Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Montana sunsets ...

The clouds and sky in yesterday's photograph inspired a brief discussion afterwards, about how Charlie Russell managed to so perfectly capture those Montana skies in his paintings. A good online friend mentioned that Ian Tyson had once written a song that mentioned that very fact, so I went looking for the thing ... and here it is.

Ian Tyson is a country singer and songwriter, an artist with near-legendary status in his native Canada. Most Americans (including me) know of him mainly because of his song "Four Strong Winds," which has been covered by Neil Young and a host of others. (Personally, I recommend the Judy Collins version.) But Tyson's discography is much broader, and includes several lyrics with Montana themes.

Tyson's song about Charlie Russell is called "The Gift," and it appeared on his 1987 album Cowboyography. Here's the final verse, and the chorus:
When the Lord called Charlie to His home up yonder
He said Kid Russell I got a job for you
You're in charge of sunsets in old Montana
Cause I can't paint them quite as good as you
And when you're done---we'll go out and have a few
And Nancy Russell will make sure it's just two

God made Montana for the wild man
For the Peigon and Sioux and Crow
But He saved his greatest gift for Charlie
Said get her all down before she goes---Charlie
You gotta get her all down cause she's bound to go


  1. Thank you!!!
    Cowboyography is, to me, one of Ian Tyson's defining albums. But for a real treat try to get your hands on "Live at Longview". I listen to it driving home from church in Miles City and there's something about his songs that fit the plains. "Little High Plains Town" is one that could be Miles City's theme song.

    NOW, I have to go find my old Charlie Russell book...
    Thanks again, Mark. Your blog is such a treat, everyday! (I'm eating a brownie to celebrate your 201st post. A little one.)

  2. You're most welcome! It was fun looking it up, and it made me think how the web has changed things -- a few years ago something like that would have been really hard to find, but now it seems like almost all knowledge is at our fingertips.

    I confess I don't have an awful lot of Ian Tyson on my iPod, but it's good stuff, and "Four Strong Winds" is absolutely one of my favorite songs ever. I don't remember "Little HIgh Plains Town," but I'll have to go looking for it.

    And thanks again for your kind words, so very much. Go ahead and make it a big brownie, OK? :)