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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Well Dressed by Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham

Well Dressed is the long awaited full CD debut of a rather special partnership that's been steadily growing in stature over the past five years.

A veritable Derbyshire legend, Keith already boasts a folk pedigree stretching back some way (Druids, Muckram Wakes, Ram's Bottom), and an invigorating reperŽtoire encompassing traditional and traditionŽally influenced contemporary song and shanties, but nowadays he's deservedly in demand both as a versatile solo performer and for his exceedingly engaging duo work with Yorkshire born Sylvia. Their teaming has been a fortuitous one, for they prove a truly complementary couple, in the musical as well as personal sense.

Keith and Sylvia are blessed with strong individual voices and a keen sense of togethŽerness: an innate personal empathy, which, allied to their intuitive and intelligent approach to harmony singing, is a real joy to experience, as is their penchant for warmly sharing their songs with listeners. And between them they're also fine exponents of the three different concertina systems (English, Anglo, duet). The aptly titled Well Dressed has turned out to be not only an excellent demonstration of the couple's strengths, but also a tantalising taster for their charismatic live appearances.

A cursory glance at the tracklist might conjure a hint of 'same old', but this is emphatically not what we encounter, either in the couple's treatments or in the specific variants of often familiar texts which they adopt. Sprig Of Thyme is probably the best Žknown of these, but its refreshingly simple a cappella harmonised setting here brings nothing but satisfaction, as does Turtle Dove (one of three songs recorded here in honour of the great John Langstaff). Banks Of The Nile is (unusually) briskly dispatched in bold 6/8 metre, while the surprisingly different versions of Shallow Brown and Turpin 'Ero are bound to delight. The disc's central secŽtion contains two standout renditions: a spec
tral Three Ravens and a beautifully poised revisit of Love Farewell. Proudly regional fare such as Six Jolly Miners, The Spire The Aspired, Uttoxeter Souling Song and Sarah Matthews' original Well Dressing Song receive vital, alert performances, as does Whitby Fisher Lad (done to the lovely melody by Sylvia's brother in law Peter Norman).

On the disc's only instrumental item a bracing pair of tunes from the repertoire of the WinŽster Morris Dancers Keith and Sylvia are joined by Jon Loomes, Bob Axford, Johnny Adams, Michael Beeke and Gilly Loomes; variŽous permutations of these musicians also proŽvide creative (and jolly) input on a few other tracks.

WildGoose's presentation is typically exemplary, with some rightly pointed comŽments spicing the wonderfully informative liner notes. This release is a triumph for both label and artists.