MARTHA TILSTON – Nomad (Squiggly Records)

NomadThis recently released album is a pure joy to listen to. Martha is the daughter of highly acclaimed singer/songwriter – Steve Tilston, but Martha is a fabulous singer/songwriter on her own merit. She has various critically acclaimed albums already under her belt and this latest album looks like being another one!

There are ten glorious tracks on the album. Ranging from easy tempo/easy listening through to blues and jazz with a little bit of Latino thrown into the mix on ‘Fish Tank’. Some very unusual names for song titles, but all of the tracks tell a superb story, which is what Martha is good at. The album wasn’t planned, but started as a session in Cornwall, and it evolved itself into the beautiful album it is now.

Nomad is an album that has a variety of tempos; the opening track is ‘Nomad Blood’, introducing the listener to Martha’s fabulous voice and fabulous guitar playing. Superbly atmospheric story telling at its best. A song of coming home to rest and see the family, and then having to journey off into touring again.

‘Green Moon’ is about survival of relationships, and band member Matt Kelly leads the way with his fabulous musician’s skill into a really atmospheric and haunting track.

‘Little Arrow’ is about the loss of a special person, and I guess this would be her Mum – Maggie – who was taken far too soon, and was a special person to a huge amount of people, as well as the family. Slightly bluesy with a tempo with drums and electric guitar.

‘Stories’ is an easy listening track that brings memories of childhood and how different memories become in different circumstances.

‘Ribbons For John’ has a rather Americana feel, about a young lady meeting what sounds like a tornado of a man.

‘Taxi Light’ is about being available and not being available. Co-written by Luke Parker some time ago, while waiting for a relationship, but then deciding to head home. A catchy little number.

‘Fish Tank’ was very new when recorded, is about finding confidence in yourself and then going for it! Rather jazzy and a little bit of Latino thrown in!

‘Climbing Gates’ is about Martha thinking about her decision to be a touring musician.

‘Scribbled Fever’ – Easy catchy tempo with superb guitar work, about a sad young lady and her love breakup, and wanting to stay in her dreams.

‘Blue Pearl’. A huge message to the world, questioning what are we doing with it – where is everything going as attitudes are shocking. The Blue Pearl being our beautiful planet in space. A gentle, but haunting track, and a far reaching message to finish on.

I really love this album, and would urge anyone to purchase it. It is available on Squiggly Records and can be purchased from the links below, where you can also find Martha’s tour dates.

Looking forward to seeing her live in June on her last tour date of the Nomad album tour.

Jean Camp

Artist’s website:

‘Nomad Blood’ – the single:

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.

Artist’s website:

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

MARTHA TILSTON – The Sea (Squiggly SQRCD08)

The SeaOn the back cover of the album appear the words “Traditional folk songs about the sea, collected, sung and played with family & friends – kith & kin”. This pretty much tells you what to expect from Tilston’s ninth album. “I’ve always had it in mind to make a traditional album”, she says in the press release, not surprisingly given that this was the music that surrounded her as she grew ip, from both her father (Steve Tilston) and step-mother (Maggie Boyle), but also her Geordie stepfather, Frank Whately.

So, here are a collection of nautically themed tunes, delivered in her breathy husk, that range from the very familiar to the more obscure, performed by Tilston and her house band of Matt Tweed, Nick Marshall and Tom Cotterell. All tracks feature guest vocals for the aforementioned kith and kin, first up being Boyle on the first track they actually recorded, ‘Lovely On The Water’, who both sings and plays flute on Tilston’s rework of the chords and timings. Equally well known will be ‘The Lowlands of Holland’, a soft, gentle hybrid based on both Boyle’s and Martin Carthy’s versions with the former again on flute and a rather surprising guest vocal from her uncle, one Kevin Whately, aka Lewis from Inspector Morse, who, it transpires, is also a folk singer (and not a bad one either, to go by this) and actually suggested the song.

While it may sound it, ‘Shipwreckers’ isn’t a traditional number, but, featuring Beth Perry on cello, one penned by Tilston and Oscar winning film music writer Matt Kelly that draws on Cornish smuggling legends. Most of it was actually written some five years ago, but it only fell into place when Tweed suggested using the words to Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘Smuggler’s Song’ in the chorus, thereby justifying the traditional tag.

Returning to the family tree, deep-voiced brother Joe (from Random Hand) sings, plays guitar and co-arranged ‘Shallow Brown’, aka ‘30 Pound of Bone’, a West Indies shanty in its original incarnation, here, one of the album’s stand out numbers, given a slow, melancholic reading and recorded overlooking Falmouth estuary to add that extra tang of salt.

