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Summat Brewin' at the Sportsman

What a great idea: Two real ale-loving musicians record an album of songs about drinking, then arrange a tour of real ale pubs and venues to promote the aforesaid album.

Well, when your blog is called 'Real Ale, Real Music', you just have to check it out!

And so, that is why I was at the Sportsman in Huddersfield last night for the album launch of 'Summat's Brewing'. Well, not only for that. I have been enjoying the excellent music of Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow for a few years now, going back to pre-blog days, and it was a great opportunity to get to see them again. Sadly, Tara and Elaine, from local brewers Mallinsons, who had lent their support to the project, were unable to attend on the evening.

I got to the Sportsman just before 8, genial landlord John advised the bar would be closed during the performances. So, I grabbed a quick pint of Ringmaster, just as Boff Whalley, late of Chumbawamba started.  And enjoyable he was. Quirky and witty songs involved hitting out at targets like the Establishment, the US, and Metallica's James Hetfield, who, apparently was the only musician who didn't object to the use of his music as part of the aural torture of internees at Guantanamo Bay. He also covered social media, his song 'Add Me', about a social misfit trying to find friends on Facebook, having the fantastic chorus 'Add me, add me, my mother says she wished never 'ad me'.

Boff left, to much applause, another pint bought, then on came O'Hooley and Tidow. 

These are two musicians at the top of their game, I've seen them 3 times in just over 18 months, and this time they were even better than last. They usually come over as pretty relaxed, but I sensed they were even more so this time because they were in their favourite pub, close to their home in Golcar, and amongst friends and fans. They are superb musicians both, but Belinda's keyboard skills are phenomenal.

They went through songs from the 'Summat's Brewing' album, which they had recorded at home, and which was being launched in Huddersfield. This is an album that looks at drinking as part of our culture, so whilst it includes traditional drinking/rugby songs like '3 Drunken Maidens', it also includes more reflective songs like 'Between the Bars', by the sadly-underrated late singer-songwriter Elliot Smith, plus others from Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III. 

We had 'The Wild Rover', an adapted version of 'All for Me Grog', and as they said, they were aiming to reflect the social aspects and impacts of drinking within our society, from partying to hangovers to alcoholism. We had the odd sing-along, were treated to a kazoo duet ('our attempt to get a BBC Radio 2 folk musician of the year award'), and with good-natured banter and stories between each song 2 hours just sped by.

Interspersed were songs from earlier albums. 'Gentleman Jack' from 'The Fragile' went down well, as did several songs from 'The Hum', their ground-breaking last album: 'Two Mothers', 'Like Horses', and of course, 'Summat's Brewing. They also played the title track from 'The Hum' and introduced us to their neighbour, whose comment about liking the hum from the local factory because it meant people were working was its inspiration.

And that's the thing. O'Hooley and Tidow are on the cusp of greater recognition and yet are still very close to their roots. They are lovely down to earth people, and this evening when their warmth and talent spilled out, the mix of brilliance and humility emphasised why they deserve to go far. If you get chance to see them, don't hesitate. You will have a cracking time!

They have made a short film about the making of the album and the motivation behind it, which sums it all up far better than I can, gives a great introduction to their music, and is well worth watching....

More information:

O'Hooley & Tidow are playing dates up and down the country over the next few months. Visit for details.
'Summat's Brewin', the album, is a limited release, available at gigs or via the O'Hooley and Tidow mailing list.
The Sportsman is at 1, St John's Road, Huddersfield, HD1 5AY. It is listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, features up to 8 real ales and 2 real ciders, and is open everyday from 12-11, except Fridays and Saturdays when the hours are 11-12. 


  1. Great blog Chris, I'm really glad you had a good evening. Hope to see you at The Sportsman again soon,

    1. Hi, John, thanks for the kind words. See you soon - enjoyed the beer and pizza slices!


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