Martha Tilston has been very busy of late holed up in a cottage overlooking the beautifully scenic Prussia Cove in Cornwall. I’m sure many of you will be excited to hear that the reason for this temporary home shift is to record a new album. Martha very kindly spared some time to talk to Folk Radio UK starting with the new album which will a be a very special album as she revealed…
“The new album is a traditional album of songs about the sea or featuring the sea. But another special aspect to it is that I have recorded each song with a different member of my family and a couple of close friends.
“I didn’t want to just record with the professional folk musicians in my family but also with uncles, stepfathers, sisters, brother who I have heard sing from childhood. It felt more truthful some how this way – ( though we all agreed to ban my step dad from doing the full 30 versed lampton worm!)
“I guess there’s singers and songs in every family and we don’t all have to be professional to validate that.”
There must be a strong tie to the sea in the Tilston blood as it a common theme soon began to arise. “I originally wanted to do a trad album with my family where we would choose the songs that we have grown up listening to or singing. It quickly became apparent that all the songs we were leaning towards had a sea / water theme, so like the tide I decided it best to follow the flow, and its just opened out into the most delightful, bonding and surprising project.”
Whilst Martha didn’t give everything away she did venture to suggest what the album may be called and revealed some of the songs she would be singing and with whom…it was enough to whet our appetite. “Maggie Boyle (step ma and dear friend) has had an enormous effect on this album, the first song we recorded I sing with her ‘Lovely on the Water‘ – (learnt from Mandy Murray), and the song keeps opening and changing like a kaleidoscope. Then my Uncle Kevin picked ‘Lowlands of Holland‘ – which I grew up listening to maggie sing, I have recorded ‘Fisherlad of Whitby‘ with dad and it’s fragile and intimate, ‘Shallow Brown‘ with my brother and many more surprises…..
“There is only one self penned song on the album at present – ‘The Mermaid of Zennor‘. It’s a great Cornish folk story. Zennor (near St Ives) is a very special place to me and my family. I wanted to tell this story by gathering versions of it from the locals at the Tinners Arms then using what they knew of the story and what I had read – and putting the song together, it has a very ancient modal Penwith feel to it,…….
“I think the album might be called ‘Sea Chest‘….. ”
With an album being so tied to the sea Martha was also careful to choose the right place to record, in terms of history and scenic beauty she couldn’t have done better. She chose Prussia Cove in Cornwall which owes its name to John Carter who lived here, one of England’s most successful and notorious smugglers in the later 18th Century (he played there as a boy with his brothers and liked to pretend he was Frederick the Great, King of Prussia). Coastguard Cottages were built there in 1825, but besides three further cottages / houses being built the place hasn’t changed at all, John Carter would recognise the place today, right down to the rare fisherman’s huts above the slipway at Bessy’s Cove.
“We recorded in a cottage in Prussia Cove – magical place, saw a seal. Tim Cotterell (fiddle, mandolin/banjo) came down and Matt Tweed (bouzouki/ producer), Nick Marshall (guitar) Tim and myself just, played, walked the cliff paths, and sank into a lovely recording space.”
Martha has a number live dates coming up including Brighton Fringe in the amazing Spiegletent, supporting Bellowhead at Ludlow Castle and another return to the wonderful Purbeck Folk Festival which is one of our favourites and is where we recorded Martha last year courtesy of our good friends BaylisGray. I asked Martha what she loved about Purbeck Folk Festival:
“It just feels like a festival from another time, another era, another shire in another story…. – sitting on bales of hay with good cider in your hand and soul lifting music, its small friendly good for kids and grown up kids.”
Folk Radio UK Session at Purbeck Folk Festival 2013
Whilst this may be a traditional folk album Martha certainly hasn’t lost her political zeal as she revealed when I asked her what else was coming up:
“the street parties that will happen when government wakes up, rubbing their eyes and says ‘ hang on a minute, of course we can’t allow this fracking to happen'”
friday 30th May – Hay on Wye
‘how the light gets in’ philosophy festival
sat 31st May – Fire in the Mountain, Aberystwyth
Fri 13th June – Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable
Sat 5th jul – Ludlow Castle [Supporting Bellowhead]
Sun 6th Jul – Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Fri 1st August – Urkult Festival, Sweden
3rd/4th August – Gig in Stockholm – details on Martha’s website soon
friday 22nd & Sat 23rd August – Purbeck Folk festival
Robin from Martha’s bad is running a drumming & dance festival in one of the most idylic spots in cornwall – so come bosh, bang, dance, surf…August 8th – 10th 2014: www.beatscornwall.co.uk