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singer songwriter & guitarist

The Reckoning

The Reckoning (Hubris Records HUB006)
UK distribution: Proper Music Distribution
Release date: Monday 25 July 2011

‘The Reckoning’ is quintessential Steve Tilston. It has insightful lyrics (reflecting an affinity with the landscape and the power of nature), a keen sense of history (with a nod to the potential of the future) and a sharp eye for social satire. Musically, he continues to show us why he is one of the UK’s most respected songwriters, continuing to create gorgeous melodies, in a series of musical contexts powerfully evocative of time and place.



It’s Spring and the air is full of birdsong, natural voices from across the globe, sounding exotic and yet totally belonging. It’s an apt aural image for this album.

We travel from Pennine hills to Spain’s El Chorro Pass, to the Indian Ganges’ side, and to Nottamun Town precisely re-imagined as London in Spring 2011.

That song, a piece of precise social satire, is a reckoning. Other songs sum up Steve’s individual view of the power of nature, the presence of the past or the potential of the future. The only guitar you hear throughout is Steve’s, played live without overdubs – next time we meet I really must count his fingers!

Two instrumentals demonstrate why Steve’s playing is held in such high regard: one is a set of dance tunes, while the curiously entitled Ijna, an evocation of the aureate spirit of creativity and a tribute to the guitarist without whom…etc: a Golden Graham, indeed.

At the heart of the album is the epic Memory Lane: even more than the album’s title track, this is the song that addresses the Reckoning, a past tense encountered not with sentimental nostalgia but with a startled recognition. Incisive and insightful, detailed and wide-ranging, from its tender aubade of optimism to its concluding nocturne for a lost hero, this is quintessential Tilston.

Nigel Schofield






1 This Is The Dawn 5:30 
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Hugh Bradley – Double Bass; Richard Curran – Violin, Viola; Gus Taylor – Shaker, Dawn Chorus – the wild birds of Oxenhope

Insomnia can have its ‘upsides’.  I’ve baked a few loaves and started a few songs in the wee hours and in that respect, this one is pretty time specific. I have to add that, in the cold light of day, the bread has had the edge over most of the songs, but this one seemed to rise nicely above the rest. Living in the Pennine hills, over a thousand feet above sea level, I get to see some stirring sunsets and sunrises and this is in praise of one such dawn and the promise of a new day. The dawn chorus that accompanies the instrumental ending is supplied by local Yorkshire birds.

2 Nottamun Town Return 3:29
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Ruth Wilde – Double Bass; Mark Boyce – Drums; Keith Warmington –Harmonica; David Crickmore – Mandolin

A rewrite of one of my favourite traditional songs. The original is, on the face of it, a nonsense song which hints at sedition not far below the surface. Probably when it was written, sedition was a  capital offence, so in these supposedly more enlightened times, I have the luxury of allowing this  one to foam and seethe nearer  the surface.

3 The Reckoning 3:19
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Hugh Bradley – Double Bass; Robin Tyndale-Biscoe – Oboe

sample clip:  

      The Reckoning

I’m not overfond of the term, but this one drips ‘baby boomer guilt,’ and I do care about the legacy we leave future generations. They say that nuclear waste remains radioactive for over five thousand years. Five thousand years ago was the Bronze Age and they were just starting to build the pyramids in Egypt. In my view it’s a long old time to leave something so toxic hanging around, particularly when no one seems to have a clue where to stash it.

4 Pennine Spring 4:50
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Gus Taylor – Accordion

sample clip:  

      Pennine Spring

I have not walked the whole of the Pennine way, just parts of it and some parts several times. Most days I like to get up on the tops and have a wander. I can go straight from my back garden up onto the moors and it’s become such an essential part of my existence. I have favourite rock outcrops that I sit on and watch the hills roll off into the distance and sometimes I remember to take a flask and a sandwich…it’s a small island, but up there it appears like a big country to me.

5 Oil & Water 4:22 
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; David Crickmore – Acoustic Bass, 5 String Banjo, Shaker ; Mark Boyce –Drums; Gus Taylor – Accordion Backing vocals: Steve Tilston, Mark Boyce, Gus Taylor, Lee Walsh, Emma Crickmore, David Crickmore.

Passed a wheat field with two scarecrows in it. On the head of each one was perched a crow … seemed to speak volumes. Not quite sure what, but I ponder it often.

