Martha Tilston announces new album and single

Martha Tilston

Enchanting songstress Martha Tilston has announced details of her new album Nomadreleased via Squiggly Records on May 12th. Martha’s seventh album to date, Nomad will be preceded by the double A-side single ‘Nomad Blood’/‘Little Arrow’ on April 7 with UK live dates to follow.

Nomad stands as Tilston’s most compelling work to date, an album full of experimentation and impulse. The album was born whilst recording 2014’s much praised album The Sea: ensconced at a cliffside cottage in Cornwall, Martha and her frequent collaborators Matt Tweed, Nick Marshall and Tim Cotterell, amongst other new faces, would pick up instruments in the late hours and begin to experiment with Martha’s other ideas. Often just blueprints, the outcome of these sessions arising from spontaneity, experimentation and maturing songwriting was to become Nomad.

Across the album, musical arrangements realm from the pinhead intimacy of acoustic guitar and voice to the expansive electric guitar, slide guitar, rolling beats, deep bass, banjo and string arrangements. There are subtle undertones of old country music flittering throughout this album, suggestions of rock and pop and a good dose of stripped back acoustic cinema for the listener to submerge in.

Thematically Nomad explores various elemental features of existence – first single ‘Nomad Blood’ invites the listener to make a fire outside and lie back, looking up at the stars around and embrace the environment in which we live. ‘Green Moon’ which originally began as an acoustic song opens up slowly, building in its musical arrangement and drawing on the vibrato of violins and mandolins. Speaking about the song, Martha says: “We are all a hair’s width away from feeling either a part of, or outside of any experience or relationship. Do we stay forever outside looking in, never daring to reveal and leave ourselves vulnerable, or do we say; screw it, so you told my secrets to everyone, I will survive and I will trust again.”

Elsewhere the album points towards loss and guidance on ‘Little Arrow’ and on ‘Stories, it begins to ask questions of how we use older, deeper tales to advise and reflect upon our more personal novellas. Martha touches upon the conquests that musicians and artists face on ‘Climbing Gates’ before exploring the regaining of self-confidence that she experienced as a female in the music industry on ‘Fish Tank’. Ultimately Nomad examines the human condition through filters of storytelling and reflection, rarely pointing to answers but instead leaning upon the moniker of ambiguity. It is an album of self-discovery rather than an album of answers: a true nomadic journey.

Martha Tilston has grown up immersed in music from a young age. Her singer-songwriter father Steve Tilston and renowned folk singer Maggie Boyle (step-mother) were obvious influences, with their musician friends Bert Jansch, John Rebourn and John Martyn often gathering and singing in the family kitchen. Martha’s own musical journey has taken her from the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury to touring the far reaches of the globe. Originally one half of folk duo Mouse (alongside Nick Marshall), Martha often shared the stage with the likes of Kate Tempest and Damien Rice before earning a nomination from the BBC for best newcomer and featuring on the Zero 7 album, Yeah Ghost. Following the release of Nomad, Martha will have released seven albums to date on her own label Squiggly Records building up a large audience worldwide.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website:

Listen to ‘Nomad Blood’ and ‘Little Arrow’ here:

AMY WADGE AND LUKE JACKSON live at Cambridge Junction

Cambridge City Roots Festival, 7 February 2017

Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson

What comes across so strikingly from an evening with Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson is their natural rapport. Both are hugely talented songwriters, singers and musicians with a constant drive to create new music. They work effortlessly well together and although they like to pass the occasional comment on their age gap, it’s plainly not all that relevant to them.

Wadge and Jackson are near the end of this year’s two-hander tour, cramming 15 dates into 3 weeks. No surprise that Wadge, taking the stage first, admits to feeling rather exhausted – although you’d never know it from the gusto and attack of her performance. She ploughs straight in with ‘Always’, ‘Scream’ and ‘Free Fall’, accompanying herself on guitar or on keyboards.

Luke Jackson joins Wadge for the first of the evening’s duets, ‘Thinking Out Loud’, the 2016 Grammy-award winner, co-written by Wadge with Ed Sheeran. It’s the song that made her an overnight success after 20-odd years of striving. Wadge appears to wear success lightly and with unaffected charm. Her between-songs chat is hugely entertaining, with a seemingly bottomless well of anecdotes that feel cosy and intimate, even when dropping stellar music business names.

