folk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Truth to Tell Steve Til­ston Hubris/Planet Were the con­nected events that have car­ried Steve Til­ston into main­stream con­scious­ness of late to trans­mo­grify into al­bum sales, this master songsmith would be surf­ing the charts in the twi­light of a ca­reer that has hitherto gar­nered ac­claim rather than fame or for­tune. The vet­eran English folkie has rid­den the crest of a pub­lic­ity wave in Bri­tain and the US since the re­lease of a Hol­ly­wood movie, Danny Collins, in which Os­car-win­ning ac­tor Al Pa­cino por­trays Til­ston’s real-life dis­cov­ery of a hand­writ­ten let­ter of en­cour­age­ment from John Len­non three decades af­ter it was posted to him. Ap­pro­pri­ately enough, the artist’s umpteenth solo al­bum in 40-odd years opens with songs — the breezy, strings-sat­u­rated Grass Days and the more mel­low The Way It Was — that ac­knowl­edge other mu­si­cians who, like Len­non, of­fered Til­ston guid­ance and sup­port. A later num­ber, Pick Up Your Heart, hints at his frus­tra­tion at a missed op­por­tu­nity.

Truth to Tell — a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally well­crafted and en­gag­ing re­lease that’s brim­ful of in­sight­ful lyrics, in­fec­tious melodies and in­tri­cate guitar play­ing — closes with sim­i­larly re­flec­tive, thought­ful pieces in All Around This

World and Ways of a Man. Else­where, Til­ston’s well-honed sense of past-in­form­ing-present also per­vades. The

River­man Has Gone ref­er­ences a much-loved Nick Drake song while rail­ing at cli­mate change de­niers.

An­cient history and 21st-cen­tury des­e­cra­tion are al­luded to in the plain­tive pi­ano and pedal steel-in­flected By­gone Lands. A beau­ti­fully con­structed in­stru­men­tal, Pecket’s Well, nods to the late John Ren­bourn while de­mon­strat­ing the gui­tarist’s own prow­ess. Like the set’s sole tra­di­tional song, Died for

Love, Til­ston’s com­po­si­tions are time­less.

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