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Vagabond is the one
on 9 February 2014
As good as those earlier records are (and they really are), Vagabond is the one I play and play and will continue to do so. There was just something that grabbed me. I thought it was the sense of maturity, much like a premium single malt, or perhaps the easy jazzy lit to some of the songs, the sublime arrangements and playing. Yet the more I listened, the more I started to feel that this was a deeply personal record for Eddi and all the more involving for it. Perhaps they all are, but this one seemed to be more about her taking stock of her life, her family, her music and career therein. Then there was that title…
Vagabond is defined both as wandering from place to place, being nomadic with no fixed home, but also living a carefree and easy come, easy go life. The title track uses a poem by John Masefield for the lyric, which neatly seems to bisect those two definitions.
There are familiar faces and new names gathered together. It’s Mark Freegard who has moved the metaphorical mountain, actually his Kyoti studio, to Eddi’s. Also Roy Dodds (Drums), Alan Kelly (accordion), Ian Carr (guitar), Ewan Vernal (bass), and John McCusker are all familiar names from Eddi’s recent records. Boo Hewerdine is of course involved and Declan O’Rourke once again makes the song writers selection. Newer names are Gustaf Ljundggern who has outstanding multi-instrumental skills and has worked with Boo’s State Of The Union and pianist Steve Hamilton.
The overall sound is quite lush and that adds to that feeling of maturity. It’s a grown up sound that isn’t afraid to delve into a classic palate, but benefits from impeccable taste, borrowing only what is worth preserving. Add some absolutely fantastic playing, as the orchestration shimmers with really clever use of pedal and lap steel guitars, there are little details, a line picked out by accordion, guitar, piano, even mandolin and ukulele that suddenly take the attention. Every track sparkles instrumentally in one way or another. Above all it’s the vocal performances – Eddi has never sounded better but the ensemble’s voices are used brilliantly throughout – luxuriant, like crushed velvet, with the odd cheeky twist such as Macushla (My Darling).
The CD ends in the same relaxed style, but with a trio of songs that all have an upbeat message. Pray The Devil Back To Hell is about defeating your inner demons, built around a blue note piano line that picks out the title. Here Comes The Bells, is dedicated to her friend, the musician, Phil Cunningham, who by inviting Eddi to perform with him at Christmas has brought the season to life again. The closer, It’s A Beautiful Night, is about seizing the moment. It’s a song written by Boo Hewerdine, whose collaboration with Eddi down the years have created some memorable moments and this is another.
It’s 25 years since Fairground Attraction first hit the heights, but to borrow from them and joining up Eddi’s past with a song she still plays live, “Too many people take second best, but I won’t take anything less, it’s got to be, yeah, perfect.” I’m not going to tell you that Vagabond is, but for me it gets close enough not to mind the gap.