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David Kidman of Netrythms

reviews Songs from the Derbyshire Coast by Keith Kendrick

Now this is a magnificent CD! Good ol Keith  hes even provided his own ready-made sales pitch in his note to its final track (a glorious rendition of our local pub-tradition carol Awake! Arise!): cram-packed full of wholesome goodness Ally-looyer!  And to me, that sums up the whole disc.

A fine and characterful singer with a rich timbre and well-developed sense of style, and one hell of a concertina player too, Keiths been around the scene for more years than many folkies careers are made of, and hes always reliably delivered the goods and more, casting fresh light on well-travelled material and having an unerring percipience in ferreting out the pick of the less-heard-but-highly-deserving repertoire (songs and tunes both). And hes got a great sense of humour, as the title and cod-thematic presentation of this new CD, his third for WildGoose, self-evidently demonstrates. Naturally the Derbyshire connection continues to be important to Keith, as does his interest in, and aptitude for, maritime music (songs and shanties). These two strands of his career are well represented here, as is the sheer strength and level of his research into, and understanding of, the tradition  and indeed, of the art and practice of singing in general. For even when hes singing a deeply serious song, theres a sparkle in his eye. Which brings me to another of the many really positive features of this disc: the obvious pleasure that Keith and his numerous collaborators derive from the act of music-making. The whole feel of the CD is much as though Keiths just got some of his best mates round to the studio for a sing and a play; though they be talented mates, they dont show off, instead theyre supporting rather than stifling Keiths own talent and personality. Take the harmony vocal contributions for a start.

First theres Sylvia Needham, whose intuitive, imaginative and supportive harmonies contribute so much to this singing partnership. Of the six tracks on which Sylvia appears, three are among the discs highlights for me: excellent duets with Keith including a fairly unusual take on Sally Free And Easy thats quite spine-tinglingly bitter and a truly beautiful rendition of Once I Courted A Damsel (originally from the singing of Joseph Taylor) that really exudes both singers pure pleasure in its singing and their feeling for the text. Its interesting to compare Sylvias creative (possibly more experimental?) approach to harmony with Lynne Herauds closer-following, parallelistic method (as heard here in her entrancing duet with Keith on the whaling song Coast Of Peru). Further vocal support for Keith comes from Tom Brown and Doug Bailey (shanty-chorus  dare I call em Kendricks Men?!), the four members of Derbyshire outfit Cross O Th Hands and Pat Turner, lending both weight and timbre to several tracks including the previously mentioned carol and a spirited hunting song.

Keiths choice of material is canny, for he always picks songs which are right for his own voice (therein lies a lesson for every singer!). In terms of real repertoire discoveries, though, there are two that stand out: firstly the rousing Sailors Prayer (eyup mduck!), which I suspect will soon be doing the rounds of the best singing sessions. And secondly Mike OConnors wonderfully evocative Summon Up The Sun, a superb Green Man song that I was privileged to be granted to sing by Mike a few years back (Id been wondering how long it would be before a professional singer got round to recording it!). As you can tell from the review thus far, the discs menu is versatile and well balanced with plenty of contrast in mood, pace and texture. Keiths lively interest in, and extensive practical experience of, playing music for dance isnt forgotten too, for not only does that sensibility come across in facets such as the sprightly morris-inflected rhythms of Keiths accompaniment to Bold Riley, but also the disc includes two wonderfully cheering instrumental tracks, the first (Turkish Quickstep) combining two versions of an insidiously catchy little piece by the obscure 18th century composer Karl Kotzwara, and the second a winning juxtaposition of Roman Reel and Polka Chinoise. These are performed by a strong and full scratch band that includes Keiths fellow-sessioners Ralph Jordan, Alice Jones, Micjael Beeke and the aforementioned CoTH. Everybody seems to want to join in on a fun rendition of Beulah Land, which rather conjures up visions of the whole ensemble joyously three-stepping through Disneyland (I jest of course!). Finally, praise for the discs attractive and enjoyable design, complete with Keiths wholly companionable notes which give an informed and thoroughly sensible perspective on the music and its performance. So to sum up: that obligatory namecheck for good old Bert notwithstanding, Id say this disc will give the listener un-ALLloyd pleasure!