Rychard Carrington reports on O'Hooley & Tidow and Tracey Browne - The Junction, Cambridge, 19 November 2012

O'Hooley & Tidow
Junction 2, The

Our evening began well with a support set by singer-guitarist Tracey Browne, a former employee of The Junction indeed, but now a resident of Manchester, a member of Thea Gilmore's band and a promising, articulate songwriter whose set was deservedly very well received. In particular, Under The Radar and The Girl I Knew were first-rate numbers, potently delivered.


Five years ago I rashly described Rachel Unthank And The Winterset as 'the greatest folk band of all time'. Who, though, was the brightest star of that illustrious quartet? Was it not the jocular yet sophisticated pianist Belinda O'Hooley, whose distinctive influence is all over the Unthanks'  greatest album The Bairns? With respect to Rachel and Becky, I think it was. So woe was me in 2008 when I heard that Belinda was no longer in the band. Now, however, I'm all smiles again, having witnessed the continuation of O'Hooley's illustrious career in duo with her civil partner Heidi Tidow.


Mojo described their music as ''idiosyncratic and classic...plaintive, inviting, disquieting, mysterious, harmonic, austere, beautifiul, oblique ans sing-along". That doesn't leave me with a lot of adjectives left, does it, given that i am too scrupulous to plagiarise? For what it's worth, though, I agree with all of these descriptions.


Belinda's piano is central to the O'hooley and Tidow sound. It evokes Edwardian parlours, yet with a modernist undercurrent; poignant, nostalgic yet somewhat unsettling, it defines the character of the duo's unusual, hard-to-pin-down style, drawing on folk traditions, especially that of their own Irish families, yet quite without any bucolic rural aspirations. Next to the piano the most important contribution comes from the female voice, for both are gracefully powerful singers. O'Hooley also contributes occasional accordion. Both contribute articulate, sensitive songwriting, telling interesting themes of real lives, well away from  fashionable society. In fact, whereas O'Hooley and the Unthanks blended, perhaps tensely, diverse influences, O'Hooley and Tidow are complementary to each other through similarity of character.


The Yorkshire humour of their banter added to the musical distinctiveness and the lyrics' knowing humane concern. All in all an excellent performance.


[O'Hooley& Tidow will be playing Ely Folk Club next June.]


Writer: Rychard Carrington


Tracey Browne's website

O'Hooley & Tidow's website