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Music Review

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Artist: Eddi Reader
Label: Reveal Records
RRP: £13.99
0 609224 287206
Release Date: 03 February 2014

Eddi Reader's new album, Vagabond, was recorded by Mark Freegard in Eddi's hometown of Glasgow with a cast of well chosen musicians and friends eager to play their part in this, most captivating, deeply personal yet universal sounding album. Vagabond was produced by Eddi Reader and features many of her long-term musical collaborators including: John Douglas (Trashcan Sinatras), Alan Kelly, Ian Carr, Ewen Vernal, Roy Dodds (Fairground Attraction), John McCusker and Boo Hewerdine...

I was surprised, out of the blue, to receive an email from Eddi Reader's publicist asking if we wanted to review her new album. I say surprised, because I haven't been followed Reader's career of late, but way back in the '90s, I was a bit of a fan of hers. In fact, I haven't heard anything of her's since her second album, 1994's Eddi Reader.

Back then I had been a fan of Fairground Attraction, and I was looking forward to the release of Eddie Reader. I was a student at the time and myself and a someone else on my course were both trying to save up enough money to buy the album on its release date. I just managed it (by missing an evening in the pub and cutting back on my consumption of Pot Noodle) and proudly announced to my friend that I'd picked it up. We both sat in that night with a few drinks and listened to the album together. First impressions were that it was a huge disappointment - as far removed from the Fairground Attraction style we'd come to love. My friend confided that she was glad she hadn't wasted her money on it. However, I persevered and listened to it again... some of the songs started to grow on me... and gradually I started to appreciate Reader's solo style. While the album was never a great favourite of mine, it was one that I enjoyed listening to from time to time.

So, when a copy of Vagabond plopped through the letterbox I geared myself up for a solid week of trying to get along with Reader's new material. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, while no doubt a deeply personal album, it's instantly accessible and I enjoyed almost every track on the first listen through.

The album contains 14 tracks (54 min). There's such a diversity of styles and genres here that it's almost impossibly not to find several tracks you'll instantly love.

From the beautiful 'Married to the Sea' to the jazzy 'Baby's Boat' the tracks are constantly shifting your view on Reader's range and style. 'Midnight in Paris 1979' Reader showcases a different side to her vocal talents, her voice is more breathy and her vocals a little deeper but it adds much to the song. But the next track, 'Buain Ná Rainich (Fairy Love Song)' sees Reader's voice change once again: softer and higher in pitch than her usual style. But, without a doubt, the title track, 'Vagabond', showcases Reader's voice at its best.

'Macushla (My Darling)' is Reader's take on the traditional 1910 Irish song. It reminded me very much of Charlie Landsborough's version of 'The Mountains of Mourne' (the lyrics to which were written in the early 20th century and set to the traditional Irish folk tune 'Carrigdonn'). So, I'm assuming that 'Macushla' was originally heavily inspired by 'Carrigdonn'.

At it's heart this is a folk album that will appeal to both fans of the genre as well as those that would usually shy away from it. That takes some skill: to spin a collection of cliquey folk tracks and give them a truly universal appeal.


Nick Smithson

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