Ian & Sylvia’s ‘The Lost Tapes’ an exceptional discovery

Ian & Silvia

The progenitors of Americana music, Ian & Silvia have revealed previously unreleased songs on “The Lost Tapes.”

They were contemporaries of Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot during the fabled Greenwich Village folk scene, headlined the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, and inspired Gram Parsons, Neil Young, and countless others. Ian & Sylvia Tyson are rightfully considered among the forerunners of today’s entire Americana music genre.

Interestingly, like Young, the Tysons both hail from Canada. Released to coincide with their inductions into the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame, “The Lost Tapes” should garner well-deserved newfound recognition for the duo, long ago divorced both personally and professionally.

Ian & Sylvia are at their absolute wondrous best on these recently discovered live performances from the early 1970s, instantly engaging in voice within easygoing, irresistible melodies. Sylvia, who has just turned 79, possessed the same kind of strength and sweetness in timbre that both Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt were graced with. The 26 songs presented on this two CD set sound so crisp and clear, listeners will feel as though they’re right there in the studio audience with them, relishing the experience.

Many of these songs have never been included on an Ian & Sylvia album, although several of their classics do appear. Their gorgeous, immortal, “Four Strong Winds,” for instance, portends in Ian’s vigorous voice, the now-85 year-olds’ lengthy and still strong career as a Western-themed singer/songwriter. Otherwise, the breadth of the material presented traverses well outside the traditional folk idiom.

Ian & Sylvia sure knew their way around a country tune. “After the Fire is Gone,” a hit for Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn a few years prior, comes off both comfortable and exciting, while their sway through Don Gibson’s, Farron Young-commanded “Sweet Dreams,” displays pure elegance.

A joyous take on Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” demonstrates the duo’s penchant for the blues, as does a Lone Star-inspired swing through Jimmie Rodgers’ “Jimmie’s Texas Blues.” The pair even rolls through Memphis and Alabama soul on a luxurious cover of Mel & Tim’s “Starting All Over Again.”

Although Ian & Sylvia graced the stage together for only about 15 years, they have left us with a lifetime of delightful songs to enjoy, and “The Lost Tapes” adds considerably to the bounty.

— Tom Clarke

  • Ian & Sylvia
    ‘The Lost Tapes’
    Label: Stony Plain
    Released: Sept. 6, 2019

About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos.Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage.Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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