Dedicated to Bert Jansch, with whom it is most associated, ‘Blackwater Side’ is a simple, uncluttered treatment for just voice, guitar and piano and certainly does justice to Jansch’s memory. Dad Steve finally puts in an appearance (and contributes the tune) on ‘The Fisher Lad Of Whitby,’ a number he originally recorded on his own Ziggurat album, here recast trading contrasting and complementary male/female verses with chorus harmonies while Cotterell provides banjo and Tweed bouzouki.

Described as the underground John Martyn, Nathan Ball is the guest for ‘The House Carpenter’, a simple voice/guitar arrangement on a duet about the tug between love and duty, refocused by Tilston to emphasise the lyrical theme of consequence rather than judgement. The oldest of the clan, Frank Whately steps up to the mark for a simple, beguiling rendition of the wistful The Waters of Tyne and, while he may be a drama teacher, director and playwright (Jude Law just one to have passed through his tutelage) rather than a professional folk singer, he provides solid, seasoned harmony.

Officially the final track, ‘Mermaid of Zennor’ is another Tilston original, one inspired by the region of Cornwall where she spent part of her childhood. The well-known legend of a young man, Matthew Trewella, the best singer in the parish, supposedly lured to the sea by a mermaid, it’s been the subject of various poems, books, recordings (including one by Seth Lakeman) and even a film and an opera, here the lyrics are fleshed out by stories gathered from the locals one night down the pub while, at the start and end of the song, the distant voice of Steve James can be heard singing the old hymn, ‘This Is My Father’s World’, as the voice of Matty. As you might gather, there’s also a bonus hidden track, adding a final branch to the family tree with big sister Sophie on a brief reprise of ‘Whitby Bay’, a delightful coda to a marvellous family affair that ebbs and flows with the hypnotic nature of the tides.

Mike Davies

Artist website

Martha Tilston and Nathan Ball perform ‘House Carpenter’:

Joe Tilston releases his new album Embers on Fellside

Joe TilstonAfter years on the punk scene as Random Hand’s bassist, Joe Tilston, son of UK folk royalty Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle, has returned to his family roots for a bit of musical balance. Joe’s music echoes years of influence from his upbringing in and around the English folk scene, with a fresh twist and energy provided by his own venture into punk over the last decade. Not a million miles away from the likes of Nick Drake and Damien Rice, this is not likely to be what you’re expecting if you’re familiar with Random Hand’s music.

Embers‘ is Joe’s debut album, bringing together six years of writing to one consistent piece. Settling in calm relaxed grooves, layered with a number of great musicians adding their flavours to the mix, including long time live Violin player, Luke Yates. This is complimented by the odd splash of sound from his punk roots, showing the true diversity of his song writing. Songs on the album cover subject matter both questioning our humanity and celebrating it, all taking inspiration from friends and family. The album was produced by Matt Tweed, who has produced Martha Tilston’s recent records. The recording process was split between the Coast of Cornwall and the Valleys of West Yorkshire with assistance from Luke Yates, who also added some beautiful string arrangements.

Joe Tilston Embers

On the record, Joe is joined by sister Martha for the opening track ‘The Railway Children’. Joe also has Sean Howe, who he works with in Random Hand playing drums, Robin Tyndale-Biscoe on percussion, Phillipa Ratcliff on the Cello and Hugh Bradley adding all things Bass to the mix as well as some nice twiddles and flavours from Matt Tweed and Luke Yates over the whole album.

Label – Fellside Recordings FECD255

Release date – 25th February 2013

For more information and the latest tour news please visit

Martha Tilston to release Machines of Love and Grace and new single ‘Stags Bellow’ plus UK live dates…

Martha Tilston will release her new album Machines of Love and Grace on October 22. The new album will be accompanied by the single ‘Stags Bellow’, and a headline UK tour, including London’s Bush Hall on Thursday, November 8.

The daughter of folk legend Steve Tilston, Martha Tilston found herself drawn to folk’s protest spirit and its themes of social justice from an early age. She crafted her own anti-war anthem, ‘Saddest Game’, in 2004, for Big Issue’s Peace Not War compilation, an early foreshadowing of the eloquent, politicized questioning that suffuses her latest LP, Machines Of Love and Grace, a collection of subtly charged acoustic folk songs tinged with electric guitar and touches of electronica. The title is a nod to a beat poem by Richard Brautigan and the BBC2 documentary that lifted the poem’s title: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.

