chords several years ago, and he describes his present voice as gravelly. That adds a touch of authenticity to the 19 cuts taken from his last five albums. Whether he’s crooning lowly about a “Lost Herd” or declaring that the “Fiddler Must Be Paid”, Tyson’s vocals add to the verisimilitude of the musical occasion. And when he ends with a quiet acoustic guitar and vocal rendition of “Rainbow”, you may not care that he doesn’t hit all the notes. It sounds as if he’s singing and playing from the heart.