STEVE TILSTON & JEZ LOWE - The Janus Game
Two of folk’s finest singer-songwriters join forces here for an album which is a true coming-together. This is much more than two greats playing on each other’s songs or, as is sometimes the case, getting together to play things they both know. The dozen pieces are genuine collaborations, with Steve and Jez each contributing musical and lyrical ideas to every song. It’s the result of several months working together off and (occasionally) on stage. For those who wish to know how such a thing came about, the answer is to be found in the CD’s concluding medley, a reference packed light-hearted celebration of the folk-scene of Boston, Mass.
The collaborations are so seamless that it is a futile exercise to try guessing who began each song - even when the answer’s obvious you might get it wrong! Their approach is perhaps most obvious in On Beacon Hill where they write contrasting lyrics inspired by two very different places with the same name. The end result is unified creation, where the juxtaposition and combination produces a result greater than the sum of its parts.
That sums up the whole album which has such a range of subjects and moods (try the left-field Mrs Einstein for a genuine smile) that the interplay of track-to-track is a vital aspect of the album’s effectiveness. Sami, a desperate refugee, shares space with a girl leaving the North East for a new life in Spain and an aging couple whose hopes were comfortably confined in their own community. There are thoughtful examinations of partisanship and heroism. The songs ask us throughout to consider things in a fresh way. A Janus Game, indeed.
Steve plays guitar (including slide and ten-string), Jez seems to play everything else strummable. The sound is filled out by guest players from their respective separate careers – the wonderful Kate Bramley on fiddle, Hugh Bradley on bass, plus a couple of Durvilles (Mark Boyce on drums; producer David Crickmore with occasional keyboards and percussion). David deserves special mention for particularly fine production on an album where “great things are done where men and mountains meet”.
This is a release which will delight fans of either of its creators and is likely to be seen 12 months on as one of the great albums of 2017.