If you’ve followed Belinda O’Hooley’s career you’ll be aware of what a fine musician she is and you will have noticed how her talents have grown and developed in the decade that she and Heidi Tidow have worked together. It’s a big step from lugging an electronic keyboard up folk club stairs to playing the Steinway in the Purcell Room, although Belinda and Heidi are sufficiently down to earth to still do the lugging when necessary. Incidentally, Heidi produced and recorded Inversions and provided backing vocals and the voice of the two spoken word pieces so she wasn’t far away.
It’s been quite a year for the duo with ‘Gentleman Jack’ playing in the nation’s living-rooms every Sunday evening and “Little Crumb” expected in October. It’s not surprising that Belinda has embarked on a solo project nor that it was recorded on her favourite piano in the Machynlleth Tabernacle but I have to say that some parts of the album are not what I was anticipating. The development of Inversions began with ‘The Bonny Boy’, which Belinda played at her father’s funeral in 2017. You couldn’t sing the song to Belinda’s development of the tune any more than you could sing ‘Skibbereen’ over Michael McGoldrick’s Uillean pipes but you could manage a verse or two of ‘The Hills Of Greenmore’
Inversions begins and ends with two accompanied poems. The closing piece, ‘My Father’s Reel’, is sometimes a biography of Belinda’s father, sometimes her autobiography and this is her voice we hear. It might be a good idea to play this track first before starting at the beginning – for me it provides a context for what has gone before. Three of the original compositions concern the couple’s love of hill walking – not in their native Yorkshire this time, but Snowdonia. ‘Felingerrig’ is one of Belinda’s more majestic compositions full of big chords, Heidi wrote ‘Aran Fawddwy’ for her favourite mountain and Belinda composed ‘Cadair Idris’, a piece that could have come straight out of Wagnerian opera but also gives us the sound of good Welsh rain.
Inversions is a fascinating album, full of unexpected twists and turns and one which will keep you engrossed for hours.
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Artist’s website: www.ohooleyandtidow.com
The Inversions documentary: