O’HOOLEY & TIDOW : THE HUM (No Masters)
Produced by Gerry Diver
‘Surely one of the albums of the year‘ **** The Guardian
‘defiant, robust, political, Northern, poetical folk music for the times we live in‘ Independent on Sunday
‘The new record is gorgeous‘ Lauren Laverne, 6 Music
Where The Fragile explored the vulnerable in our society; the frailty in human relationships, in the natural world and in the individual self, The Hum reveals the pulsing undercurrent of optimism, grit and mettle in migrating people, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised. This album stands tall in the face of deprivation, dictatorship, austerity and suppression, both here in the UK and globally. Belinda and Heidi’s desire to confront, explore, reflect and even celebrate is taken to a new level in every sense.
The Hum is not about musical prowess, rather it is a nest of ten songs crafted carefully over time by the duo, then further developed by the vivid imagination of Mercury nominated producer and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Diver (Sam Lee’s A Ground of its Own). Gerry’s yearning strings, inventive percussion, swooning guitars, autoharp, pedal steel and occasional dashes of electronica flow seamlessly around Belinda’s signature piano and accordion playing and their perfectly matched, distinctively unaffected, earthy voices, here, stronger than ever, with even more bold and striking harmonies.
Belinda and Heidi’s neighbour provided the initial inspiration for the title track and album opener The Hum. She told them how the sale of a nearby house had fallen though due to the buyers noticing the humming noise of the local factory. Her response was; ‘the sound of the factory gives me comfort, as it’s the sound of people working.’ The humming of this factory and the buzzing of the local bees connect a fragile eco-system, of both community and wildlife. And, like the pneumatic drill percussion loop in Ewan MacColl’s ode to the navvy; ‘Just a Note’, to the defiant, punky, feminist stance of Pussy Riot’s infamous protest against Putin in ‘Coil & Spring’ (co-written with Boff Whalley of Chumbawamba), each song thereafter explores a different aspect of the powerful hum of life, the hum of the people.
Belinda, Heidi and Gerry share an Irish immigrant background, with economic migration being one of the recurring themes in the duo’s music. Learned from the singing of Lal Waterson, Heidi’s breathy, yet soulful take on one of the album’s two covers, ‘Just a Note’ gives a glimpse into the lives of the navvies who built the M1, and the hardship of being away from their families. While self-penned ‘Come Down From The Moor’ is a stark look at how Ireland’s history of struggle and poverty continues, and how this connects with the music of its people. Belinda’s Irish father Seamus sums this up with a concluding recitation of Belinda and Heidi’s pertinent poem. The moving ‘Two Mothers’, partly inspired by the film ‘Oranges and Sunshine’ (Jim Loach) was initially written for Jackie Oates’s Lullabies tour, and tells the story of a woman, who as a baby was sent away from England to Australia as part of Britain’s controversial child migration scheme.
On first listen, the anthemic ‘Summat’s Brewin’’ sounds like a joyful celebration of the craft of real ale-making in their hometown of Huddersfield, referencing the traditional refrain of ‘Oh good ale, thou art my darling’. However, further listens betray the obsessive real ale anorak as a revolutionary, offering flavourful alternatives, stirring up, and bringing together communities to stand up against corporate domination and the destruction of the local British pub.
Belinda’s connection to folk icon Nic Jones as pianist and accordion player in his new trio, has lead to a dramatic and ‘atmospheric’ (Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2) reworking of Nic’s self penned song ‘Ruins by the Shore’. They have taken seriously Nic’s plea; that all covers of his works should challenge and rearrange rather than imitate, with Nic commenting that Belinda and Heidi’s version has ‘done him proud!’
The natural world is central to the duo’s songwriting; always running in parallel is the interaction of humans with animals and the environment; the contrasts, the connections. ‘Peculiar Brood’ is an intensely poignant look at suicide bombing from a mother’s perspective, using bird imagery, in part inspired by Hany Abu-Assadis’s 2005 film ‘Paradise Now’. This leads into the anti-war ‘Like Horses’, a compassionate Michael Morpurgo-style rumination on fear, gender and capitalism, with a plea for humans to be both gentle and strong, like horses. The album’s climax ‘Kitsune’ is a sensual, poetic, multi-layered portrayal of forbidden love. Initially inspired by Japanese folklore of the Kitsune; a fox who transforms into a human woman, with echoes of Jeanette Winterson’s unflinching Northern honesty, and references to the ongoing ostracising of foxes and asylum seekers.
Both lyrically and musically, Belinda and Heidi’s powerful, thought provoking and deeply moving songs are infused with an honesty and empathy that will disarm even the hardest of heart.
The Hum is a factory, is a mine, is a playground, is a hive, is a garden, is a school, is a village, is a choir, is a forest, is a town, is a person, is a group, is a heart, is a mind, is a voice, is the hum.