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Sleeve Notes for Well Dressed by Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham

Well DressedKeith and Sylvia sing mainly English traditional and traditionally influenced contemporary songs and work extensively all over the UK, Europe and beyond with collectively over 80 years performing experience (and neither yet walks with a stick!).

Both have a very wide ranging repertoire, strong voices and uncannily compatible and complimentary styles of delivery, affording an exciting enhancement in duo and between them produce a striking acapella harmony sound. They also frequently accompany themselves and play lively dance tunes on three different systems of the only English invented musical instrument – the Concertina. And when they’re not doing that you’ll probably find them in nearest charity shop!

The Ensemble:
Keith Kendrick: Vocals, English and Anglo German Concertinas
Sylvia Needham: Vocals, McCann Duet Concertina
Bob Axford: Guitar  
Jon Loomes: Hurdy Gurdy, Fiddle, Upright Piano  
Michael Beeke: English Pipes, Whistle, Tuba  
Johnny Adams: Vocals, Piano, Harmonium, Melodeon, Trombone, Fiddle  
Gilly Loomes: Cornet, Hammered Dulcimer


“....breathtaking harmony work that leaves the listener gasping........- Jane Kremer and Dave Thomas - The Folk Mag

“…'Once I courted a Damsel', derived from a fragment of Joseph Taylor's singing, is Keith and Sylvia at their very best - unaccompanied, well thought out and together in splendid harmony, a model of how to sing a traditional English song.”  - Pete Wood - EDS

“....Sally Free and Easy deserves a special mention. Keith sings this song in harmony with Sylvia Needham. Their voices blend and compliment each other's, capturing the anger and despair of this Cyril Tawney song to perfection. It is unquestionably, the best interpretation that I have ever heard of this song.”  - Ken Hinchliffe – What’s Afoot

Track Notes

1 Banks of the Nile
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

Refers to the Battle of Abukir Bay (at the mouth of the Nile) 1798. Believed to have been written about one single incident – but we know it happened more than once! The tradition has thrown up many a good version of this song since then. This one, which I found too many years ago now in Peter Kennedy’s ‘Folk Songs of Britain & Ireland’ is arbitrarily, (it has to be said), my favourite. N.B., The reference to ‘Blacks and Heathens’ is merely an historic piece of vernacular of the time and does not reflect in any way our personal take on such issues.

2 Turpin ‘Ero
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

Or – Ear ‘ole as I usually call it! A great version of this song chronicling the life, antics and eventual demise of Richard (Dick) Turpin - the vicious old English thug and highwayman. Learned from the wonderful singing of another of my all-time heroes - the great, Roy Harris.

3 Jolly Bacchus
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham/Axford)

Apparently, old Bacchus was the Roman God of wine, leisure and pleasure – by Guyney; he must have known how to rock! We think the melody is a Swedish dance tune and we found the lyrics in a book by Richard & Tish Stubbs called ‘The English Folksinger’ – loads of good stuff in there!

4 The Riddle Song/Lovers’ Tasks (Sex)
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

Here, segued together are two of three songs on this collection to honour and celebrate the life and work of John Langstaff (Google him, it’s worth it!) who championed the cause of English traditional music across America for close to six decades through his mammoth work in schools and with his Christmas Revels theatrical productions, which now run annually in 10 cities across North America. Started in Washington, these Grande events were so popular they became a duplicated phenomenon all over the US, all running in tandem at Christmas Season for decades and are still rolling! The shows were a massive undertaking with a gigantic cast, made up of young school children, an adult chorus, Morris and sword dancers, renaissance/medieval musicians and special ethnic players, (varying from script to script and city to city), and others from the local community. They frequently employed some of the great names of the day from the UK like Norman Kennedy, Margaret Bennett, Ron Smedley, Bob Parker, Alasdair Fraser and Shay Black. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1920, by the time he was 11, John was a celebrated choir-boy soloist in oratorio and sacred music concerts around New York, and later a classical baritone . But the watershed event in this history was when John changed schools at age 13 to a private school in Brooklyn, whose Headmistress was Carol Preston -- the most important totally unknown name in this history. By sheer accident, she was the house-mate of May Gadd, already the Director of the American Branch of EFDSS, which a few years later became the Country Dance and Song Society of America (CDSS). Ms. Preston was already deep into the traditions of song and dance and spotted John's talent and interest. In 1935 she took him to the White Top Festival in North Carolina where John heard and witnessed the real tradition in the flesh. It totally changed his life, and thus the lives of countless others. Later, John met Maud Karpeles and Douglas Kennedy during his five years in the UK working for the BBC. He also recorded an album of traditional songs at Abbey Road under the production of a young George Martin - way before the Beatles were even heard of....;-) Ralph Vaughan Williams was a friend who frequently used John’s recordings to illustrate his lectures. John tragically died about a year after we met him at Pinewoods Camp, Cape Cod in 2005 just before his 85th birthday. He had the most amazing voice, a very open and inclusive personality and had a very special way of bringing traditional songs to life through his unique interpretations. A truly great, GREAT man.

5 Five Gallon Jar (Drugs)
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

A song about how dope could be used to shanghai unsuspecting carousers around the ports into a stressful life on the ocean wave! Mr & Mrs Marr clearly have a lot to answer for!..We got it many years ago from the singing of the ‘Bolton Bullfrog’ – the inimitable Bernard Wrigley.