The other thing of note is Wadge’s songs themselves, often with threads of personal experience woven throughout them. It’s this that really elevates them, making an emotional connection with the listener. She presents a new song, a kind of working-parent blues: a touching apology to her children, acknowledging that the need to follow one’s dreams is not always compatible with the demands of parenthood. Then there’s ‘One Last Dance’, a beautiful song with an equally inspirational source in her remarkable grandparents. There was definitely something in my eye during this one. The final song of her set is rooted in her mother’s illness, whilst also being a tribute to the strength of anyone struggling with life’s obstacles.

Having followed Luke Jackson’s musical progress for a few years, somehow tonight is the first time I’ve managed to see him live. His voice has matured, becoming richer and, thankfully, losing a few youthful quirks. His quiet confidence and talent simply shine out: he’s so firmly in control of his vocals and his guitar, changing pacing and volume with enviably fluid ease. An a capella verse of ‘Ain’t No Trouble’ builds into a bluesy roll. Slowing down only slightly, he segues straight into ‘Sister’, plucking effortlessly at his guitar with his right hand whilst his left-hand finger-clicks to mark the rhythm.

Amy Wadge returns, duetting with Jackson on ‘Finding Home’, a song written during their last tour, followed by the choppy ‘Is It Me?’ and ‘Better Man’. Finally, the pair move on to ‘Lucy And Her Camera’, an older Jackson song which he’s only recently recorded.

Back on his own again, Jackson runs through ‘Aunt Sally’ and ‘Kansas’, each song prefaced with funny, self-deprecating tales about how they came to be written. Jackson also somehow breathes freshness and meaning into Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ – no mean feat with such a very well-worn song. The set closes with Jackson stepping out front of stage to encourage a bit of crowd participation in the chorus of ‘On The Road’.

Wadge, who earlier provided a spiky piano accompaniment to expose the raw beauty of the Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Design For Life’ stripped of its rock bombast, joins Jackson one last time as the pair encore with a country-tinged take on Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’.

At time of writing, the tour is over and the pair are off to different destinations in the USA, but their social media suggests they’re keen to do it all again next year. With such a dynamic, creative and yet thoroughly level-headed and likeable duo, that’s got to be a fixture for the diary.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ websites:

The Food Of Love Project features Shakespearean songs

The Food Of Love Project

Introducing The Food of Love Project, a compilation album featuring some of the great names of folk music performing a rich variety of songs either referenced or performed in the plays of William Shakespeare. The album was curated and commissioned by Sebastian Reynolds of PinDrop and Tom McDonnell of TMD Media to mark the Oxford Shakespeare Jubilee 2016, a festival programme of events exploring Shakespeare’s incredible legacy.

The Food of Love Project album is a treasure trove of varied interpretations and extrapolations of Shakespearean period songs. Opening with the orchestral drone folk chorus created by Dead Rat Orchestra with their version of ‘Bonnie Sweet Robin Is To The Greenwood Gone’, as referenced in Hamlet, the album gets off to suitably grandiose start. Steam-punk inventor/musician Thomas Truax reimagines classic English ballad ‘Greensleeves’ in a typically cosmic, surrealist light, and Oxfordian band Stornoway rework the old Gaelic tune ‘Eibhlín A Riún’ into a beautiful, sonorous nugget of pop gold. Talking about his performance of ‘Caleno Custure Me’, acclaimed Scottish folk troubadour Alasdair Roberts says:

“Of a couple of songs suggested to me in relation to this project, ‘Caleno Custure Me’ (referenced somewhat obliquely in Henry IV Part 2) was the most appealing. I appreciate the mystery of the uncertain etymology of the title/chorus line (although I suppose the most likely explanation is that it’s garbled Irish Gaelic). There’s a beautiful recording of the song by the late Alfred Deller, the great countertenor, who’s a singer I’ve enjoyed listening to a bit over the years. I thought that I would attempt to go ‘historically accurate’ with this new recording of the song and so I enlisted the services of my good friend and lute player Gordon Ferries.”

