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Country music to honour Tyson

CP   2003-09-08 05:06:40  

TORONTO -- She was one half of Canada's founding family of folk. With dark billowy hair and almond-shaped eyes, Sylvia Tyson mesmerized music fans on both sides of the border. Intelligent songwriting and a distinctive soprano made her a force to be reckoned with. And at 62, after more than 40 years in the music business, she shows no signs of slowing down. She keeps a steady stream of performing and writing projects.

Tyson will be honoured for her contribution to the country genre at tonight's Canadian Country Music Awards. Shania Twain, whom Tyson's never met, will present the distinction.

"It doesn't signal the end of a career," the folksinger and songwriter says. "It certainly doesn't for me. I'm not finished yet, but it's nice to receive it at a point when you are still active and able to enjoy it."

Born Sylvia Fricker, she was raised on the rural outskirts of Chatham in Southwestern Ontario. After high school, she moved to Toronto where she met Ian Tyson. The two teamed up to form the powerhouse folk duo Ian & Sylvia.

After the breakup of her marriage in the mid-'70s and the subsequent dissolution of the musical team, Tyson continuously found ways to reinvent herself.

She's tried her hand at producing, writing, hosting (CBC TV's Country in My Soul and CBC Radio's Touch the Earth) and recorded several solo albums, including Cool Wind From the North, which included the song River Road, a number that Crystal Gayle turned into a smash hit.

An independent woman, Tyson started her own record label, Salt Records, in the early '80s, when no one else wanted to hear from her.

"Any career goes in cycles in terms of one's greater or lesser popularity," she recalled matter-of-factly. "At that point, there wasn't a major record label that found me terribly interesting and since I wanted to record, I thought I'd just start my own label."

She later formed Quartette, which now includes singer/ songwriters Cindy Church, Caitlin Hanford and Gwen Swick. In 1996, she edited a book, And Then I Wrote: The Songwriter Speaks. And in 2000 she toured a one-woman stage production called River Road and Other Stories.

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