CD Review: Ian & Sylvia’s “The Lost Taoes

| September 26, 2019 | Reply

Ian & Sylvia, The Lost Tapes, Stoney Plain Records — First printed in September 2019, in The Paris News.

Imagine being returned to the folk music era of the 1960s and 70s, the time when musical instruments were played to compliment the singers’ voices, not over-power them, and songwriters wrote songs with meaning and substance behind them.

That’s what has just recently been released as Ian & Sylvia’s The Lost Tapes, a double-CD set of live recordings from those years, half of which have never been released before.

Disc 1 is filled with the Canadian duo’s classics, many of which stretched to the top of the various music charts. Disc 2, on the other hand, are the songs which have not been heard before this, but most of which are familiar to music lovers. It features Harlan Howard’s “Heartaches By The Number,” country songs by Jimmie Rodgers, Buck Owens, and Lefty Frizzell, and folk songs by Tom Paxton (“The Last Thing On My Mind”) and Utah Phillips (“The Goodnight Loving Trail”). Oh, so many more.

Of the 26 total songs featured, Ian Tyson wrote three, all on Disc 1, some are traditional songs with Ian & Sylvia’s unique arrangements and phrasing, and the remainder are cover songs.

The duo’s “Four Strong Winds,” “Summer Wages,” and “Crazy Arms” blend the influences from both folk and country.  “Four Strong Winds” has been called “the most essential” piece of Canadian music. It and “You Were On My Mind” were both inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003 and 2007. And just recently, Ian Tyson and Sylvia Tyson were honored with induction into that same Hall of Fame, and presenters said they pushed the boundries not only of folk and country, but also of blues, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. That’s all obvious on The Lost Tapes.

The songs in this collection came to light as Sylvia was assembling memorabilia for the National Music Centre in Calgary.

Ian & Sylvia had the distinction of recording “Darcy Farrow” before anybody else had it. Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell wrote it in 1964, and since then more than 300 artists, including Jim Croce, Townes Van Zandt, George Hamilton IV, and Gillette himself, recorded the song. Gordon Lightfoot sang it often, though he never recorded it, as have countless others.

Sylvia’s crystal clear, vibrato voice powers her leads and her harmonies, and Ian’s soars solidly through his vocals. When you hear a fiddle, you hear the fiddle because the other instruments are quiet enough to let you hear the fiddle. Ditto the keyboards, or steel guitar — no matter which instrument takes a lead, it accents the song, sometimes harmonizing behind Ian’s or Sylvia’s vocals.

The Lost Tapes is available in hard copy on Amazon.com, StonyPlainRecords.com, and can be streamed on most streaming sites.

Mary Jane Farmer

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