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.