KEITH KENDRICK & SYLVIA NEEDHAM – Shine On (WildGoose WGS 423 CD)

Shine OnIf you like your folk music robust and uncluttered, you probably have, in your collection, at least one album by Keith Kendrick and his partner Sylvia Needham. Shine On is very much a reflection of their live act; a mixture of traditional and written songs by friends old and new, with three instrumental sets thrown in, reflecting Keith’s ceilidh band heritage.

The title track is written by John Richards, originally for the late Johnny Collins to sing, and deals with the struggle against alcoholism, not the most cheerful subject to begin with but it certainly makes you sit up and take notice. Keith and Sylvia follow this with ‘Jack-In-The-Box/March Bluebeard’ which Keith originally recorded with Ram’s Bottom (and that was a long time ago) and ‘The Christmas Hare’ by old friend Roger Watson. Songs like this allow the duo to give their Derbyshire accents free rein – usually it’s just the occasional flattened vowel that gives them away.

There are two songs by Sydney Carter; ‘Silver In The Stubble’, which is reflection on the aging process and the wonderful and cutting ‘Standing In The Rain’. I should have said that a certain Christmassy motif runs through the record – perfect for next winter’s mix-tape. A new friend is Linda Woodruff who writes songs tinged with humour like ‘Finest Captain On The Sea’ and ‘Father Christmas’ which explains how St. Nicholas spends spring and summer dancing Morris in Derbyshire. Of course he does.

There are more serious songs, of course: ‘Bedlam’ and ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, for example, and also ‘Bonny Kate’ and ‘Giles Scroggins’ from the tradition and the biting political ‘Always Money For A War’ by Ian Robb. Supporting the duo’s concertinas (and Sylvia’s banjo) are members of ceilidh band BandAnglo – Pete Bullock, Tom Miller, Keith Holloway and Pierce Butler – to give ‘Tip-Top Polka’ a bit of extra welly but Keith and Sylvia don’t really need much help.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Silver In The Stubble’ – live: