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EDDIE READER "Sings the Songs of Robert Burns" RATRADEPR 097

The word is that this album sharply divides critical opinion, so I'll say right at the start I'm an Eddie fan, and indeed was part of the audience that gave her two standing ovations at the first "live" performance of the work, back in January, and have a fond memory of her on that same night going beyond the Burns programme to deliver a version of "Moon River" that was awesome in its perfection, and had me raving for weeks.

However, six months on, without the in-person charisma to carry the work through, the CD isn't so spellbinding. I'd say there was a majority of tracks that were very enjoyable, a lesser number that were quite seriously flawed but nevertheless well worth a listen, and a couple that were execrable.

The low points have to do with a delivery of the Scots language that make her sound like one of Ms Jean's "gerrrls", or as a friend put it, "you'd think she was from another part of the world, and had learned the songs phonetically without having any idea of what they mean". There's also a tendency to be idiosyncratic on pronunciation, particularly noticeable on words that end in -"ear", which come out e.g. like "Heaayur", or "Deaaur, and tampering with songs such as "Ae Fond Kiss" to replace "Thou first and fairest" with "My first - "is gauche, substituting the merely subjective in place of the absolute claim made in the correct version. Nitpicking? I don't think so - it's precisely the use of language that separates the poets from the rest of us.

It's additionally annoying in the light of the accompanying blurb which suggests that Eddie, as a recent convert to Burns is breathing a kiss of life into songs whose deeper meanings have been overlooked by previous interpreters, a claim which takes no cognisance of the many sensitive, nuanced versions of his works by a large number of singers from Gaughan to Paterson with many others in between, a fact of which this readership will be aware. Still. she didn't write the blurb, so mustn't sneeaayur.

And yet, and yet. the claim, in spite of what I've just said has some validity. On "Jamie Come Try me", Eddie as the supplicant young woman beseeching Jamie, reaches inside the song to express a level of longing that I've never heard anyone else get near, making intelligent use of her incredible use of her (4 octave) range, whilst "Wild Mountainside" is quintessentially Scottish and bonnily sung, and "Winter it is Past" also scales the heights.

So there you have it - it's not the album that it could've been, but on the other hand in spite of its flaws, she remains one of the most interesting singers around, and I'll be as keen to pick up her next release as I was this one

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.