6 Memory Lane 8:30
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Gus Taylor – Djembe, Shaker; Mark Boyce – Bell Tree; The Richard Curran Strings

Lately, by accident more than design, I’ve found myself near places I used to live and loiter in and have been compelled to go and visit them, almost as if to stake some spurious historic claim. Some have been obliterated by progress, some changed beyond recognition and, quite a number, hardly changed at all, but always the floodgates open and the memories come rushing back. Also, lately, old friends from school and childhood have made contact and inevitably the conversation leads to those who are no longer with us. There are one or two ghosts down on Memory Lane.

7 Sovereign Of Tides 4:52
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Gus Taylor – Accordion, Djembe; David Crickmore – Tambour; Hugh Bradley – Tampara

sample clip:  

      Sovereign of Tides

A song with an eastern flavour, in praise of the moon, particularly when full and reflected in the waves.

8 Doubting Thomas 4:34
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals

Thomas really is my middle name and as the song suggests I have no answers to the great big question and feel that I cannot connect with anything approaching blind faith. You could say I’m a sceptical agnostic with atheistic tendencies, but given to occasional flights of spiritual fancy. As someone once said, ‘It’s not that I don’t believe in the possibility of a God, it’s just that there’s insufficient evidence!’

9 Davy Lamp/Fruit Fly 4:38
Steve Tilston – Guitar

Two tunes written in traditional style, the first being a hornpipe after the playing of that great 19th century fiddler James Hill. This piece is dedicated to The Davy Lamp club in Washington Tyne & Wear. The second tune is a reel, dedicated to good cider.

10 Rio De La Miel 4:55
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals; Gus Taylor – Djembe, Shaker; The Richard Curran – Strings

A wonderful holiday in a villa perched on a cliff edge in Andalucia. The Rio de La Miel runs beside it into the Mediterranean. A short distance over the small ‘river of honey’ is an imposing old building that was once a paper mill and according to the woman who owns the villa, a place of internment and torture during the civil war. Her grandfather was a local guerilla leader known as ‘El Duende,’ and he was the thorn in the side of the fascist Captain whose troops occupied the paper mill. Apparently El Capitan was a fastidious man, both in his methods of torture and dietary habits, only ever consuming half the plate of food that the women of the nearby village prepared for him. The remainder of each his meals is then spirited away by the women, ostensibly to feed the herd of semi-feral pigs that rooted and snorted barely a stone’s throw away. Hiding in a cave behind these pigs was El Duende and it was he that had the benefit of the left overs, not the pigs. El Capitan was oblivious to the fact that he was feeding the very one he searched high and low for…he never did find El Duende.

11 Weeping Willow Replanted 4:02
Steve Tilston – Guitar/Vocals

This is a substantial rewrite of an old Blind Boy Fuller blues. I’ve changed the words and the tune, but the bare bones of the guitar part are the same. The latter I learnt originally from Wizz Jones.

12 Ijna (Davy Ji) 4:51
Steve Tilston – Guitar

This guitar instrumental, and playing out piece, pays homage to the late great Davy Graham. It intentionally has touches of his most famous composition Anji all over it. The main theme has an ascending bass line out of a minor chord, the reverse of the descending bass line of the original; hence the name Ijna, which apparently is the name of a Hindu spirit…could be fate, could be coincidence. Maybe Davy knows?



Steve Tilston, guitar [1-12], vocals [1-8, 10-11], backing vocals [5];
Hugh Bradley, double bass [1, 3], tampara [7];
Richard Curran, violin [1], viola [1];
The Richard Curran Strings [6, 10];
Gus Taylor, accordion [4-5, 7], shaker [1, 6, 10], djembe [6-7, 10], backing vocals [5];
The wild birds of Oxenhope, dawn chorus [1];
Ruth Wilde, double bass [2];
Mark Boyce, drums [2, 5], bell tree [6], backing vocals [5];
Keith Warmington, harmonica [2];
David Crickmore, mandolin [2], acoustic bass [5], 5 sting bass [5], shaker [5], tambour [7], backing vocals [5];
Robin Tyndale-Biscoe, oboe [3];
Lee Walsh, Emma Crickmore, backing vocals [5]


Recorded at SplitStudios, Keighley, West Yorkshire;
Produced by David Crickmore







Say goodbye to the night.

