Eddi Reader,
(Compass, 2007)

Eddi Reader is probably one of the most underrated performers in the modern folk tradition. Her voice is superb, her choice of material unsurpassed and her performance will enthrall.

This album of 15 tracks is a treasure for both the fan and the person discovering her for the first time. In fact, it could almost be reviewed as a super-group recording, such is the calibre of those contributing.

From the opening track, with the witty coupling of "Baron's Heir" with the tune "Sadenia's Air," you will know what to expect -- and Reader will deliver. Her choice in the almost obligatory "fair maid chasing a soldier" song is the lesser-known "Mary & the Soldier." One wonders why it is not better known; we can but hope that Eddi will bring it a much wider audience. As ever, the break into the instrumental bridge will raise the hairs on your neck.

I first became aware of Eddi Reader on a CD of her interpretation of the songs of Robbie Burns. On this album, her voice reminds us how suited she is to the master songwriter of his era with "Aye Waukin-O." She tells us in the excellent notes that the title means "Always Awake." There endeth the Scots lesson for today.

Jumping right up to date, she performs John Douglas's lovely "Prisons." "The Shepherd's Song" opens with a beautifully arranged and played brass intro reminding us of a time when brass bands were the music of the people.

One of the deepest songs on offer is the fabulous "Should I Pray?" She follows this with a lovely nature song describing the joy of a river, "The Afton," despite modern blights. Weaving the history of Burns with the stories of the modern world, she brings us a sad but in some ways very inspiring "Safe as Houses," written at the time of the London bombings of July 7. The title track is another wonderful evocation of hope. Reader gives a lovely interpretation of "The Calton Weaver" and follows it with a bonus track called "Ontario."

Peacetime is an album worth seeking out even if it has been out for a few years.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

8 October 2011

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