To many, the singing cowboy is nothing more than a few fondly remembered black & white Saturday morning images. But these three recordings provide evidence that a remnant of the tradition still remains. Still, the recent deaths of both Roy Rogers and Gene Autry mark the singing cowboy as an endangered specie.
Ian Tyson doesn't sit tall on the saddle, nor does he dig up old cowboy songs for his newest release. Instead, he writes most all of his songs as a modern day perspective on both the old and new west. He sings not of the cowboy lifestyle (like cowboy singer Rex Allen), nor of its place in history (like fellow singer Skip Gorman), but of its painful passing. With "Lost Herd" he sadly sings: "Fax machine that never sleeps/the mail box junk/the cell phone beep/the old chant buried in some canyon deep/what would you give to hear the chant again/lost herd drifts with the wind." In this same way, "Summer's Gone" mournfully reflects upon dreams left behind.
Singing cowboys like Rex Allen may only number a few these days, but as long as Tyson is around to sing songs about the cowboy way, this great Western tradition will always live on.