Joe Tilston - Embers
Joe Tilston won't escape any review introduction without being labelled as Random Hand's bassist. This weekend they have just been playing to huge crowds at Reading and Leeds festival - and I would be surprised if more than a small percentage of those people in attendance were yet aware that Joe also pedals his wares as a solo artist. And a very talented one indeed. He is, in fact, from an accomplished folk family - his dad, Steve, was playing back before Joe was even a twinkle in the eye of that guy who makes those walls in Yorkshire that are just stones stacked on top of each other.
And, indeed, Joe shuns the usual folk punk/acoustic punk sound of the majority of solo albums that come from punk band members. He crafts a uniquely laid back sound that is so laid back you could describe it as entirely horizontal. Opener The Railway Children is a six minute affair that relies on both accomplished, memorable acoustic riffage and a vocal hook that keeps coming back until it is firmly fixed in your head. And that is Mr Tilston's modus operandi - nothing is rushed, nothing pushes itself at you, but everything ends up getting under your skin.
The subject matter tends to be personal - about his home area in Yorkshire, personal relationships and personal psychological issues. It is as far removed from the subject matter of Random Hand lyrics as the music is. And what probably makes it work is precisely that - this album sounds like a labour of love - a need for something different.
The most accomplished moments for me are the most intense - the chorus of Where Is The Love - the sound of desperation is well conveyed there, and the deceptively simplistically titled You & I, a song that displays a completely new set of dynamics to the majority of what passes through this reviewer's ears - it reminds me of the early acoustic recordings of The Lost Patrol, Dennis Lyxzen's band.
This is a unique and beautiful record.