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Squiggly Records SQRCD08

The songs, the singing and the backing alone make this a fine album, a few minor quibbles apart. Martha Tilston has an interesting, very flexible voice, which she uses to involve the listener in the story. Her diction, unlike many singer songwriters, is excellent. While most of the album is traditional, there are contemporary performances of two of her own songs in a traditional style. Her ‘house band’ of Matt Tweed on bouzouki and bass, Nick Marshall on guitars and Tim Cotterell on banjo and fiddle, together with various guests, provide varied, sensitive backing.

What makes the album really special and sets it apart is that it is mainly a family album, as the engaging sleeve notes make clear. When family members perform together, the personalities and the voices interweave and fire sparks off each other in a unique way that unrelated folk rarely achieve. Possibly partly genetic, it probably comes far more from upbringing and example. Martha says that it is because of her stepmother, the singer and flautist, Maggie Boyle, that she sings at all. Her father is the singer songwriter, Steve Tilston. Joe Tilston, her brother, is a professional singer. Frank Whately, her stepfather, is a ‘Geordie’ theatre man, brother of Kevin Whately, celebrated actor but also a singer. Along with some friends they all appear on the album and there is a brief hidden track with her sister, Sophie.

Martha says she loves her “crazy, eccentric, talented, beautiful family”. This is clearly mutual and it certainly comes over.

Frank Bechhofer

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.