O’Hooley & Tidow – Live At St George’s: Album Review

O’Hooley & Tidow live at St George’s Bristol on the Gentlemen Jack tour, Making the most of the high profile attained by providing the theme song for the eponymous TV series. It’s Steinways and shopping bags in Bristol!

Release date: Available NOW!

Label: No Masters

Format: DL / CD

Don’t be drawn into thinking that one of our favourite duos are a ‘one-hit wonder’ though. There’s more to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow than Gentleman Jack. Much more to them than the ‘folk music’ tag they are often, erm, tagged with.

Serving as a sort of ‘best of’, a bit of doing the hits, and more. Packaged with a collection of images where on the inside cover takes a tongue in cheek view. The obligatory daft end of gig selfie and then the view from stage right where there’s a view of the front row with a carrier bag at the feet of one fan.

We’re presented with a set built on a philosophy (and perfect setlist planning) of make ’em laugh, make ’em cry. Point in case – Two Mothers, as fragile as paper-thin glass, majestic and heartstrings at the point of breaking when a shift of gear (see what we did there?) takes us to the song for cycling hero Beryl Burton.

It’s nice to see them dip into the songbook for a deeper cut in Ronnie’s Song reappearing from The Fragile. After several years of O’H&T watching, I don’t think I’ve ever heard them sing this. A perfect point in case of how songs can get a new lease of life. Aided very muchly by the Steinway richness.

Despite the beautiful instrument at her fingertips, the unaccompanied singing showcased within the first five minutes in The Tallest Tree is a highlight. As is what will be many people’s first hearing of a new song. Woman In Space opens with “I am the keeper of secrets, I keep my back to the wall” and hones in on a personal and philosophical bent. Plus some lovely tumbling piano after two and a half minutes (the countdown part) that could herald the “I stood stone-like at midnight” line from the Springsteen catalogue. Poignant and a reminder that you should go back to their work with the Coven collaborative. Never far from a mischievous moment, a diversion up the keyboard brings the song to a close – and why not when you have eight octaves to work with.

A nod to their album of songs with the drinking culture at the core comes with an off-mic All For Me Grog, kazoos and all. Yet for all the lighter moments, to quote from their new song, their work boldly shows a refusal to surrender. A grand (or ‘real’) way to celebrate a decade of music and merry-making.

Listen to (and join in with) Gentleman Jack from Downend Folk Club here

O’Hooley & Tidow online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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