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A new album from Eddi Reader, a celebration of song and of singing that is as wide and deep as you might expect from someone with a back catalogue like she has. Recorded in Glasgow just over a year ago and featuring musicians who were in town for Celtic Connections, Vagabond is imbued with a wonderfully relaxed air, the sound of musicians enjoying where the song takes them.
Above all, this is a fantastically eclectic collection of songs: traditional Gaelic, traditional Scots, modern gems from the likes of Declan O’Rourke and Michael Marra, popular song from the 1930s, a few originals….it’s all meat and drink to Eddi Reader’s muse as she invites us to join her in her love of song. On the sleeve liner, she provides pretty extensive notes for each song – something about the song itself and something about the way they approached it in the studio – which add enormously to the pleasure of the music. Everything springs from a context and it seems a good thing if we, the audience, get some clues about where the artist is coming from.
The core band consists of Ewen Vernal on double bass, Alan Kelly on accordion, Boo Hewerdine and Ian Carr on guitars and John Douglas of The Trashcan Sinatras (many and varied contributions!). Guest appearances abound from many famous pals and the vibe is predominantly that of a wheezy, relaxed, slightly theatrical house band. Different flavours emerge with different arrangements; Married To The Sea, for example, has a beautiful, dreamy clarity to it as we drift away across the broad blue ocean in our minds, whilst In Ma Ain Country gets the most decidedly folk sound. There’s all-star support on this song from Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick and John McCusker and they collectively weave a bit of magic, whisking us away to a heather-clad hillside. My favourite track of all is the title song, a setting of a poem by John Masefield which works nigh on perfectly for me, a distillation of human dignity in the face of the enduring mystery of life.
A little bit of folk here, a bit of jazz there, but when it comes to it, this is all about Eddi Reader’s wonderful way with a song. She sounds so laid back and easy but she’s always in complete control of where she’s going with the song and it’s a pleasure to listen to her artistry. The sessions from which this album emerged apparently produced enough material for a second album, which will no doubt appear somewhere down the line. For now, though, we have fourteen fresh songs, nearly an hour of hugely enjoyable music from one of Scotland’s greatest musical talents.

John Davy

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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