Although the Ambridge-based radio institution may be longer-established, their strap line, “an everyday story of country folk” applies equally to the 40+ years of music created by Steve Tilston. Somewhat appropriately, the folk singer is an Archers fan….albeit of the bow and arrow variety.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Tilston was born in Liverpool and after spending parts of his life living in the midlands and Bristol is now Yorkshire-based. Releasing his first solo album in 1971, “Acoustic Confusion” was followed by various other long-players in that decade and regular live performances – including some work with Fairport Convention.
The 1980s then found Steve teaming up with Bert Jansch to run the “Catch 22″ folk club in London, also forming a partnership on and off stage with singer Maggie Boyle. The duo would collaborate with other musicians for 1983′s folk-rock release, “In For A Penny – In For A Pound” before retreating back to his unplugged routes and even performing with Ballet Rambert.
Further self-funded album’s such as “Life By Misadventure” followed, while a one-off quartet recording featuring guitarist John Renbourn would lead to live dates on both sides of the Atlantic under the moniker, Ship Of Fools.
An increasing immersion in Irish music inspired the instrumental release “Swans At Coole” in 1990, while the high water mark in his recording career with Maggie Boyle came with “Of Moor And Mesa” two years later. That album featured ‘Slip Jigs And Reels’ and ‘Naked Highwayman’, two Tilston originals which would both be regularly covered by Steve’s contemporaries – notably the Fairports.
Splitting with Boyle, Steve then pursued a mainly solo career, with diversions into collaborative efforts such as a trio effort under the banner Waz! and 2003′s jazz-inflected “Such And Such”, featuring Andy Sheppard on sax. And that mix continues, Tilston joining forces with Yorkshire roots ensemble The Durbervilles for studio and live work – often at his local venue, Hebden Bridge Trades Club.
Solidly out of the mainstream, 2011 then gave Tilston watchers the rare treat of a performance on national television, when appearing on “Later”, reminiscing with host Jools Holland about the recently-deceased Bert Jansch and a flawless rendition of “Oil and Water”.
The title track from Steve’s album “The Reckoning” was then recognised in the 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, sharing the best original song accolade with Bella Hardy. BBC4 then perhaps unwittingly celebrated Steve’s 52nd birthday by inviting him to perform in the “Songwriter’s Circle” series, alongside fellow English folk greats Martin Simpson and Michael Chapman. The result is a masterclass of steel-stringed, finger-picking guitar playing.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Steve has also found time to contribute to series of guitar masterclass DVDs and write a historical novel. Published in 2010, “All for Poor Jack” is set in 15th century Bristol and the positive reception it received led to talk of a full-length narrative version of “Slip Jigs and Reels”.
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And here’s some footage of Steve in action: