Over the last few years, Yorkshire based duo, Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow have received many awards for their first two albums and their live performances and, having seen them at several Sark Folk Festival events, they have been well deserved, but this meant coming to their new album, The Hum, there was certainly a lot of expectation.
As the album kicks off with the title track its clear that O’Hooley & Tidow have further evolved since their last record, The Fragile, but that growth is all for the good. This album opener drops us right into the heart of what it is that folk music does best as it provides a voice for real people, which, in a world dominated by corporate media giants and the inanity of social media, is a refreshing and crucial thing to hear.
The growth element present across the record comes, largely, in the form of extra instrumentation. While both their previous releases had relied largely on the piano (and occasional accordion and guitar) along with the duo’s vocals, The Hum features a much broader musical palette with what sounds like a large number of traditionally folk instruments rubbing shoulders to create a real depth of sound – though this never outdoes what has made O’Hooley & Tidow what they are in the past but builds on it brilliantly.
Across the album the duo present a view of the breadth of human experience, from the link between motherhood and childhood to the need for a good ale, in a way that is hugely honest. While some musicians come across as trying too hard to reflect ‘real life’ here we see the world through the eyes of O’Hooley & Tidow in a way that certainly feels entirely genuine and, as a fan of punk rock, shows me the strong links between that genre and folk which is a greatly appealing factor (though the two are, obviously, sonically rather different).
Some of the duo’s songs also reference events from history but, unlike some other folk acts I’ve encountered, this never falls into the traps of nostalgia or pastiche but is used to reflect ideas and concepts that feel totally up to date, as the album proves that folk doesn’t have to be something stuck in the past but can be relevant and vibrant to modern life.
The Hum is a step forward for O’Hooley & Tidow and captures a very honest take on the world as seen from their perspective and has a feeling that is simply genuine and honest, backed up with a further developed sense of musicality which I’m sure was always there, but makes its presence felt more here.