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Clare Button of The Living Tradition

reviews Well Dressed by Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham

As depicted by the colourful album cover, the album's punchy title denotes dressing of the floral, village well rather than the Savile Row variety. That said, there is enough musical suavity and elegant vocal tailoring on here to suit any dedicated follower of folk.

The names Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham evoke quality, reassuring earthiness and that warm feeling that only something wellbrewed can bring. Each of them is equipped with a concertina, a solid, strong voice full of character and an infectious joy for traditional song. Their admirable keep it simple approach leads to deceptively rich textures of sound, as in the two shanties One More Day/Shallow Brown (not the one you think). Sylvia leads on the first shanty and Keith on the second, both with all the gusto and zest one would wish, backed ably by backing vocals from an assemblage including WildGoose's Doug Bailey himself.

True to the duo's roots, Derbyshire features strongly as the originating point or subject of many of the songs on here and of course an album with this title would not be complete without a well dressing song. Since, oddly, there were none composed before the 1970s, Sarah Matthews' charming recent composition has a deserved place more or less as the album's centrepiece. And if you don't know why Chesterfield spire is crooked, then you obviously haven't heard The Spire The Aspired...

If you like your larynxes hearty, your songs robust and ruddy and your wells well dressed, this is the gem for you.