This is the dawn.

This is the day.

All the demons take flight.

This is the dawn

This is the day.

And the first light brings

Joy as each small bird sings in the morn.

This is the dawn.


See the sweep of the hills.

This is the dawn,

This is the day.

As the hand of light spills.

This is the dawn.

This is the day.

Golden fingers spread.

Whisper thanks to bless the bread in the morn,

This is the dawn.





In Luddenum Town not a soul would look up.

Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down.

Not a soul would look up,not a soul would look down.

To show me my way out of Luddenham town.


I saw a buffoon, a blonde headed mayor.

Rattling his chains and going nowhere.

Rattling his chains and going nowhere.

Eyes cold as ice, but blowing hot air.


Saw a man with two faces pedalling two wheels.

A tame pack of  hounds hot on his heels

Hey Tally Ho! Hold the front page news.

Behind him a limousine bringing his shoes.


Saw sons and daughters rise to their feet.

Taking their empty bowls  into the street.

And those who had gobbled their own cake for free.

Ordered them kettled without any tea.


Saw the Prince and his duchess wave from their car.

The crowd it waved back with insults and snarls.

Drive from the nightmare, back to the dream.

Back to the Duchy and rich, clotted cream


Bought a one way ticket, no turning back.

The right kind of snow, but the wrong kind of track.

Only one train that had not broken down.

Soon I was heading for  Nottamun town.





Here’s to all the grand children,

Yet to be  born great grand children.

All your sons and daughters,

And your own grand children too.


I offer you my hand.

Out across the age’s span.

A misbegotten plan

To leave the reckoning to you


I must apologise,

if it’s written in the troubled skies.

We’ve been peddling lies, 

Somehow forgotten what is true.


Though it’s buried deep.

Poison never sleeps.

Through the ages seeps,

To leave a reckoning for you.


We hang on to misguided dreams,

sleepwalk to the brink.

Hey ho, rue the day.

We’re going down in drink.


I have planted seed.             

In vain to raise an apple tree.

To entice the bees 

to sip the blossom on the bough.


But the bees don’t toil.

Around the tree a serpent coils,

Spits venom in the soil,

And leaves the reckoning to you


I raise to you a toast.

Should trouble come to roost.

For we ate the golden goose,

And left the reckoning to you.





All of you who walk the chain.

Must learn to love the wind and rain.

Dare to call these mountains friends.

Know the way the backbone bends


How the Welkin grips the soul.

Stirs some blessed rigmarole.

where the peaks and  waterfalls.

Dwarf all man-made mansion halls


Veterans and pilgrims mark the chosen way.

Lengthening but loyal shadows follow.

Soon summer will embrace the day.

Soon across the heather skims the swallow.


The murmur of the pots and gills.

That honeycomb, the limestone hills

Over Malham’s cove and tarn.

Ancient herdsman’s pens and barns


Ah these pathways mark a trail,

Way beyond the Dove and Swale.

Ghostly legions weave and spin.

Brigantes and Jackobin.


Is that woodsmoke from a  tavern chimney rise?

A welcome light a flickering from a window?

Turn westward face the salmon skies.

It could be a sunny day tomorrow.


A weathered tongue scolds and scores.

Comes keening up the valley floor.

Past the Withen’s ruined bones.

And wuthering erodes the stones.


Is that music wafting from an open door?

The chink of many flowing bowls and laughter?

Scrape the mud and weave across the floor.

Banish aches and pains to stumble after.





I might never pass this way again,

I might never get to sing you this song.

By the time it turns to day again

Could have packed my dreams and gone.


Oil and water, my wheels are crying out for air.

This old engine is way past tender loving care.

Oil & water don’t mix well like whiskey and wine.

Some concoctions just get you  no further down the line.


Smoke & Mirrors, we all see what we wish to see.

Sweet illusions, the way we would like things to be.

Smoke & mirrors, the truth gets no easier to read.

Spend a lifetime repaying those things we don’t need .


Down the backroads the scarecrows are guarding the corn.

They don’t scare the crows or any other creature  ever born.

Some say scarecrows have hearts and other feelings too.

If  I ever lose my way that’s a job I could do.





I thought I saw a shadow,

of a former self.

Kicking over statues,

from a dusty shelf.