Having been commissioned and curated by Seb and Tom, stalwarts of the ever-thriving Oxford music scene, the Oxon crowd is well represented, alongside Stornoway, by local heroes Flights of Helios, Brickwork Lizards and James Bell. ‘The Children Of The Midnight Chimes’ is a unique collaboration between Seb (producer) and Tom (vocals), especially for the album. Their abstract, drone noise take on ‘Oh Death, Rock Me Asleep’ is fittingly atmospheric, considering that the poem on which it was based was allegedly written by Anne Boleyn as she awaited her beheading in the Tower of London. The album is completed by a magisterial take on ‘Farewell, Dear Love’ (Twelfth Night) by Rob St John accompanied by cellist Pete Harvey; a collaborative deconstruction of ‘Peg-a-Ramsey’ and ‘Yellow Hose’ (Twelfth Night) by Nathaniel Mann of Dead Rat Orchestra and folk guitarist Nick Castell; a sophisticated retelling of ‘Go From My Window’(Much Ado About Nothing) entitled ‘Strength In A Whisper’ by Scottish folk singer Kirsty Law; and a sprawling, ambient folk adaption of ‘Lawn As White As Driven Snow’ (A Winter’s Tale) to close the album by singer and experimental musician David Thomas Broughton.

The album is dedicated to the memory of John Renbourn, who had committed to participate in the project before he passed away in 2015.

Project website:

‘Farewell, Dear Love’:

STEVE PLEDGER live at Dunster Castle Hotel

Steve Pledger live

Friday 9th February 2017

A very chilly evening in Dunster, North Somerset was made glowingly warm by a lovely gig, courtesy of award winning singer songwriter Steve Pledger.

I had been looking forward to this event immensely, after attending his album launch at Dunster Castle itself in November, and was not disappointed. The room at the Dunster Castle Hotel had been set out bistro style with candles, and there was a very pleasant ambience about it. Very cosy and intimate.

Since our last meeting, Steve has won Folkwords Album of the Year by a male artist for Somewhere Between, and FATEA awarded Steve Best Album of the Year 2016 for the same album. Not bad for a rising star!

There were other avid fans in the audience who had come from far and wide. I saw a lady buy three albums which was great to see. As Steve had picked tracks to sing from all three albums, she didn’t want to miss anything!

Steve kicked off the gig with ‘If You Fall’, which is an unusual number for him to start with, but he had the audience hooked from the start. An introduction into the songs as he was about to sing them, told us how they came about, which was interesting. Very early on we had an audience participation tune – ‘This Land Is Poundland’ from his second album – Striking Matches In The Wind, Doing Well gave us a political swipe at Government v Benefits, ‘Quit Blubbin’ In The Cheap Seats’, again from Striking Matches, got us all singing again and before long it was time for the interval. More CDs flying out ensued in the break.

He returned with ‘I Spat Fire’ from his new album followed by Eva Cassidy’s fabulous track – ‘People Get Ready’. Further tunes were off all three albums and all were sung in the way they were written, the tune regarding depression – ‘Me And The Silence’ is particularly moving as is ‘Other’ which is about people expressing themselves whatever it may be.

And so it came to the end of the concert – much too soon. An encore was granted and ‘Hallelujah’ was giving the Pledger treatment. Goosebumps filled my entire spine and I might have had something in my eye. Just so love how he sings this amazing song.

The audience had thoroughly enjoyed it if the applause was to be believed, and afterwards Steve chatted to his public, signed albums sold by his very supportive and proud wife Becky, and was in no rush to get away. Steve is quietly political in his own way which shows in some of his lyrics, but also a very kind, generous, tremendously gifted soul, who deserves to soar up the ladder of success.

See you soon at another gig soon Steve!

Jean Camp

Go to to purchase his music and to see where he is playing near you.

CAMBRIDGE CITY ROOTS FESTIVAL – Various artists and venues, 3-11 February 2017

City Roots Festival
Photographs by Su O’Brien

The 2017 inaugural City Roots Festival is kind of like an expansion pack for the Cambridge Folk Festival: a winter top-up with lots of bonus features. Aiming to expand the relationship between folk/roots music and the city, the Folk Festival organisers lined up a diverse roster of artists over one week at assorted venues across the city.

Home-grown talent Steven James Adams opened the week with his new band The French Drops, providing witty and lively songs with a conscience. Then there was a choice between Mary Chapin Carpenter (with Edale’s finest, Bella Hardy, in support) with her classic country-infused songs or the edgier sounds of Jim Moray.

A day of workshops on working in the music industry, hosted by Anglia Ruskin University’s music department, was considered, by one attendee at least, to have been very useful. The evening could be rounded off in the evening by some folk club sessions in the Cambridge University Union Bar, or at The Transatlantic Sessions, a melting pot of Celtic and Americana sounds. Or, like me, you might choose to take in an entertaining evening in the company of singer-songwriters Amy Wadge and Luke Jackson.

