Much loved Yorkshire folk duo Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow have been propelled into newfound fame for penning the theme tune to Sally Wainwright’s hit BBC1/HBO drama Gentleman Jack, earning them global admiration, an acting role for Belinda on the iconic TV drama Happy Valley, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and concerts that sell out months in advance.
Belinda and Heidi’s boundless songwriting has been described by The Guardian as “exceptional” and The Independent as “defiant, robust, northern, poetical, political folk music for the times we live in”. Their first full studio album in seven years; Cloudheads delves into the mindscapes, passions and inner worlds of two highly individual autistic women; Belinda and Heidi. Moving, melodic, dramatic and tender, from stories of parenthood, the call of a song thrush, to a portrait of the last days of a touching relationship between their neighbour Matthew and his beloved Alsatian, Ted, and even a collaboration with Gentleman Jack herself, Suranne Jones on ‘The Ballad Of Anne And Ann’, they explore, consider and connect subjects and stories in a distinctive, inventive and memorable way.
Having the originality and skill to invite comparison with the most celebrated harmony duos, 6 Music’s Tom Robinson says ‘They sing together in the way families do. Normally, you only get that closeness in the voices with family bands like The Coppers or The Watersons.’
A note from Belinda & Heidi about Cloudheads.
We love this album. The brilliant Lucy Hanson designed the front cover for us and there is much to explore here. In her patchwork clouds, you will find references to the new album, plus past albums, a certain little boy and lots more.
In September 2022, we started recording our new album Cloudheads by meeting up with BAFTA winning actress Suranne Jones and her husband Laurence at Dean Street Studios in Soho. There, we spent the day recording our tribute to Anne Lister and Ann Walker; ‘The Ballad Of Anne & Ann’ with the pure voice of Suranne shining through the song. She has generously donated her fee for this to the Albert Kennedy Trust who support LGBTQI people who find themselves homeless.
In the time we had left at the end of recording the song, we managed to record four more piano pieces. We then headed to Peel House in Halifax to continue recording the album in a barn using Annie Lennox’s studio piano from her early Eurythmics days.
The piano is completely unique, with an amazing sound that we love. It brought a magical energy to the recording that we can’t wait to share with you.
Despite the barn being very cold, we loved having the space and solitude to immerse ourselves completely into the recording process. The songs reflect completely what our lives have been like since Flynn was born, being parents for the first time, the pandemic, where we live, and the strong women from history that have inspired and captivated us. Also, both being diagnosed as autistic brings a neurodivergent lens to this album as we accept and love the parts of ourselves that we have struggled with over the years and allowed our voices to shine.
We’re excited about the other musicians we’ve invited to play on the album. Our friend Anna Esslemont who wrote and performed such beautiful violin parts on our first two albums including the song ‘Gentleman Jack’ has written and performed all the string parts on Cloudheads. Her arrangements are so incredibly intuitive and emotional, we can’t wait for you to hear them. Belinda wrote the cello parts for our friend and BBC Philharmonic cellist Miriam Skinner and recording her up in the loft at our house, is a treasured memory. Chumbawamba’s Jude Abbott contributed beautiful and poignant Flugelhorn to ‘Chimneys, Moors And Me’, and ‘The Ballad Of Anne And Ann’.
The contemporary clarinettist Jack McNeill added atmosphere, disquiet and idiosyncratic brilliance to the album. Our mate Michele Stodart provided her unique, sensitive bass playing to many of the songs, adding electric and acoustic guitars and E-bow to some songs providing rich sonic textures that only her could think up. Hannah James from our feminist collective Coven spent a day with us playing accordion, singing and also providing feet percussion, all in our loft. She was a joy to behold.
And finally, the wonderful guitarist and singer Katie Spencer spent a day with us and brought her intuitive playing and quiet confidence to our album. It was a pleasure hearing her play, she is so talented.
Artists’ website: www.ohooleyandtidow.com
‘Cloudheads’ – official video:
01 HALIFAX Minster SOLD OUT
21 LIVERPOOL Philharmonic
22 MANCHESTER Hallé St Peters
06 BRISTOL St George’s
11 LONDON Cecil Sharp House
12 SOUTHAMPTON Turner Sims
26 SHEFFIELD Upper Chapel
27 NORTH SHIELDS Exchange Theatre