By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 0 Comments
Evinia Pulos explains why, after 55 years, they are still inextricably linked
The strains of the song are there in his letter. Ambivalence. Regret. Above all, longing. “I’m not coming back,” Ian Tyson wrote to Evinia Pulos in September 1960, two years before he penned the folk classic Four Strong Winds. “This is where I’ll make my mark if I’m to make it at all.” She could come join him in Toronto, he ventures, where he is carving out a creditable career in the city’s nascent coffee-house scene. “If you loved me, you could [make it here] too,” he writes. He cajoles, lectures and eventually pleads. But ultimately, he bows to the improbability of their shared future, signing off with a half-formed invitation: “Maybe I’ll see you down here some time.”
A more lyrical formulation of that thought—“I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way”—would become the rueful coda to Four Strong Winds, which CBC Radio listeners in 2005 voted the greatest Canadian song of the 20th century. It is a phrase imprinted on the nation’s soul. But for Pulos its meaning is personal. She was, after all, the dark-eyed beauty Tyson had in mind when he hunched over a guitar in his manager’s New York apartment and put his thoughts to music. The two had met in art college in Vancouver in the mid-1950s. She was 18 and he was 22. Their chemistry was instantaneous, but complications ensued. In 1957, they parted company.
Now, 50 years after the song was written, Pulos reveals a stunning corollary. Through nearly six decades and a combined six marriages, across thousands of kilometres that until recently separated them, she and Tyson have been carrying on an epic love affair—a physical and emotional bond that lasts to this day. “Basically, we’ve come full circle,” she says in an interview from her home in Kelowna, B.C. “We’re in each other’s lives for whatever we have left. He’ll embark on various relationships or affairs, but they don’t last. He always comes back and calls me.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 1:40 PM - 0 Comments
Plus, a woman who can’t recognize faces; weird historical housemates; Ian Tyson’s memoirs; the man who invented the computer and a biography of Sarah Bernhardt
In a sweeping debut novel, Kalotay throws back the curtain to reveal what really goes on at an auction house, and specifically, the skills required, in this instance, to cajole information out of a prized client offering up sumptuous and dazzling pieces from her life at the Bolshoi Ballet in its Stalin-era heyday. But Russian Winter is much more than mere behind-a-cultural-scene entertainment, well-rendered as that world is: it’s also a window into an older world of poetry, dance, betrayal, true and false love, thwarted ideals and secrets kept tighter than a sealed drum.
Nina Revskaya is the now-octogenarian client, ready to dispense with her jewellery less of necessity and more from spite, and her story emerges through evocative flashbacks to a Russia struggling to assert itself under post-Lenin Communist rule. Drew Brooks is the auction representative, free of a failed marriage that wreaked havoc on her self-confidence. Along with Nina’s and Drew’s stories, Kalotay brings in a third—that of a Russian-born literature professor with his own stake in the jewellery auction—adding even more tension to the narrative.
With auction notes of Revskaya’s jewels punctuating the past and present with sly wit, Russian Winter moves at a lively clip. Kalotay, a Canadian living in Boston, has brought to life hidden worlds with the verve of an expertly executed tour jeté.
- SARAH WEINMAN
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, November 24, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 7 Comments
With his heart and his vocal chords shredded, Ian Tyson bares his soul on a brave new CD
Ian Tyson is on the phone, and his voice sounds as ragged as a tumbleweed rattling over a dusty plain. It’s 8 a.m. in High River, Alta., and a fierce gale is whipping across Tyson’s ranch. “The wind is blowing like there’s no tomorrow,” he says. “It’s going to be a hundred clicks today. You gotta tie things down. When I first came here they had these asphalt shingles on the barns, and when a storm took them off you’d see what looked like a huge, immeasurable flock of vultures in the sky.” Tyson, the cowboy poet reaching for an early morning metaphor, knows a thing or two about wind. His classic ballad, Four Strong Winds—recorded with Ian & Sylvia and adopted by Neil Young—was voted the best Canadian song of all time by CBC Radio three years ago.
But one of the most beautiful voices ever to sing of women and horses and heartbreak is now broken. Its smooth, clear depths are drained and its timbre is cracked like a dry riverbed. The damage was done two years ago at the Havelock Jamboree, a country music festival in Ontario. “The sound was set up for Nashville rock ’n’ roll, all heavy bass,” Tyson explains. “I stupidly tried to outmuscle the sound with my voice, which I’d gotten away with all those years. When I got offstage, I knew I’d done something strange and terrible. Then it was too late.” His voice partially recovered, but last year he caught a nasty virus on a flight from Denver and it hasn’t been the same since. “There’s a lot of scarring down there,” he says.
That, however, didn’t stop Tyson from recording a new album with what was left of his vocal cords. Last week, the singer-songwriter, who turned 75 this year, released Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Songs, his 14th album. Most of the songs are sad ballads—made even sadder by a voice that’s painfully torn and frayed. The difference in Tyson’s singing is so radical that it amounts to a whole new style: and his Edmonton-based label, Stony Plains Records, is promoting his “dramatically ‘new’ voice” as a selling point. It’s a half-talking delivery that sounds not unlike Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. “I didn’t realize I was doing it,” says Tyson, “but when I listened to the album, I heard a lot of Knopfler. And he’s a huge influence, especially on the songwriting.”
Though the bass has dropped out of Tyson’s voice, he has discovered some strange new frontiers in the upper shallows that give it a sense of fragility. “The bottom end is gone completely,” he says, “but the top end seems to be lengthening. There’s all sorts of funny avenues you can take in the upper register. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Tyson says he was reluctant to record at first. But Alberta country singer Corb Lund, a close friend, urged him to forge ahead, saying, “I like your voice better the way it is now.” Lund connected him with his Nashville producer, Harry Stinson, who has worked with everyone from George Jones to Steve Earle. Tyson laid down most of the album’s tracks in Nashville in just four days, for a fraction of what he’d spent in Toronto on his previous record, Songs From the Gravel Road, which bombed. This album is attracting a lot of curiosity and some favourable reviews.
Most of the songs are tender laments for a lost love or a vanished frontier. Some verge on the maudlin, but Tyson is not content to sit back in the saddle of country and western cliché—who else would rhyme “some damn bureaucrat” with “abrogate a cowboy hat”? The title tune, Yellowhead to Yellowstone, is sung from the viewpoint of a pack of wolves transplanted from the Canadian Rockies to Wyoming—the kind of epic narrative Gordon Lightfoot used to write. And My Cherry Coloured Rose, about Don Cherry mourning his wife, was sent to him on a homemade CD by Toronto songwriter Jay Aymar.
The breakup ballads on the new album were inspired by “a deep, serious love affair that went south,” says Tyson. “It’s been a tough couple of years.” But he’s not referring to his divorce from his second wife, which finally came through last spring. “The divorce songs were on the previous album.”
Living alone on his ranch, Tyson still works on a horse most days. And next month he’s off to Oklahoma to ride in a major cutting horse championship. He will continue to tour with the “new” voice, and inevitably there are requests for Four Strong Winds. “I don’t like doing it all the time,” he says. “I wrote that thing in 20 minutes and I was just a kid. It’s like someone else wrote it.” Now it will sound like someone else is singing it.