6 One More Day/Shallow Brown
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

Here are two great early versions of these already very popular shanties from the repertoire of John Short, the famous ‘Watchet Shanty Man’. Also known as ‘Yankee Jack’, he led shanties throughout the hay day of sail across the mid to late 1800s while mainly sailing the Americas and was collected by Cecil Sharp and Sir Richard Terry in the early 1900s.

7 Well Dressing Song
(Sarah Matthews, Arr. Kendrick Needham)

This is one of only two songs we are aware of that celebrate or even mention the age old custom of well-dressing in Derbyshire (and, of course, elsewhere in England). No-one knows how long ago people began dressing wells as an acknowledgement to the Earth for the constant supply of fresh spring water to her communities but, it was certainly before Christianity became associated with it. Puzzling then, that no-one was ever moved to dedicate any music or to write any songs to accompany/support the ritual? Until, that is, Andrew Train in the seventies, wrote: The 5 Wells: about the Tissington W.D. event and of course our dear and talented friend Sarah Matthews penned this one as part of the Mills & Chimneys song-writing project commissioned by Derbyshire Libraries in 2009. We think it’s rather special.

8 Three Ravens
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

We were inspired to include this in our repertoire after hearing it sung by Julie Preen just a few years ago in Leicester. She told us she found it in Bronson’s Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballad so, that’s where we went to find it but ended up doing the version next to it which is slightly different in the melody and which, delightfully, originates from Derbyshire.

9 Love Farewell
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

Way back in 1972 Argo Records brought together The Druids, Martyn Wyndham Read, Jim Younger, The London Tinkers and Vin Garbutt to produce an LP recording called ‘Songs & Music of the Redcoats’ as an audio accompaniment to a book of the same name by Louis Winstock. This was an excellently researched collection of songs that the actual soldiers themselves sang as opposed to ‘just songs about soldiers’. ‘Love Farewell’ is a great example. Mick Hennessy sang on the original track and I’ve been singing it ever since. John Tams also recorded a wonderful version with ‘The Band of the Rifles’ prior to Christmas 2008 to help to raise money for the ‘Help For Heroes’ charity – and very nearly made the British Charts with it...nice one Tam...

10 The Spire the Aspired
(Ian Carter, Arr. Kendrick/Needham/Carter/Adams)

This is a song that was destined to be on Muckram Wakes version III’s first LP back in 1983 had we not disbanded before we had a chance to record it! It was written by Ian Carter who went in search of the truth about how Chesterfield’s crooked spire came to be in such a state....and here it is......

11 Sprig of Thyme
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

I dread to think on how long I’ve been singing this song – it’s one of my all time favourites from one of my all time favourite singers: the unbeatable Joseph Taylor of Saxby-All-Saints in Lincolnshire. What I wouldn’t give to have met him!

12 Blue-eyed Stranger/Joe Pea’s
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

Two tunes from the repertoire of the ‘Winster Morris Dancers’, for whom Sylvia and I are musicians. Blue Eyed Stranger is a kind of Jigged-up version of ‘Shave the Donkey’ (more commonly played as a hornpipe or schottische – but which came first...the Chicken or the Donkey?). Joe Pea’s is a dance written in honour of Joe P Raines (upon his death) who was once the greengrocer in Winster (hence the mischievous mis-spelling) and also a long standing member of, and musician for, the side. The tune for this (also originally entitled: The Blue Eyed Stranger) was in fact hi-jacked from the nearby village of Wensley and matched up to the dance.

13 Whitby Fisher Lad
(Anon. Melody. Peter Norman, Arr. Needham/Adams)

The text for this is to be found in Holroyd’s Yorkshire Ballads. This particular setting, which has been with Sylvia for many years, comes from her brother-in-law Peter Norman (himself a fine and creative singer/guitarist from Dewsbury). It’s a clever tune we think because it flexes itself beautifully for the changing moods in the story line.

14 Uttoxeter Souling Song
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham/Adams)

My first performance of this song was, if I remember correctly, with Muckram Wakes back in the early 80’s. It was discovered, I believe, by Derbyshire folk living legend Roger Watson who kindly gave it to us. Particularly delighted then to have me old mucker John Adams (who sang it with me in MW) returning to put his old bass line on for us here.

15 Six Jolly Miners
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham)

This is a throwback from Ram’s Bottom days when we were all more about fun than professional correctness...:-) Originating from the mining areas at the borders of Derbyshire and Yorkshire where, from the structure of the lyrics and the shenanigans at the end (which are entirely traditionally legit), they really knew how to have a good time once they got to the pub – holey trousers, clogs, black faces an’orl!! For the record; the little rowdy song at the end is, in this instance, dedicated to current head of the BBC Regional and Local programmes Stuart Thomas, who, it seems almost single handedly orchestrated and executed the removal of practically all the specialist music programmes from BBC local Radio across the UK in 2010 without compunction and ‘seemingly’ GOT AWAY WITH IT!....we’ll see....

16 Turtle Dove (Ten Thousand Miles)
(Trad. Arr. Kendrick/Needham/Loomes)

And finally, another great song that came to us from the great afore-mentioned, John (Jack – to his friends) Langstaff. We simply love this version to bits...and Jack’s interpretation too, from which we have unashamedly taken inspiration.