steve tilston

singer songwriter & guitarist

“…it is definitely worth sitting up and listening.”

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STEVE TILSTON & JEZ LOWE: THE JANUS GAME

written by Thomas Blake 29 November, 2016 for Folk Radio UK

Songwriting partnerships are nothing new in folk music. By dint of its innate openness and a strong sense of democracy amongst its practitioners, the genre lends itself to collaboration. But when two artists as singular and well-respected as Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe get together to co-write after forty-odd years of ploughing their own distinctive furrows, it is definitely worth sitting up and listening.

These two well-travelled veterans of the folk music scene have still got a great deal to say and can still say it with style. That they have chosen to say it together, for this album at least, is something we should all be grateful for.

Read the full review here

The Janus Game “and a cracking album it is too.”

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Mike Harding Folk Show #205 released 27 November, features 2 songs from the brand new Tilston & Lowe CD The Janus Game 

“chock-full of great songs …and a cracking album it is too.” says Mike.  

He promises to feature more over the coming weeks. You can listen on-line or download the podcast here

“…a fearsome combination, The Janus Game an album rich in song…”

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Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe – The Janus Game

When Yorkshire-based singer-songwriter Steve Tilston met north-easterner Jez Lowe in a Massachusetts music club five years ago, a special collaboration was born. While Tilston has tended to plough a lone furrow throughout his highly respected career, multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Lowe has contributed to many collective projects not least The Broonzies and The Pitmen Poets, all the while maintaining his own long-established band, The Bad Pennies.

The title of The Janus Game is taken from the ancient Roman god of beginnings, transitions, doorways and endings, who is usually depicted as having two faces on the same body, but pointing in different directions, as he looks both to the past and the future. The duo see their own music as doing the same, taking the best aspects of the past, i.e. the folk tradition, but letting new ideas develop in contemporary subject matter, musical direction and arrangements.

So here are presented eleven fine original tracks in that vein, with subject matter ranging from child refugees (Lucky Sami, a serious message wrapped up in a charming arrangement and featuring some atmospheric bowed guitar from Tilston) to the decline of the steel industry (The Wagga Moon, a catchy mandolin-led foot-tapper). Personal narratives are very prominent too. Shiney Row for example, nostalgically portrays life in a small town close to where Lowe was brought up, while On Beacon Hill relates to two commonly named features in the East Midlands and County Durham respectively, Tilston’s ten-string guitar somehow adding to a sense of history.

The Strings That Wizz Once Strummed is a delightful and fond salute to Wizz Jones, a strong influence on both, told through a story of a revered guitar untouched since it was once played by the great man. The final track Goodbye Johnnie D’s/Hey Frankie is a lively tune-cum-song by way of musical thanks to the now closed music club (Johnnie D’s) and house (Frankie’s) where the pair first played together.

Both Tilston and Lowe are musicians’ musicians who don’t get the wider recognition they work hard to merit although all the while those in the know revere and respect them highly. Hopefully The Janus Game will bring their respective talents to a wider audience, while also gaining deserved praise in its own right.

Ian Taylor

FATEA

“brave British folk”

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Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe: The Janus Game – brave British folk ***

Unexpected collaborations are among the great strengths of the current British folk scene, and this is one of the most intriguing to date. Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe are long-established soloists, respected for their skills as singer-songwriters and instrumentalists, but this is the first time they have written together.

Their finest compositions are the bravest. Crosses, Crescents and Stars tackles religion and religious wars, while Tattered and Torn is a pained but thoughtful song about contemporary Britain, in which the sentiments of the traditional ballad The Bonnie Bunch of Roses that dealt with Napoleon’s demise and the unity of England, Scotland and Ireland, are compared with the current problems of “this broken land”.

Elsewhere, there are songs about child refugees, closed steelworks or two-faced politicians, but sadly there is little opportunity for Tilston to demonstrate his remarkable guitar playing, even on a tribute to Wizz Jones.

Robin Denselow

Northern Sky Magazine reviews The Janus Game

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Star rating ****

It’s a collaboration that you desperately want to see work; the coming together of two distinctly individual performers. Despite being well established solo performers, both have enjoyed a string of collaborations in their respective careers, Steve Tilston with John Renbourn’s Ship of Fools, WAZ and most memorably in partnership with the late Maggie Boyle, whilst Jez Lowe has enjoyed some success with hurdy-gurdy player Jake Walton as well as being the leader of his own band the Bad Pennies.

Both are possessed of instantly identifiable personal styles in terms of their song writing credentials, their immediately recognisable voices and their equally distinctive instrumental chops. These days of multi-collaborative work, forged by a plethora of young musicians who by learning their craft through such as the folk music degree courses, are organically entrenched in it, but this doesn’t always apply to highly individual performers who have been at it for years; there’s a sense that they have to work at it a lot harder.

All the material on THE JANUS GAME is written jointly by the two songwriters, with each sharing the vocal duties democratically. The songs range from the 

powerful to the whimsical, exemplified by Lucky Sami, a song addressing the current refugee crisis and The Wagga Moon, a thoughtful reflection on the faded steel industry, whilst The Strings That Wizz Once Strummed and Mrs Einstein are jolly nods towards the influence of guitar mentor Wizz Jones and the long suffering spouse of our favourite physicist. The album title derives from the opening song, which looks at the dualism of truth and deception, the past and the future, utilising the image of the two-faced god from Roman mythology, hinted at in the double portrait on the cover.

As a collaborative experiment the album works surprisingly well, but at the risk of essentially sounding like two individual mini albums wrapped into one, but maybe that’s just because I can’t shake off the notion that these are two highly individual solo talents.

Allan Wilkinson

 

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