Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Steve Tilston - Life By Misadventure

Offering More Than Accolades

Later....with Jools Holland continues to be an excellent music television programme introducing new and established artists. Last night I enjoyed seeing and will seek to hear more of the new-to-me Lianne La Havas [*] and Ben L'Oncle, as well as the brilliant Feist who always gives a knock-out live performance [with more, hopefully, to see in this coming Friday's fuller airing].

Last week's programme, which I caught as a Sunday repeat, presented one of England's finest singer and  songwriter guitarists, Steve Tilston. He is pretty much unknown and unsung more widely, so this was a welcome showcasing of sorts, and Steve performed the song Oil and Water from his latest album The Reckoning. Not that you would have known the title of the album from Jool's quick flash of the cd [he does call it 'wonderful' but fails to name it].

It seems Tilston was on the programme primarily to talk about and honour Bert Jansch who died recently. As a contemporary who knew and worked with Jansch, this was a fitting invite and tribute, but it still seemed a shame that in the interview with Tilston, little was actually said about his work, or, as I've mentioned, the fact Jools didn't even name his album. Steve Tilston was, however, most articulate and generous in his accolades about his friend Bert Jansch.

This is by way of writing briefly about Steve Tilston's 1987 album Life By Misadventure which I purchased recently after reviewing his first two albums here. I hadn't heard it before and am delighted to have sought it out because it is excellent.

Opening track These Days is an anti-Thatcher protest song and it's always a bonus to follow an artist whose political sensibilities are spot on, though it would be an obvious antithesis to me for any 'artist' to sympathise with the politics and consequences of her mindset, as well as, by simple extrapolation, those of the current philistines in power. And that includes the tag-alongs.

Second track Nowhere To Hide features superb slide guitar, and the next two tracks Here Comes The Night and I Call Your Name, are beautifully reminiscent of Steve's earliest work, with Tilston focusing here and throughout the whole album on playing classical guitar, brilliantly. Instrumental tracks Lazy Tango and Tsetse Fly Shuffle showcase more of this fine guitar virtuosity, the later a rather jovial little offering.

In the sleeve notes to this 2001 cd compilation, Steve Tilston writes that he does not have a personal favourite, but he does cite eighth track Polonaise as a song 'that as a writer I am proud of' and the song itself refers to his time in Poland as part of a 7-piece band for the Ballet Rambert.

The final and additional track on this cd compilation is the 23 minute Rhapsody which filled one side of the 1990 instrumental album Swans at Coole. It is called a Celtic suite and features more of Steve's love of classical guitar playing at the time as well as performing on an arpeggione, a guitar played with a bow. It's not quite the same as Jimmy Page......

[*] You can download for free a copy of her four-track Live in LA ep here - all you have to do is sign-up and you get an email link:; the video clip above this posting was added after writing this - I don't know how to place it 'after', or embed, to make chronological sense!

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