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Fellside Recordings FECD255

Sibling with Martha from the Tilston family, this album of original self-penned contemporary singer-songwriter material has emerged from someone previously welded into a so-called ‘socio-political ska(ish) punk band’!

However, such genre tagging is largely irrelevant in assessing this project. Having clearly absorbed sounds from growing up within the Tilston/Boyle household, the compositions and arrangements have some audible kinship with sister Martha’s band music. She provides charming backing vocals on The Railway Children which opens (with recognisable echoes of the general catchiness, those unexpected chordal and rhythmic intricacies, that so characterise her output) and some of her, perhaps, sylvan caravan (rather than ‘house’) band is involved in the backing and recording.

The music ranges from minimalist to quite heavy atmospheric soundscape in some remoter rockier parts. The deep philosophical lyrics are often conveyed in a rawly exposed emotional way, sometimes styled somewhere between speaking and singing, with delicate filigree acoustic guitar as accomplice. The songs are further layered with elements of violin, bouzouki, cello, bass, electric guitar, drums and percussion to varying degrees, sometimes with dramatic electric and metallic sonic effects (as on Kings Of Industry).

The wordcraft is rich in poetic sensibility and employs some clever rhyme and imagery with pleasing enigmatic touches. Time and transience taking ‘its toll on the soul’, through changing human circumstances, are enduring themes. Embers that ‘float up on higher’ are a metaphor for the smouldering ambitions and hopes of youth (when we faced ‘all weather without a care’), age having ‘trapped’ us ‘in our futures’. Lessons ‘not learnt’, scars ‘to remind’ and problems ‘amassed’ characterise the general melancholia climaxing, perhaps, in the fascinating re-rendering of the story of poor Henry’s Sisyphean plight in coping with Dear Liza’s defective holey bucket! Yet, all this ‘toil and rhyme’ can still celebrate the value (‘if it’s not too late’!) of the ‘simple smile’. So, there are some flashes of warmer light within the darker universal truths explored!

The reflective embers of these intense soulful songs, with their heartfelt delivery and cleverly arranged musical frames, do indeed slowly burn away.

Kevin T. Ward


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.