STEVE TILSTON – Distant Days (Riverboat Records TUGCD1117)

Distant DaysSteve Tilston has enjoyed a long career as a singer, composer and guitarist both solo and in partnerships. It seems to me that his popularity and the esteem in which he is held increases year on year which is great for a man who has worked continually at his craft for nigh on half a century. Distant Days is an acoustic celebration of that career, nineteen songs and instrumentals dating back to his first album, An Acoustic Confusion, released in 1971, all re-recorded entirely solo.

With the exception of the closing ‘The Slip Jigs And Reels’, Steve has avoided the more obvious pieces and has gone for listening pleasure over chronological accuracy. The first two songs, ‘The Road When I Was Young’ and ‘Rare Thing’ made we want to return to their source albums and hear them in context while ‘Time Has Shown Me Your Face’ made me realise that I don’t own anything like enough of Steve’s records. It’s interesting which albums he’s ignored; there’s nothing from The Reckoning, which I reckon is his best work nor from his diversion into traditional song, Of Many Hands. Apart from his first two albums, Steve concentrates on his work from the 80s and 90s convincing me that each track is there for a reason.

Of the songs that I haven’t heard before, ‘Is This The Same Boy?’ hits hard as does ‘Life Is Not Kind To The Drinking Man; which Steve says is not intended to be preachy but tells it how it is. ‘Let Your Banjo Ring’ seems rather an incongruous choice in the context of the album but I’ll not let it bother me. Three instrumentals, ‘Shinjuku’, ‘Southernhay Avenue’ and ‘Slow Air In Dropped D’, have not been released before and perhaps Steve has seized the opportunity for a little self-indulgence.

Distant Days succeeds in so many ways: it allows Steve to revisit his back catalogue in a new way; it points us to songs that perhaps we’ve forgotten or not heard before and provides excellent listening in doing so.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Road When I Was Young’ – live on TV: