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Keith Kendrick portrait So far, I have only heard two albums featuring English folksinger Keith Kendrick but I was floored by them both, and am eagerly on the prowl for the others. (It's nice to have goals in life...) Kendrick, who hails from Derbyshire, is one of the finest exponents of British traditional song, and in particular of an odd corner of tricky, antiquated vocal harmonies that are quite arresting and distinctive. Kendrick started off in in the late 1960s with a short-lived but highly-regarded group called The Druids; over the decades he's been in a variety of bands and other partnerships and, like many traditionally-oriented artists, has made his music largely on the periphery of the music industry. His records are practically impossible to track down in the United States (thank you, Down Home Music! but well worth the search. Here's a quick look at his work...


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Discography

The Druids "Burnt Offering" (Argo, 1970) (LP)
An absolutely stunning acoustic-based traditional British/Celtic folk, with solid musicianship and beautiful group and harmony vocals. The band features vocalist Keith Kendrick anchoring a group chorus that achieves some truly distinctive, arresting harmonies, keening sounds in unusual combinations heard (as far as I know) only in the English countryside. Counterbalancing Kendick is the quintet's female lead, Judi Longden, who has one of those piercing, plaintive voices like Maddy Prior's -- indeed, this album reminds me quite a bit of Steeleye Span's best, most traditionally-oriented work of the early 1970s, except that the Druids album is much, much better, at least from a traditionalist's standpoint. There are no forays into rock or jazz, no clunky attempts at crossover-y relevance, just a solid set of delightful traditional songs, lively and lusty and delivered with great intelligence and charm, and Longden's stunning voice is better and more consistently framed than Prior's. The repertoire is of the same caliber as the performers, a beguiling parade of bawdy singalongs and unusual ballads... Highlights include the eerie "The Prickly Bush," sung from the standpoint of a man on the gallows, imploring the members of his family to save him, and the sailing song, "Our Captain Called All Hands." Of the many bawdy songs, some, like "The Cuckoo's Nest," are in code while others, such as "The Butcher And The Parson," are shockingly blunt. The most modern song is the wicked and witty "Salvation Army Band," which tells the tale of a lad led astray by a religious revival. All in all, this is one doozy of a disc and still sadly, sorely in need of reissue. Highly recommended!


The Druids "Pastime With Good Company" (Argo, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Kevin Daly)


The Druids/Various Artists "THE REDCOATS" (Argo, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Kevin Daly)

Music inspired by a book written by Lewis Winstock, Songs and Music of the Redcoats: A History of the War Music of the British Army 1642-1902... The Druids sing a few tunes, as well as balladeer Martyn Wyndham-Read, with other tracks performed by members of the Band of the Scots Guards...


The Druids/Various Artists "GILES FARNABY'S DREAM BAND" (Argo, 1973)
(Produced by Kevin Daly)


Ram's Bottom "The Young May Moon" (Tradition, 1981) (LP)


The Anchor Men "Nautical - But Nice!" (VOR, 1994)


Keith Kendrick & Lynne Heraud "Stars In My Crown" (Wild Goose Studios, 2000)
Two veteran performers of the UK folk scene join forces for a beautiful, moody set of ballads and chants. Heraud, who is apparently nicknamed "the Hertfordshire Nightingale," has a more classically "pretty" voice than many likeminded English trad singers; it's quite lovely heard in combination with Kendrick's throaty growl and a simple concertina accompaniment. The repertoire is also fascinating, ranging from morbidly bloody religious carols such as "Awake Awake (New Year's Carol)" to love ballads, historical songs and rousing anthems such as the title track. I love this sort of record, with its rich, rustic, minor key harmonies and the full weight of English history behind it -- fans of Martin Carthy or the Watersons should also enjoy this album quite a bit.


Keith Kendrick "Me 'Umble Lot" (VOR)


Keith Kendrick "Home Ground" (Fellside, 2000)


Keith Kendrick "Well Seasoned" (Wild Goose Studios, 2004)


The Anchor Men "All Tide Up" (Cock Robin Music, 1994)


Keith Kendrick "Songs From The Derbyshire Coast" (Wild Goose Studios)


Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham "Well Dressed" (Wild Goose Studios, 2012)




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