THE WARDENS – Sold Out At The Ironwood (own label)

Sold Out At The IronwoodDoes what it says on the tin. The Wardens are wardens, a trio of Canadian National Park Wardens who started playing in 2009.  Sold Out At The Ironwood is their third full length album and has led to a Canadian Folk Music Awards nomination.

The themes of the Wardens’ songs are the life of National Parks: the cowboy code, a legendary warden “if you travelled in his district, you didn’t see him, but he saw you”, waking up to wolves howling outside the door, the thousand rescues of a mountain specialist, snow which lasts till July, modern food … and death. These are songs you listen to, not because they’re written from the imagination, but because they’re written from life.

Similarly, the western music/americana/country style of the album is played on finger-picked guitar, upright bass, mandolin, fiddle etc. These are instruments of the acoustic outdoors that could be played around a campfire. There is, then a veracity to Sold Out At The Ironwood which sets it at some distance from modern electrified Americana.

When they pick an introduction and then play and sing “My keys are on the desk, I handed back my shield, I had no idea, how that was going to feel, Turned in my uniform, signed off on my gun and sort of drifted off into the setting sun” on ‘Last Cowboy in the Outfit’ this is the beginning of a song reflecting on retirement and capturing the realities of a warden’s life.

One final comment – if you’re prompted to buy/listen to the album, imagine it as a piece of old fashioned vinyl … and play side 2 first. I like the first five or six tracks, but the album kicks into a higher gear from track six onwards ‘Thousand Rescues’ is the song about a warden who has risked his life and limb many times and has a really catchy chorus to go with the verses of the story; ‘Sold Out at the Ironwood’ is a tribute to Tom Russell, drawing particularly on some of the ‘Folk Hotel’ themes; ‘Coming Home’ (below) is about a third generation park warden and has been put to an impressive video, notable for its ‘slow TV’ style; ‘Selkirk Snow’ is an energetic country tune.

The last two tracks ‘Neil Colgan’ and ‘Supper on the Trail’ again move the album into a different area as both are live tracks – one humorous, one dealing with the death of a warden – which make you realise just why The Wardens are also renowned as a great live act. As they note on the album sleeve “We exist to gather around a microphone and share our music with people…. Someday that will happen [again] – The Wardens, January 2022”. If you’re in Canada, there are shows and dates on their website.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Thousand Rescues’ – official video:

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