One thing certain when attending an O’Hooley and Tidow show is that you leave informed, entertained and very much aware why they are gathering a deserved reputation as one of the most vibrant duos on the British folk circuit. Whether it’s their skilled approach to mastering the art of storytelling by song, harnessing their vocal talents in harmonious unison or sharing their exuberant personalities in an affable way, this acclaimed Yorkshire couple have hit the jackpot with both their recorded material and live presence.
Okay the jackpot this evening may have been 50 people in a rural community centre but folk music is all about reaching out to the people and there is little doubt that Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow could do this 365 days a year should energies permit such is the demand. BBC Radio 2 folk award nominations have begun to be accumulated and their latest industry nod has been on the back of a fine release last year titled THE HUM. As expected tracks from this album featured prominently in this show which followed a pair of sets straddling a break with the second one being slightly longer in touching the hour.
The clock had barely struck eight before the two ladies strode onto stage, dressed in black and moved straight into this album’s title track following a brief explanation of its origins from a factory in their home village. This followed a constant theme throughout the evening with very few songs not being honoured with a detailed description of its background. Musically the duo relies solely on Belinda’s keyboard playing but the act is probably more defined by the vocal interaction. The set list was just two songs in when Heidi and Belinda stepped off mic to deliver a version of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ and ‘Banjolo’, a song they also recorded on their 2010 debut album SILENT JUNE.
The style of Belinda and Heidi sways from straight forward ballads such as the impressive ‘Two Mothers’ inspired by the film Oranges and Sunshine chronicling forced child migration in the 60’s, to jolly up tempo standard folk ditties best exemplified by the drinking song ‘Summat’s Brewin’’ and the singalong pre-encore closer ‘Gentleman Jack’. Of course these songs were granted informed intros with the good folk of Broseley learning of nineteenth century diarist Anne Lister’s slightly off beat lifestyle. This last song was probably the ladies most successful attempt at enlisting audience vocal participation.
Politically you don’t need to spend too long to figure where Belinda and Heidi position themselves with acknowledgement of Tony Benn to introduce the anti-war song ‘Like a Horse’, using animal imagery on their take of the banking crisis in ‘The Tallest Tree’ and honouring Ewan McColl by covering his song ‘Just a Note’. This written piece was based on the experience of migrant labour workers building the M1 motorway and contrasted with the repeated theme of animal imagery, also the topic of the Japanese inspired song ‘Kitsune’.
Getting to know the duo was an easy aspect of the audience experience and by the time the evening closed with ‘Too Old To Dream’ we were particularly informed of Belinda’s day job for 19 years prior to giving this music game a crack full time. However recounting all the snippets, sound bites and slices of folk music education is far too numerous for a review painting a pictorial overview and like all live music it’s best experienced in the first person.The Birchmeadow Centre has wisely booked Belinda and Heidi on three separate occasions and it’s pretty sure the other two nights were as good as this.