By STEPHEN DU MANOIR (NOWTORONTO.COM)
IAN TYSON & CORB LUND at the Winter Garden Theatre, Friday, November 29.
NOW RATING: NNNNN
If I had been stopped at the exit of Friday’s Ian Tyson and Corb Lund show and told to submit a pound of flesh for what I had just watched, I’d have cut off my whole hand. If they had asked for my first-born, I’d have given up my whole family. (Sorry, hypothetical family.)
Legendary Canadian country & western storyteller Tyson and contemporary protégé Lund are two Alberta farm boys who can put on a show anywhere they can find a couple of guitars to strum and two places to sit. Both decked out in white Stetsons, jeans (with tastefully oversize belt-buckles, of course), and cowboy boots (hopefully devoid of cow shit on the soles), they settled in and plucked their way through nearly two hours of folksy goodness. Flanked by long-time Lund bandmate Kurt Ciesla on the bull fiddle, the trio looked as comfortable in the elaborately decorated Yonge Street venue as if they were sitting around a campfire near Jackson Hole.
The pair took turns talking and singing, each song prefaced with a short story about its origin. Tyson’s tunes were specific: he sung about long-dead cattle drivers in West Texas and modern-day female bronco riders in Chilliwack, and many other figures in between. The attention to detail in his lyrics hilariously juxtaposed the forgetful grandpa act he was putting on between songs. Example dialogue:
Tyson: “So I was in this little town in Alberta called Dogpound…”
Lund: “Is that a real place?”
Tyson: “Yeah… as far as I know.”
Instead of focusing on people, Lund’s tunes almost exclusively starred Alberta. He sang about his homeland in moods celebratory (Little Foothills Heaven), elegiac (The Truth Comes Out) and frustrated (Cows Around). He also worked as a kind of moderator, setting up Tyson between songs to go into cowboy apocrypha that only an old-timer could get away with, but always steering him back when it was finally time to go into the next song.
The two-hour show finished with a crowd singalong of Tyson’s hit Four Strong Winds, and its bleak assessment that lovers can’t stay together and things won’t last seemed to transpose onto the gradual erosion of the wild cowboy lifestyle. A very poignant moment, and a bit of a sad one.
Thanks to singers like Tyson and Lund, though, the myths and stories of the Canadian West won’t soon be forgotten.