Music review: Eddi Reader

With a career spanning four decades and an exquisitely attuned ear for rendering folk song, traditional verse and her own family history as vitally contemporary, on the opening night of her tour Eddi Reader channels everyone from Edith Piaf to Elvis, her talents as an arranger as evident as her rich, versatile vocals. Offering her mother’s party piece, Moon River, with mimed drink and cigarette in hand, she effortlessly holds the room.

Readers talents as an arranger were as evident as her rich, versatile vocals
Readers talents as an arranger were as evident as her rich, versatile vocals

Motherwell Concert Hall & Theatre, Motherwell ****

But it’s her own maternal heart murmurs on lilting lullaby Baby’s Boat that are truly affecting. Recalling busking in Glasgow with Your Cheatin’ Heart, and Paris with the sultrily rolled r’s of her lusty Piaf chanteusing, she harks back to 1980s London for her delightful pop hit Perfect, the ghost of Presley summoned for a swinging, rock ‘n’ roll finale.

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Drawn from her latest album, Cavalier, the expressive Old Song acclaims the healing freedom of performance. And she blows away a millennia of dust to pluck scribbled marginalia from the Book of Kells no less, her voice languidly purring through the feline grace of Pangur Bán and the Primrose Lass, backed by the gorgeous accordion of Alan Kelly. Keenly harmonising with Stephanie Geremia and support act Siobahn Miller, Maiden’s Lament is a backhanded tribute to men who’ve fought and the women that waited. Additionally supported by regular songwriting partner Boo Hewerdine and her husband, John Douglas of the Trashcan Sinatras, Reader’s love is obvious sharing the latter’s Wild Mountainside, her ethereal notes crystalline in their purity.

As has become customary though, her eye and girlish admiration is stolen by Robert Burns. And she caps a wonderful return to the live stage with an evocative A Man’s a Man for a’ That and Ae Fond Kiss.