Steve Tilston

Live Review | Roots Music Club, Doncaster | Review and Photos by Allan Wilkinson

For almost half a century, Steve Tilston has been a prolific songwriter on the British folk music scene and through those years, the Liverpool-born singer, songwriter and guitar player has always kept us pretty much up to date with his latest batch of songs from each new album release that has come along. This steady output, which started way back in 1971 has included many remarkable songs spread over twenty plus albums, either solo records or in collaboration with others, notably Maggie Boyle, John Renbourn, Jez Lowe and WAZ. His latest album DISTANT DAYS sees Steve revisiting some of those songs and tonight at the Roots Music Club, the small but vital audience was treated to one or two numbers that may not have been heard at a Steve Tilston concert for decades.

There’s something appealing about an established artist returning to their earlier triumphs, which is both generous of the artist in question as well as being greatly appreciated by their audience. Tonight, we heard “I Really Wanted You” and “It’s Not My Place To Fail”, originally featured on his debut LP An Acoustic Confusion way back in the heady days of 1971, David Hepworth’s annus mirabilis of the rock album. An Acoustic Confusion might not be regarded as a rock album as such, but it did arrive at a time when the singer songwriter was becoming a major influence on the world stage and Steve’s songs certainly slotted into that period quite convincingly well and have continued to do so over the subsequent decades.

Tonight Steve was joined by Hugh Bradley on double bass, who also provided backing vocals, as they trawled through some of the highlights of Steve’s impressive back catalogue, delivering such noted gems as “The Fisher Lad of Whitby”, “Rare Thing”, “King of the Coiners”, “Life is Not Kind to the Drinking Man” and the old Elvis hit “A Fool Such as I.” After an inspired decision to have just the one long set rather than the traditional ‘two sets with a raffle in between’, Steve and Hugh were allowed to settle into their set, which was reflected in the standard of performance, certainly among the very best I’ve seen in literally dozens of Steve Tilston shows.

It wasn’t all nostalgia, memories and reliving our youth though and Steve brought to the set one or two brand new songs, including the Elvis-inspired rockabilly number “My Mystery Train” as well as more recent fare, relatively speaking, including “Leaving for Spain”, “Weeping Willow Replanted” and the utterly gorgeous “The Road When I Was Young”, apparently Steve’s mum’s favourite song, mine too probably.

If the Roots Music Club was light on audience tonight, due in part to the fact that for some unaccountable reason just about every establishment in town was vying for a folk audience, using the same mentality as TV channels that show football matches at precisely the same time, it didn’t prevent the audience here from singing the chorus of “Slip Jigs and Reels” with hearty gusto.