I’ve tried to find the pieces,

to put ‘em back again.

I scour the outer reaches.

Down on memory lane.


It’s in and out of focus.

The picture’s seldom clear.

Facts & figures choke us,

cut the atmosphere.

Yesterday was sunshine, 

they say tomorrow’s rain.

I’ll see you on the sideline.

Down on memory lane.


The temple bell tolls and beckons us back.

Like sheep we cleave to familiar tracks.

The past tense demands we turn again.

Rebuild the bridges we burned back when,

All was split asunder, fire and thunder, all was turmoil and confusion, such confusion

away back then.


In a fancy I looked to find you,

where the best recollections belong.

An imprint of youth way behind you.

A small clue in the folds of a song.


Memory lane – the past tense beckons me again.

Memory lane – I’ll come running back again.

Memory lane – So I hurry back again.

Memory lane –  and I scurry back again.


And the word from a mutual acquaintance.

You’d slipped these earthly chains.

If I look I know I will find you.

Somewhere on memory lane.


There’s places I have languished.

Stairways I have known.

Basements I have cherished,

dared to call a home.

Where daylight seldom ventured,

through a window pane.

Won’t you  meet me around midnight,

Down on memory lane?


My memory sometimes falters,

my footfall not as sure.

Where was that window?

Where was that door?

There used to be a way here,

but I search in vain.

I’m going round in circles,

Down on memory lane.





I watch the moon.

The silent , yearning moon.

Riding the waves.

The restless, yawning waves.

Quicksilver path a shining on

sapphire, salt sea waters.

Ebb and flowing,

Sovereign of tides.




You’d think by now I’d know the path to choose. 

Still I’m confounded and confused.

You’d think by now that I would see the way.

Through the vale of tears to Judgement day.

Some may say that I am in denial.

A blind leap of faith can’t reconcile.

Some would send me to the flames.

Doubting Thomas is my middle name.


I don’t believe in miracles or fate.

I can’t get my head round heaven’s gate,

False -faced prophets pedal paradise.

Blind obedience is the going price.

Rich man thinks there has to be a way to buy.

To pass the camel through a needle’s eye.

The poor  pass through this world in chains

Doubting Thomas etc.


Will I still be searching when this candle it burns out.

I didn’t choose to be confused or choose to doubt.


I can’t help the workings of my mind.

Sometimes it runs smooth and sometimes grinds.

One day my cup’s dry then overspills.

Sometimes I’m a slave to my own free will.

Who knows where this confused story ends?

I’d like to call the carpenter my friend.

Twisted words have warped the  frame.

Doubting Thomas etc

Just say science is to blame.





El Capitan, he eats like a bird,        

Always he leaves a half empty plate.

He picks at the bones of his prisoners’ fear 

His true appetite is deciding men’s fate.


The table is cleared, the leftovers saved,

Secretly taken down to the cave.

Where the one he pursues watches and waits.

El Duende waits but a stone’s throw away.


Along the Rio, Rio de la Miel.

All of the honey bees have gone.

Along the Rio, Rio de La Miel,

Now with the red blood does run.


Deep in the shade he licks the plate clean.

El Duende dreams of sweet victories.

Republic restored, a full plate of meat.

Fascist dogs driven into the sea.


He hears the cries of his comrades in arms,

Held in the bowels of the old paper mill.

Where El Capitan, with precision he probes.

Only the minimal sweat it is spilled.


El Duende slips under cover of night.

A lonely outpost the chosen prey.

From high above he swoops like a hawk.

By break of dawn, he’s back in the cave.


El Capitan he leads his patrols,

Into the mountains, down to the sea.

He never does guess that right under his nose,

The scraps that he leaves, keeps El Duende free.





Take my boat down to the river side.

Weeping Willow weep for me.

Take a ride down to the rollin’ sea.


Watch the world go by through the hanging leaves.

Weeping Willow weep for me.

I believe this river’s bound to set me free.


Rockin’ Rollin’ drift with the shifting tide.

Weeping Willow weep for me.

Let the river decide, the way it’s meant to be.

The one I love’s gone to some other place.

Weeping Willow weep for me.

That special face will not let me be.


If this river was wine, oh it ain’t no lie.

Weeping Willow weep for me.

I’d drink it dry, cry a salty sea.