“We’re almost Status Quo now!” jokes Belinda O’Hooley on the release of fifth album Shadows.
A less likely comparison it’s hard to find for the Colne Valley duo, who are regularly viewed as leaders of the new folk movement. Wrestling traditional music into contemporary society for the last seven years, this is folk that questions cultural identity (‘Made In England’) and the child sex abuse scandals (‘Reapers’).
It’s also folk that updates traditional tracks, introducing selfies to the accordion-led sailors’ drinking song ‘All For Me Grog’, while deconstructing modern tracks, turning Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ into an acapella number.
In this respect they have more in common with Jackie Oates, who O’Hooley enjoyed a brief stint with in Rachel Unthank And The Winterset, and Kathryn Williams, who wrote a track for the duo’s wedding (the folk-blues ‘Small, Big Love’), than they do with finger in the ear folksters.
Shot through with humour, their tracks swing from baroque pop (‘The Needle And The Hand’) through to Victoria Wood-esque perky piano work (‘Beryl’) and neo-classical (the instrumental ‘The Dark Rolling Sea’).
Uniting the various styles is their powerful harmonies. Heidi Tidow’s huskier vocals add a smoky jazz quality to the like of ‘Blanket’ and lend emotional impact to the sweetly metaphorical ‘The Last Polar Bear’ (“What if you were the last polar bear? / And I was a small patch of snow”).
Covering two sets, the duo give every impression of performing to a group of friends. It’s this approachability and warm banter that helps make them such captivating a live act.