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

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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Artists’ website: http://www.wildgoose.co.uk

‘Silver In The Stubble’ – live:

JIM CAUSLEY AND FRIENDS – I Am The Song (WildGoose Records WGS420CD)

I Am The SongYoung Jim Causley returns once more to the writing of his distinguished relative, Charles. I Am The Song, unlike the serious and sometimes mysterious Cyprus Well, is a collection of poetry written for children. As you might suppose many of the songs are quite short and Jim crams twenty-one of them onto the record. Equally, you might suppose that the poems are funny to the point of silliness and to an extent you would be correct but there are dark moments and the humour sometimes conceals a serious point.

The set opens with ‘Python On Piccolo’, a song about animals forming a band and typical of the surreal images in some of Charles’ poetry also represented by ‘Good Morning Mrs Croco-Do-Dile’, ‘Tabitha Tupper’ and ‘Mrs McPhee’. Next comes a bit of social observation in the shape of ‘Newlyn Buildings’ although the line “who had the top apartment no-one ever seemed to know” adds a frisson of mystery. ‘Here We Go Round The Roundhouse’ is a calendar song that will creep into the club repertoire before long I have no doubt.

Of the darker songs, ‘Lord Lovelace’ leads the way followed by ‘Lady Jane Grey’ and ‘A Mermaid At Zennor’, although Charles steers clear of being too explicit about the fate of the titular lady in the former or the churchwarden’s son in the latter. My personal favourite is ‘I Saw A Jolly Hunter’ which will make children laugh but says a lot about Charles’ views.

Jim’s accordion arrangements provide an appropriately jolly West Country lilt to the poems but he is exceptionally generous to his friends, notably Becki Driscoll and Nick Wyke, Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham and Mick Ryan who take a share of the lead vocals. Nick manages the most excruciatingly perfect flat notes on ‘The Money Came In’. Other players include Jeff Gillett who provides most of the finger-picked guitar, Matt Norman who plays various banjos and Mary Humphries and Anahata.

Charles Causley said that he could never decide which poems were for children and which for adults and this collection will prove that. The standard omission is ‘Timothy Winter’ which was included in the children’s collection but only because Jim recorded it on Cyprus Well. Buy this for the kids just before they grow out of nursery rhymes or buy it for yourselves because you’ll enjoy it too.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.jimcausley.co.uk

DEREK GIFFORD – Songs From The Past…Into The Future (WildGoose Records WGS412CD)

DEREK GIFFORD Songs From The Past Into The FutureIf you have spent any time in festival singarounds it’s pretty sure that you will have sung one of Derek Gifford’s tunes – the one he wrote for Keith Scowcroft’s poem, ‘When All Men Sing’. If you enjoyed those sessions and that song then you’ll love this album.

Oddly, there are none of Derek’s own compositions here. Other than two traditional songs – ‘Dives And Lazarus’ and ‘Bold Fisherman’ – this is collection of writers famous and (relatively) obscure, mostly British with one from across the Atlantic. The best songs, for me, are Pete Coe’s ‘Farewell To The Brine’ and ‘The Cocklers’ Song’ by Alan Bell. That said, Miles Wootton’s ‘Early One Evening’ is a piece of whimsy from bygone days that still resonates with beer-drinking men but oddly I’ve only heard it sung once in the last thirty-odd years.

The song that first caught my attention is ‘Songs They Used To Sing’ and I wondered, rather wickedly perhaps, if Derek sings it in post-modern ironic way or takes it seriously. Essentially the writer, Mike Bartram, is saying OK, I was never a sailor or farmer or a miner but those workers left us choruses we can sing and enjoy and that’s what we’re doing. I’d like to think that the singers appreciate the contradiction inherent in the song.

As usual with WildGoose recordings the production is clean and unfussy with Keith Kendrick’s concertinas, Gill Redmond’s cello and Paul Sartin’s oboe used sparingly. The chorus, including Tom and Barbara Brown, bridge the gap between studio and live although I think that Derek might be best served by recording in the latter environment. Perhaps a little more reverb next time.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

‘Spirit Of The Sea’ live at theRNLI Dungeness Memorial Concert:

TOM & BARBARA BROWN – Just Another Day… (Wild Goose WGS406CD)

JustAnotherDayOver the years Tom and Barbara Brown have become elder statespersons of the West Country folk music scene and have done so without ever forgetting what it was that drew them (and me for that matter) to traditional music in the first place. This is important as we will see.

Just Another Day… is a collection of songs connected with Minehead and if you think that concentrating on one small Somerset town is limiting you couldn’t be more wrong. Twelve of these songs were collected by Cecil Sharp from just two sources – retired sea captains Lewis and Vickery – and were unearthed by Tom and Barbara while researching the three records of Short Sharp Shanties, a collection of songs collected by Sharp from John Short of Watchet just along the coast. Incidentally, if you haven’t heard this marvellous set you should do so immediately, but I digress. The point is that you never know what you’ll find unless you look and listen.

The other three songs come from The Minehead Harbour Maritime Heritage Project and this is where the importance of knowledge, experience and, yes, status comes in. The opening track, ‘A Minehead Lad’, was written by Tom and Barbara for the project to illustrate the period around the Great War. Listen to it blind and you might say it came from the tradition; told you were wrong, you might hazard that Kipling had a hand in the lyric. For the final, title track, a song “from” World War II, Tom nicked the tune ‘Lili Marlene’– cheeky but with the ring of authenticity. You can’t fake that feeling for what is right.

The supporting musicians and singers are long-time friends: Anahata, Mary Eagle, Keith Kendrick, Barry Lister and Paul Sartin among them, and they play with the ease of experience and familiarity. You may recognise some of the titles but the versions will often be unfamiliar. Critics may call Just Another Day…old fashioned but that’s part of the joy of folk song. Here are choruses you can sing along with and stories to keep you enthralled – imagine, if you can, hearing ‘The Bonny Bunch O Roses O’ for the first time – and don’t say that a song like ‘Franklin’ isn’t relevant. Nearly 170 years on there are reports that one of the expedition’s ships has just been found. I’m sorry if this has turned into a seminar but Just Another Day…reminds me why I’ve been listening to this music for nearly fifty years and that’s more than enough to make me recommend it.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://www.umbermusic.co.uk/

Sadly, YouTube is not overflowing with videos of Tom & Barbara but we did find this:

KEITH KENDRICK & SYLVIA NEEDHAM – Well Dressed (Wild Goose Records WGS 387CD)

I count myself very lucky to work on occasions with Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham as members of the music ‘crew’ providing entertainment onboard HMS Warrior, Portsmouth. Many’s the times we’ve shared a good joke together whilst either singing or playing in an informal session and that comes across in this more than pleasurable recording. Both fine singers, Keith and Sylvia prove just as adept at accapella as they are in accompanying themselves in company with, amongst others Jon Loomes (hurdy gurdy, fiddle and piano), Johnny Adams (various instruments and vocals) and Gilly Loomes on cornet and hammered dulcimer. Continue reading KEITH KENDRICK & SYLVIA NEEDHAM – Well Dressed (Wild Goose Records WGS 387CD)