Steve Tilston

Steve Tilston - Of Many Hands
ADA Recordings ADA106CD

‘Of Many Hands’ is a particularly significant departure from Steve’s previous recordings, consisting as it does of almost entirely traditional material. He says in the insert, “first and foremost I consider myself a songwriter”, although anyone could be excused for considering him to be first and foremost a guitarist, or, especially on the evidence of ‘Of Many Hands’, a singer. However, he has always given house room to traditional material, and when this predilection is given free rein, the result is extremely successful.

A glance down the track list reveals the diversity of his chosen songs – his reworking of songs more familiar in their “cable-knit” versions (‘Leaving Of Liverpool’ and ‘New York Gals’) sit very happily with complex narrative pieces (‘The Streams Of Lovely Nancy’ and ‘The Mountain Streams Where The Moorcocks Crow’), while ‘Barbry Allen’ is revealed for the nasty-pasty she obviously was! Despite having enough six-string acoustic excellence to produce an entire orchestra-worth of accompaniment, there are no less than seven accompanying musicians, though interestingly (and very effectively) Steve provides his own backing vocals. Chris Parkinson plays predictably fine accordion and mouth organ; Martin Simpson contributes slinky slide guitar; Nancy Kerr and James Fagan excel on fiddle and piano; Maggie Boyle and Scott Devine scatter magic flute and bass on ‘Moorcock’, while engineer and co-producer Mike Hockenhull adds a fabulously frail five-string banjo to ‘Captain Ward’.

We Worth Valley worthies who are fortunate enough to catch Steve in performance on a fairly regular basis have been privy to the overtaking of his repertoire by these traditional diamonds, but nonetheless hearing them gathered together like this is stunning. Nigel Schofield’s erudite notes on each song, Brian Ledgard’s handsome packaging and Brook Row Studios’ superb reproduction all make significant contributions to the success of ‘Of Many Hands’, but Best In Show must go to Steve for this hugely pleasurable listening experience.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 64 of The Living Tradition magazine.