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ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Steve Tilston - Distant Days (Riverboat Records)

Star rating: 
5

We tend to wait in eager anticipation for any new Steve Tilston album, not least for the likelihood of discovering a bunch of new songs, each of which will almost definitely be well-thought through and well-written, they will no doubt be treated to a fine guitar accompaniment and will definitely be delivered in an instantly recognisable, reliable and distinctive voice. Now and again though, this may not be the case, in that Steve occasionally collaborates with others, sometimes re-working older songs in a new collaborative setting, and very rarely a 'best of' compilation might appear; THE GREENING WIND in 1999 for instance, which is as good a 'best of' you're likely to get. In 2007, those good people at Free Reed also produced a five-disc retrospective, which is a must for Steve Tilston completists. 

Here though, is something very special. DISTANT DAYS sees Steve looking back once again, this time at some of the songs that he may just have almost forgotten about. There's a sense of 'now, how does this one go again?' especially when it comes to re-visiting songs written almost half a century ago. Anyone familiar with exclusively Steve Tilston's current work, will probably be astonished at just how youthful he sounds on his early albums, on such songs as Time Has Shown Me Your Face and I Really Wanted You, yet hearing these songs performed once again in the context of a mature singer all these years later is a joyful thing.

I once heard Steve introduce Let Your Banjo Ring, by recalling his own father using the word 'banjo' as a generic term for any stringed instrument, and here Steve performs the song on the instrument it was first intended. Other songs are just as familiar today as they were back then when they were first written as they have remained in Steve's set, his biggest 'hit' for instance, Slip Jigs and Reels, here performed with the same enthusiasm present as in its very first airing. Others appear here as stripped down versions of songs originally treated to lush arrangements, such as Is This the Same Boy?, which gives us the opportunity to appreciate the song in its rawest form. With informative sleeve notes for both the casual listener as well as the curious guitar player, the nineteen songs on DISTANT DAYS, subtitled Solo Acoustic Recollections, is another confirmation that this songwriter just keeps on giving.   

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky