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Music Reviews


Hem's lead singer in Norwich by Lee Allen.
Hem's lead singer Sally Ellyson

Hem and Martha Tilston review

Folk acts Hem and Martha Tilston brightened the mood of music lovers at Norwich Arts Centre on a wintry night, but who really impressed our reviewer Lee Allen?


Outside it's cold, very cold. Maybe this explains why by the time Martha Tilston comes on stage, the seats in Norwich Arts Centre have only just filled up.

Lee Allen gives the show 4 out of 5 stars.

It's a shame it's quiet because frankly she is stunning. Previously, Martha played in a duo called Mouse but now she has gone out on her own and tonight she is joined by a bass player.

Her first album, Bimbling, was released a few weeks ago and we get a selection from this album plus a Mouse song and a couple of traditional folk songs.

She has probably the purest voice I have heard and at times it sent shivers up and down my spine.

Martha Tilston.
Martha Tilston was magical in Norwich

In between songs she is charming and funny but never in your face and this gives her performance a very personal feel.

The highlight, however, comes during her rendition of one her old Mouse songs when she begins to sing Portishead's Sour Times and it is breathtaking. Amazing.

Main set

Following her magical performance, Hem were always going to struggle. Hailing from New York, they play their own brand of Americana-laden folk which also has twinges of country.

In stark contrast to Martha, there are seven of them on stage, playing a range of instruments from double bass to glockenspiel and it feels a little crowded.

They sound like a country Carpenters and never really break out of the 'nice' bracket.

They are very good musicians but lack the something special that makes Martha sparkle.

Still the audience lap them up as they play a selection from both their albums, Rabbit Songs and Eveningland.

By the end of the evening no-one leaves disappointed but some of us leave a little bored.

  • Hem and Martha Tilston played at Norwich Arts Centre on Monday 28 February 2005.
last updated: 10/03/05
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Georgia
Martha is incredible. 'vin ordinaire'? PLEASE. She is completely original, has the most distinct and mesmerizing voice, and she is startlingly independant. She has an incredible talent, with both words and song. And this is only her starting out...I don't think she's shown us everything she has to offer as of yet, I believe she'll keep on becoming a greater and greater musician, so if she hasn't blown you away yet...she'll be sure to blow you away in the future...I just know it...
Tue Aug 1 04:48:02 2006

christina clarke
Totally agree with every word of Lee Allen's. Saw Martha Tilston in a small folk venue up North last summer; her voice still sends shivers up my spine when listening to her album (Bimbling) a whole year on. A truly sensitive, magical performance; a real poet.
Sun Jul 23 14:09:35 2006

Adrienne
I loved hem's first album but have been somewhat disappointed with the second. They were very good on stage, but there was a spark that I felt was missing (be it a spark of excitement, or raw quality to their music) and I found that in Tilston who I was utterly blown away by.
Sun Apr 3 10:36:41 2005

Bill Evans
You are talking utter rubbish in regards to Hem.They were breathtaking & sounded absolutely gorgeous.What an evening of live music should be like!
Fri Apr 1 19:08:06 2005

Lois Ellett
We saw Hem in Brighton - fantastic gig!
Tue Mar 29 17:37:43 2005

MP
Unbelievable - Hem are sheer class. Martha is very good but not in the Hem league. I cannot believe this review!
Fri Mar 25 20:42:52 2005

Jo Telling
Funny, I thought Martha Tilston was distinctly 'vin ordinaire' with cliched lyrics and sub-Judie Tzuke (yikes!) melodies.
Thu Mar 10 13:16:54 2005

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