Various Artists

Gift: A Tribute to Ian Tyson

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Ian Tyson has had something of a triple career. As one half of the celebrated duo Ian & Sylvia, he was one of the primary architects of the Great Folk Scare of the 1960s. Then, in 1970, he helped to launch the country-rock movement as a member of Great Speckled Bird. Then he took part in the cowboy music revival with a solo album titled Cowboyography in 1986. A tribute album has been long overdue, and this one is blessedly free of obvious superstar cameos (though previously released songs by both Gordon Lightfoot and Tom Russell are included, and the legendary Ramblin' Jack Elliott makes a suitably grizzled appearance as well). The best tracks are ones contributed by artists whose names may not be recognized at all by non-Canadian folk music fans: Cindy Church (whose version of "Range Delivery" is a reggae song barely disguised as country), Jennifer Warnes (whose "Blue Mountains of Mexico" incorporates strings more successfully than one could reasonably have wished), and the McDades (whose "Smuggler's Cove" does the same with Irish flute). David Rea's take on the title track sounds rough in a way that comes across as more affected than genuine, and Blue Rodeo's Byrds-y version of "Four Strong Winds" starts out charming but eventually grows strangely annoying. Oh, but there actually is one more star turn -- Chris Hillman delivers what may be the album's high point, a gorgeous rendition of the wryly heartbroken "What Does She See." Very, very nice.

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