Replicating the Folk Festival’s “up & coming” stage, The Den, at local venue CB2, was a two-night showcase including Janet Devlin, SJ Mortimer, Honey and the Bear, Mortal Tides, Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer, and Kerry Devine.

The riotous Mad Dog McCrea returned as headliners, following their support slot for New Model Army just a few months ago. Noble Jacks, their support act, look like being a band worth watching, too. On a completely different tack, skilful guitar playing with a twist was provided by Paolo Angelli & Derek Gripper.

On the final day, the bitter sleet was braved by a staunch group of great musicians who’d rashly agreed to busk around the city, including five-piece band Morganway, Pat Crilly & Greg Camburn, Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer (whose delicious harmonies almost made it feel like summertime: almost) and guitarist Matt Hammond. And these were just the ones I managed to see, so my apologies to those I missed out. Luckily, there was a warm welcome from the folk clubs inside the Union Bar, a place to retreat and thaw out red-raw fingers to play some fine indoor sets, too.

Sadly, the headliner for the closing night, Salif Keita cancelled due to illness, but Sona Jobarteh stepped up, with Muntu Valdo in support.

There is no question about the quality and diversity of the artists taking part, and Cambridge has the range of venue sizes to manage internationally renowned stars and breakthrough acts. Just a bit of housekeeping needs attention, if – as the organisers hope – this is to become an annual event. Several gigs had no visible City Roots branding at all, leaving a lack of any feeling of cohesion that an umbrella, multi-venue festival like this really needs. In established Cambridge tradition, laminated posters were cable-tied to railings around town and local press published articles, but details of updates to the schedule were often only sketchily available online, like the re-organisation of some of the final day activities. Attention to small details like these would make big improvements to the overall experience, but there’s no doubt that City Roots will be a welcome addition to the festival calendar.

Su O’Brien

Festival website:

POLICE DOG HOGAN – Wild By The Side Of The Road

Wild By The Side Of The RoadFormed in 2009 and currently an eight-piece, Wild By The Side Of The Road is Police Dog Hogan’s fourth album and firmly consolidates their growing reputation for infectiously punchy folk rock shaded with elements of country and bluegrass.

Fronted by lyricist James Studholme and with banjo and mandolin provided by Tim Dowling and Tim Jepson, they have established themselves as festival regulars, guaranteed to get the crowd jumping with their rollicking, bouncy melodies. And they’re much in evidence here, kicking off with ‘Tyburn Jig’, clattering rim percussion driving a bouncy song about being hung and swiftly followed by the jaunty countrified and brassed up ‘Dixie’, about a doomed romance with a country fan in Birmingham, the saloon piano and fiddle driven clopalong ‘In The Country, a paean to the rural Devonshire life, and the rousing bluesy stomp ‘Black Road’ with its lively accordion, trumpet-heavy and what sounds a like touch of Jew’s harp.

Of course, this is only one side of the band, they’re equally adept at quieter, more thoughtful and reflective balladry. ‘Devon Brigade’ is a case in point, a first person narrative about a young lad fighting in the Great War as part of the Devonshire Regiment, its melancholic underscored by the cooking horal backing and strings. The same holds true for ‘Tomorrow’s Boys’, a more uptempo foot-tapping strum about how yesterday’s dreams never materialised, the trumpet-haunted disillusionment of ‘All You Know About Love’ and, swathed in violins and cello, the moodily atmospheric traditional flavours of the lyrically dark ‘Our Lady Of The Snows’.

Their bluegrass inclinations can be heard on the wryly retrospective, banjo-led ‘The One On The Left’ (its percussion intro reminding me of the start to ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town’) while, with its lap steel, Hammond, trumpet and circling percussive rhythm ‘Let My Spirit Rise’, is bathes in the waters of Southern soul gospel.

The album closes with two numbers that deftly lay out their main two approaches, the romping bluegrass musician’s perspective hoedown ‘East Nashville Back Porch Fix’ and, built around a circling drum pattern and fiddle, the five-minute ‘Fare You Well’, Studholme’s Celtic-tinted anthemic adieu to Cornwall, complete with a namecheck for the Pier House Hotel overlooking Charlestown harbor, and its brief instrumental coda.

They’re out on the road from February 22 until the end of April, I suggest you scour the hedgerows to find a gig blooming near you.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Band website:

While we wait for a video from the new album, here’s an old favourite, ‘Thunderheads’: