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Fresh from his three week tour of American festivals, Steve Tilston was playing at The Rock tonight, so I popped over to catch his set. Free Reed have finally got around to compiling Steve's box set, in the manner of the Carthy Chronicles (Martin Carthy), Swarb (Dave Swarbrick), RT (Richard Thompson) and A Boxful of Treasures (Sandy). Steve's collection is called REACHING BACK and as the title suggests, we have, packed away in an attractive rectangular box, no less than five cds, containing an overview of his long career, reaching back to the early Seventies, following one of this countries' master song writers. If there was a blueprint of the songwriter I aspire to be, then Tilston's yer man.
Bearing this in mind, I went along to see if he was going to plunder the depths of his repertoire and resurrect some old songs featured in the box set. Steve showed me the box and I was pleased to discover I only have 38 of the 85 recordings on there, quite a few of the songs have been either re-recorded, or the compiler has chosen live recordings, demos or alternative takes as well as a few of Steve's songs performed by others, such as Robin Williamson, Ralph McTell and Wizz Jones.
Tonight Steve was in a playful mood and swapped and changed a few of his arrangements around, even coming up with new lyrics for And So It Goes, replacing 'You could be a General sat upon your horse' for 'you could be a President in you White House.' Perhaps three weeks in the States has served to feed Steve's political consciousness, and who could blame him? As well as the familiar Tilston fare, Here Comes The Night, Slip Jigs and Reels and Living With The Blues, Steve threw in a couple of standards such as Irvin Berlin's Blue Skies, cleverly segueing into Tsetse Fly Shuffle and as an encore Smoke Gets In Your Eyes of all things. I like it when a performer introduces something as 'one of the best love songs ever written' followed by a standard such as this; it makes you re-evaluate the song as a song and not as a classic Fifties pop tune.
One or two new songs emerged tonight such as the delightful Goodbye Madame Muse, a song about the painful difficulties of writer's block or maybe just the simple lack of inspiration, it happens to the best of us. Sadly, I didn't have the forty quid for the box set tonight, but I'll be dropping hints around the house nearer to Christmas.