O’HOOLEY & TIDOW – Live At St George’s (No Masters NMCD55)

Live At St George'sWith immaculate timing Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow recorded this live concert in front of an enthusiastic audience in the former church of St George’s in Bristol just before the first lockdown began. Is it cynical to suggest that they held on to Live At St George’s until we were all desperate for new music? Of course it is, they wouldn’t do that.

The baker’s dozen of songs here are among those that are most important to the duo. They begin with Belinda’s big chords on the grand piano introducing ‘The Tallest Tree’, in which they imagine a robin seeing the world’s ills from her elevated vantage point. It was recorded in 2012 and nothing much has changed since. ‘Colne Valley Hearts’ is autobiographical with a bit of poetic licence and then we have ‘Small, Big Love’, written for their wedding by Kathryn Williams and Graham Hardy juxtaposed with ‘Two Mothers’ which predated that event when young Flynn was only a dream.

‘Beryl’ is about one of their heroines and ‘Ronnie’s Song’ and ‘The Hum’ are about people and places they know woven into stories which may or may not be true but does that really matter? ‘Between The Bars’ is one the darker songs from Summat’s Brewin’, the album which began as a celebration of craft beer and turned out quite differently. ‘All For Me Grog’ comes from the same source and Belinda and Heidi gave it a good going over at the time.

There is one new song, ‘Woman In Space’, a new perspective on woman’s place in the world while dropping names like Valentina Tereshkova and Rosa Parkes. There is a great deal of bitterness in these few words and I can see it being in their live set for a long time to come. Both ‘Blanket’ and ‘Like Horses’ refer to motherhood in their own ways, even though the former is about orphaned elephants. The final track is, inevitably, a rousing ‘Gentleman Jack’.

Live At St George’s is the essential O’Hooley & Tidow, just piano and two voices – with accordion and bells on one song – and both are in excellent voice. Credit must go to Phil Round and Neil Ferguson for the recording and mixing. Sadly, there isn’t much stage chat but had there been this would have to be a double CD!

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.ohooleyandtidow.com

‘Gentleman Jack’ (and Flynn) – live from Folk On Foot:

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