Ian Tyson Raven Singer

Hearing Ian Tyson's once-richly-toned voice reduced to a scratchy croak on his last couple of albums was certainly a shock. But on Raven Singer, the 78-year-old Canadian legend makes the absolute most out of his now-limited vocal range, at the same time proving he still has much to say. There are the expected cowboy (and cowgirl) tales that Tyson has become best known for in recent times, such as "Charles Goodnight's Grave" and "Winterkill." But the other side is always Tyson's stellar reputation as a balladeer, and on "Song in a Dream" and "The Circle is Through," he displays the deft poetic touch that's always marked his best work. The pleasures of Raven Singer, though, are the descriptions of landscapes on "Rio Colorado" and "Under African Skies," which can only come from a writer who has mastered their craft as Tyson has. His unfussy backing band, combined with bright production from Steve Loree (Jr. Gone Wild/Greyhound Tragedy), wrap everything in a charming package, making Raven Singer one of Tyson's most accessible and enjoyable releases in quite some time. (Stony Plain)