Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham
One of the folk scene's most truly complementary couples, Keith and Sylvia can always be relied upon to provide top-drawer entertainment at their club and festival gigs, and they invariably give a good account of themselves on record too, as Shine On, their second album for WildGoose, amply demonstrates. Their repertoire consists of mainly English traditional and traditionally-influenced contemporary songs, with a sprinkling of dance tunes thrown in. As well as being excellent singers, Keith and Sylvia also possess considerable expertise on concertinas (between them they proudly embrace all three systems of that humble instrument - English, Anglo and Duet).
Keith and Sylvia bring to the songs and tunes they perform a wealth of experience on the folk scene: Derbyshire legend Keith's career already spans five decades (as soloist and in various bands), and his comparatively-recently-convened partnership with Yorkshire-born Sylvia (an uncommonly fine singer in her own right with a great ear for harmony) is one made in heaven. As you can hear throughout this faithfully-recorded and well-balanced menu.
The disc begins in suitably anthemic fashion with the thoughtful and compassionate title song, written by John Richards for the late Johnny Collins, self-styled pedlar of song and perennial favourite at song gatherings. Another stirring and thought-provoking anthem, I Am Christmas by John Conolly and Bill Meek, is used to bring the CD to a close. A first glance at the titles of these bookends, and you may be forgiven for expecting something of a Christmas-themed album, but although there are no "sweet chiming Christmas bells" on this occasion Father Christmas himself does make an out-of-season appearance (in Linda Woodroffe's deliciously fun imagining), whereas Sydney Carter's Standing In The Rain is a decidedly non-jolly offering that just happens to mention Christmas.
Between the (North and South) poles of the disc's above-mentioned bookends, we're treated to an invigorating parade of songs and tunes. A goodly proportion of these are done strictly a cappella in glorious harmony (in which regard Sylvia is especially creative); highlights include Giles Scroggins (from The Wanton Seed collection) and Bedlam (from The Crystal Spring collection), and their retelling of Roger Watson's story of The Christmas Hare, which is dispatched with considerable relish. Other particular successes come with Ian Robb's on-the-button political commentary Always Money For A War, Roger Watson's ode to a pit-pony Gilliver, and . Each of the duo is allocated a solo song too; Sylvia tackles Bonny Kate (another piece from The Wanton Seed), while Keith gives us Ian Smith's reworking of the Capstan Bar shanty. On the disc's three dance-sets, Keith and Sylvia are jauntily augmented by Pete Bullock, Tom Miller, Pierce Butler and Keith Holloway, who impart something of a jolly Flowers & Frolics/Duck Soup flavour to these tracks - a hoot indeed!
Shine On is a perfect calling-card for Keith and Sylvia and their robust, convivial music-making, and both their unbridled enthusiasm and their total enjoyment of their art shines on and through this silver disc. It's quite honestly a delight from start to finish, m'duck - whatever the season.