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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Well Dressed by Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham

I have known Keith and Sylvia personally for many years now but I promise to be as objective as I can in reviewing a couple of 'mates'! Having worked with Keith as part of our trio Three Sheets to the Wind I know only too well his innate musical ability and his ear for finely tuned harmonies. From the first track on this CD 'Banks of the Nile' it is clear that Keith and Sylvia have a knack of complimenting each others' voices superbly with close harmony singing.

A substantial part of the recording is a trilogy entitled 'Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll' which features 'The Riddle Song', 'Lover's Tasks' (sex) and 'Five Gallon Jar' (drugs). This section ends with rocking and rolling on board a sailing ship with interestingly different versions of two well known shanties from the singing of John Short the 'Watchet Shantyman' which are 'One More Day' and 'Shallow Brown'. The work of John Short is, of course, another project that Wild Goose studios is involved with and my reviews of which you'll find in previous editions of FolkNW.

The title track 'Well Dressing Song' celebrates that strange but colourful Derbyshire tradition in one of the very few songs associated with it. Sylvia gets to sing solo on very well performed versions of 'Three Ravens' and 'Whitby Fisherlad' with sensitive concertina backings. One of my favourite tracks is the poignant 'Love Farewell' rendered with empathy and a sensitive arrangement. In lighter mood is Ian Carter's 'The Spire the Aspired' which is all about Chesterfield church. I have a minor criticism with 'Sprig of Thyme' which is actually a woman's song but which opens with Keith singing the lead!

Understandably with Keith and Sylvia's competent concertina playing a few tunes are included in this album too. They have also enlisted the help of other fine musical talents including Bob Axford on guitar; Jon Loomes on hurdy gurdy, fiddle and upright piano; Gilly Loomes on cornet and hammered dulcimer; Michael Beeke on English pipes, whistle and tuba and Johnny Adams on piano, harmonium, melodeon, trombone and fiddle who also adds vocals on some of the tracks. In other words a veritable feast of musical variety. The album finishes with a lovely arrangement by Jon Loomes of 'Turtle Dove' a classic song from our wonderful English tradition.

As always from the Wild Goose stable the album is very professionally produced with comprehensive sleeve notes and some fine photography by Elly Lucas delightfully incorporated into the overall design by Hilary Bix. In fact I have to admit I was quite shocked by the photographs as I've never seen Keith so 'well dressed' before!!