“The programme blew me away. It tackled a lot of the questions my peers are asking: how the finances are run, how we’ve let machines take over and how those machines run us”. Martha Tilston

Like Mitchell’s Woodstock, which painted an image of exploding bombs transforming into butterflies, Tilston’s Machines ponders the conflict between human life and the machinery of modern age.

Tilston underpins her pastoral narratives with meaningful contexts, such as lead single ‘Stags Bellow’, a stirring paean to freedom and the wild deer that roam the Royal Parks. Tilston’s songwriting eschews the hoary ‘moors and maids’ folk imagery of old for gentle, probing meditations on modern concerns such as consumerism (“More”), urbanization (“Suburbia”), unheard voices (“Silent Women”) and with “Wall Street”, the disastrous ebb and flow of stock market tides, a paced, determined number Tilston wrote inspired by the then-emerging Occupy movement.

“A few years ago, folk went very mainstream. It was good in a lot of ways, because it meant loads of people were taking up instruments and learning the old songs. But the world was in crisis and it felt weird that folk, which has always been the people’s music, was totally avoiding that and not acknowledging it”. Martha Tilston

Martha’s background  – Martha began her musical tenure in folk duo Mouse, with Nick Marshall, releasing debut album Helicopter Trees in 2000 and a follow up, Mouse Tales, in 2001.  She released her lo-fi debut, Rolling, in 2003, while touring Ireland as support for folk troubadour, Damian Rice.  Inspired by Damian Rice’s self-produced, home-recorded hit debut, O, she funded the pressing of her next record, 2005’s Bimbling, through the sale of the album’s canvas-painted artwork.  2006 saw her team up with band The Woods, an outfit that includes Lamb bass player Jon Thorne (who guests on Machines) to release Ropeswing, and by 2007, Martha was opening the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury with songs from her album Milkmaids and Architects, garnering a nomination for Best New Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.  By 2009, Tilston’s vocals had been courted beyond the folk world, by producers such as J-Spool and Tru Thoughts Records Mawglee and Mangatout, and pop group Zero 7, who invited her to guest on their 2009 album, Yeah Ghost.

Nick Burbridge – New Album, Gathered

After six McDermott’s Two Hours albums (versus The Levellers or in their own right), singer-songwriter Nick Burbridge has joined forces with multi-instrumentalist and producer Tim Cotterell, to release the unplugged album of articulate contemporary songs rooted in the traditional Celtic idiom, which many have awaited for so long.

Gathered comes, simply, with a challenge. If any similar album tackles inner and outer struggles so artfully yet honestly, showing such respect for the tradition yet awareness of contemporary forms, then let this onebe rolled aside. If not, let it take its rightful place in the idiom where it belongs.

Gathered is a lyricist’s delight, as would be expected from a writer fluent in many forms: a profound and coherent expression of all kinds of implacable commitment, personal or political, related with a tender and unflinching hand. Here, Burbridge’s dark-humoured, melodic pieces, his genuinely weathered voice and singular guitar-playing, are augmented only by the subtle shade and impetus of Cotterell’s sensitive interpretation on a range of instruments. It is an album to sit down with late into the night and listen to repeatedly, which nonetheless abounds with fragments of jigs, reels and other tunes.

Great melodies, acerbic, canny lyrics” (fRoots)
“The sound of a musician and songwriter at a creative peak” (R2)

This is a fruitful partnership. Burbridge’s career spans decades, writing songs covered by artists from Levellers (a whole area at their Beautiful Days festival is named after his song ‘Dirty Davey’) to Damien Barber and Maggie Boyle, and published by Joe Boyd; niche poetry collections, fringe theatre plays and Radio 4 productions; a political thriller, and a non-fiction book on Northern Ireland launched at the House Of Commons.

A recurrent source of inspiration has been his work with McDermott’s Two Hours, a band that “cut the mustard’’(Q) and whose last album Goodbye To The Madhouse R2 called an “epic collection that is essential listening.” Cotterell, meanwhile, who both recorded and mixed this record, is one of the younger generation of Alt Folk specialists, a director of Brighton’s Access To Music, mainstay of Martha Tilston’s The Woods, Legacy and Tricks Upon Travellers, session player for the Oysterband’s John Jones,among many others, and a vital cog in the eccentric McDermotts machinery.

Dr Ben Burbridge Sussex University

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