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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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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.
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It has been five years since the release of Eddi's last studio album, the wonderful "Love Is The Way", but now she's back with a gorgeous album every bit the equal of her very best work, with a mixture of originals written with long-time collaborators Boo Hewerdine and "life partner" John Douglas, self-penned compositions and selected covers of songs dear to Eddi. "Vagabond" is nothing short of a pleasure to listen to from the very first note to the last, a sumptuous mixture of folk and hazy jazz, all adorned with the exquisite instrument that is Reader's peerless voice. Produced by Reader herself and recorded by Mark Freegard, it truly is a beautifully crafted album and is one of those records that transports the listener to a different place and gives you no other choice but to immerse yourself completely in the listening experience. This is an album for Sunday mornings, for taking with you to listen on long walks in the countryside, to snuggle up with a loved one and indulge in some pleasant conversation; simply put: it's gorgeous.

The first song on the album is an old jazz number, "I'll Never Be The Same" which is utterly gorgeous; the sadness of the lyrics being counterbalanced with a playful vocal delivery and Steve Hamilton's impeccably tasteful piano. It immediately sets a very high standard for the album to achieve and "Vagabond" seldom threatens to dip below this bar. "Back The Dogs (Dancing Down Rock)" is a delightful acoustic waltz, painting a colourful picture of her Grandmother's old home town, based on stories she used to tell Eddi, with Reader's voice aptly dancing over the top of guitars, strings and accordion. "Vagabond" is a pretty song, based on a Poem by John Masefield, but does sound like an amalgam of a couple of Boo Hewerdine songs I know well, even though Boo didn't write this one; I guess that's what happens when artists collaborate for a lengthy time together! The vague familiarity does nothing to spoil the enjoyment of the piece and it's the kind of song that will have you singing along with the chorus before the you've finished listening to it for the first time.

"Married To The Sea" is Eddi's arrangement of a particularly romantic Declan O'Rourke folk song, with a winding melody and captivating lyrics. "Edinah" is a deeply personal song, channelling her mother singing to her daughter who is trying to making it as a young artist in the music business. The lovely "Snowflakes In The Sun" captures the feelings of loss within a gentle, wistful jazz-influenced melody and "Baby's Boat" is based on a nineteenth century lullaby which Eddi first heard in the Robert De Niro film, "Awakenings" and is the minor key, but upbeat somehow jaunty, result of a jam with John and Boo, complete with a smoky clarinet part played by talented multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggern. Eddi informs us that "The Bard of Dundee", Michael Marra, is responsible for writing the appealing "Macushla (My Darling)", a song that sounds so familiar to me and yet I can't ever recall consciously hearing it. "Midnight In Paris 1979" sees Eddi reminiscing about a youthful trip to the French capital but, although this is obviously meaningful to her, it is sadly the most unremarkable and least focused composition on the album.

The inclusion of traditional song "Buain Na Rainich" has a fascinating story; Eddi was clearing out her recently departed Uncle James' home and found some dusty sheet music that he used to play from and picked out the top line of this particular song, marrying it with a waltz time and retaining the original Gaelic language lyrics. It's absolutely stunning in its beauty and is certainly one of my very favourite tracks on the album. "In Ma Ain Country" is a light, airy take on another traditional tune which is pleasant, if unspectacular, "Pray The Devil Back To Hell", composed with partner John, is a beauteous song, undulating and rippling like a Scottish stream and "Here Comes The Bells" trots along with a likeable melody and gentle pace. The final track is one of the jewels in the crown of "Vagabond", a song I know and love, Boo Hewerdine's "It's A Beautiful Night" which appeared on his most recent solo album, "God Bless The Pretty Things" (which is also highly recommended). It's a really lovely rendition; all acoustic guitars, accordions, brushed snares and steel guitars, with Eddi reading the emotion of the song perfectly; it's a superb end to an excellent release.

Of course, "Vagabond" isn't going to appeal to everybody. However, if you have previously bought an Eddi Reader album and enjoyed it, you're probably going to love this one. If you love folk and light jazz, again, I can't imagine why you wouldn't fall in love with the songs on this album. "Vagabond" is for people who appreciate lovingly crafted songwriting, who enjoy hearing great musicians coaxing the best and most apt performances out of their instruments, who understand the importance of subtlety and understatement. Of course, it is only February, but this is easily the best piece of work I've heard in 2014 and I am sure that it will remain one of my favourites of the year, regardless of whatever else follows. It is lovingly written and performed and is one of Reader's finest projects to date, one which will definitely be played and enjoyed over the coming weeks and years; I recommend it, enthusiastically.
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on 25 March 2014
I was a fan of Eddi Reader from her Mirmana and Fairground Attraction days and as such I find this collection distinctly unadventurous. OK apart from a couple of nauseatingly maudling tracks later in the album, most of the songs are pleasant without uprooting any trees. Eddi's voice is a joy to listen to as usual but she makes no attempt to emulate the range and versatility of earlier works. She has assembled a collection of competent musicians but apart from the occasional cameo, I'm guessing that they're playing well within their musical capabilities. So overall a middle of the road, easy on the ear, laid back album but I don't expect it to collect any awards for innovation.
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on 6 February 2014
Eddi Readers back with her best album for a long time. She and her band are on top top form. Beautiful lyrics and great music. I loved this album from the first play. I saw her about five years ago and she mentioned a new album then,but this is worth the wait.
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on 5 February 2014
I cannot compete with the in depth review below, agreeing wholeheartedly with it, but had to add my pennys worth.
I have bought two cds, one being a gift for another eddi reader fan, listened to the whole album several times and loved it.
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on 9 December 2014
Saw a review oft this artist and disc in a Scottish magazine I take so I thought I would try it. Fabulous. Eddi has a great voice and the songs just blew me away. Ten towards the jazz bt don't really fall into any real genre: that is what makes them stand out. This disc does not need to be categorised. If you like husky female singers you would find in city club this is for you.
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on 2 May 2014
Saw Eddi in November 2013 when the cd had just been finished then again in Glasgow in April. Two great concerts by a great performer with selections from this cd being performed. Purchesed this cd plus another older one after reading reviews on Amazon. Vagabond comprises a variety of tracks which are jazzy and folky sung by a fantastic vocalist backed by excellent musicians. Other reviewers have given full details of the tracks so I won't bother. There is something missing compared to the live concerts but it is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
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on 30 July 2014
Eddi Reader is my favourite female singer and this album is one of her best! Many of the songs are personal and she sings them in her usual inimitable style. I'm sure several of these songs will be successfully included in her live set and they will sit very comfortably alongside old favourites. Thanks so much, Eddi- you are a treasure!!
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on 7 April 2014
Eddie Reader never fails to emote and move with her work. Still cannot rate as highly as 'Mirmama' or Fairground Attractions 'First of a million kisses' they must in no doubt be classics by now. 'Vagabond' feels fresher and more in style with Readers earlier works and confirms to me again that here is one of Britains most outstanding vocalists. Simply listen and enjoy it's wonderful.
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on 13 March 2014
I heard Eddie being interviewed on Terry Wogan's Sunday morning show ,I must admit I had not heard of Eddie before ,I heard one track and immediately went on line to find the CD ,I have enjoyed it very much so recommend you give it a listen. better still add it to your collection.
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