Life Fades

The Voice may be a slick American reality show that, incidentally, says a lot about what reality is in America these days. But for Albertans like me, The Voice is Ian Tyson.

Now, I could struggle and backspace all night trying to find the right words to describe the gravel and the sky and the highway and the Rockies and the motel rooms in Tyson's voice, but it would all be so many inert words compared to the pleasure of listening to that voice as it evaporates.

Not really taller
My mother was a big Tyson fan, maybe back to Ian & Sylvia days. His cowboy music found me in the '80s around the same time I was also listening to Rush, Culture Club, Thompson Twins and Duran Duran. Boy George lasted as long as his mascara, and every now and then I have a pickchah/pinned to my wall and her name is rio/and she dances on the sand come into my head with the power of a recombinant virus. But I fight them off. Rush abides, but, for me, Tyson still lives. 

Ian Tyson sings about horses and mountains, rodeos and cowboy poets, remudas and sagebrush, and, honestly, that's not really my everyday life. But that's okay, because what he really sings about is the obscenity that is the passage of time. Fifty Years Ago, Summer Wages, The 
Gift and many other Tyson greats are united by this sense that it's all going.  And you had better wake up. Fittingly, he has chosen the evanescence-of-sound art to drive this lesson home. There is this from MC Horses:

Before this Oregon sound goes down/
This outfit's history. 

And then the stunning realization about himself and his band:

This outfit's/
History.

Years ago Shelagh and I danced to Tyson at a club called the Howlin' Wolf near buildings in downtown east that aren't there anymore, either. I got an autograph on a guitar strap. It faded over the years. At folkfest a couple of years ago a buddy got it re-signed. If you look closely, you can see his hand in the original Sharpie. "Life Fades," he wrote over it.

A few years ago, time got to Tyson, too. His vocal-chord-scarred voice was attacked by a bug, the story goes, and what Tyson fans got was a breathier sound. It was shocking. You could get used to it, but it played alongside the memories of his real voice. We settled for it. 

This morning, though, a Facebook post from Ian Tyson Music brought news that a surgeon and a voice coach have worked to give El Viejo his voice back. It's not exactly what it was. But he now sounds like Ian Tyson getting old. 


And, 'til the circle is through, damn rights, we'll take it. We may never get that much of it again.


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