Over the past 30 years or so, Ian Tyson
has transformed himself from '60s folkie to a contemporary Western poet. Songs from the Gravel Road
, then, will hold few surprises for old fans, but nonetheless excels as a solid performance from a confirmed romantic. Tyson
divides his material up into a couple of types of love songs, one dedicated to the open landscape ("This Is My Sky" and "Land of Shining Mountains") and the other to true love ("Love Without End" and "So No More"). Of course, love never seems to last or the object of one's desire isn't always interested or available in Tyson
's world, so the land itself is Tyson
's true mistress. "Range Delivery" tells the story of a boy determined to avoid boarding school by running away to his natural environment, the hills and canyons. In these songs, the wide expanses of land may be haunted by the past and they may be altered by modernity, but even these facts seem to evoke more romanticism than despair. Tyson
's voice has a mellow, quiet quality perfectly suited to the material and low-key arrangements. Two bonus tracks, "Moisture" and "Casey's Gone," help to fill out the album. Songs from the Gravel Road
is Western-styled folk music, delivered with confidence.