Eddi Reader - Love is the Way
Record Label: Rough Trade Records
Release Date: April 21, 2009 (U.S) April 14, 2009 (U.K.)
Unlike most of the artists and bands profiled on this site, Scottish singer/songwriter Eddi Reader isn't exactly new. In August of this year, she'll turn 50. But that doesn't mean she's not hip. Later this year she'll star in the period-drama Me and Orson Welles, directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly) and starring Zac Efron and Claire Danes. For most of her career, she has grabbed good press and widespread acclaim, mostly in the UK, where her work in the 80s folk band Fairground Attraction landed them a number one single "Perfect," and her decade long work as a solo performer has netted many British music awards and a devoted fanbase.
In April of this year, she released her ninth studio album Love is the Way, an amiable disc of folk-pop that fuses jazz, cabaret, vaudeville and blues into an arresting and praiseworthy gem. Not bad for an album that was never really meant to happen. According to Reader, she was heading into the studio to record a greatest hits album and wanted to add a few new songs. What started out as three or four had blossomed into an entire album. Those songs ultimately got into the hands of influential British record label Rough Trade, who decided to release the album.
Utilizing the same approach as Elton John, much of the material on the disc was written by her longtime writing partner Boo Hewerdine, whose biggest claim to fame is being the inspiration behind the book High Fidelity. Other songwriters on the disc include John Douglas, whose whimsical triumph "New York City," and sweeping goodbye song "I Won't Stand In Your Way," are the album's clear standouts; as well as Lindsey Buckingham ("Never Going Back Again") and Brian Wilson ("Sweet Mountain of Love"). The title track was written by British folk it-boy Declan O'Rourke.
Aside from the co-writes, there are other memorable tunes worth spinning. Opener "Dragonflies," is a waltzy ditty that shuffles along cheekily before giving way to the softness of "Silent Bells," a yearning plea which finds her singing, "all that we are without love is silent bells." "Over it Now," and "Roses" are also both engaging, with the latter being a bit more indelible. The general tone on Love is Everything is light and playful, and most of the songs are upbeat and romantic, veering in different directions, from ragtime to orchestral pop to jazz ("Dandelion). The aforementioned "New York City," is achingly sweet and borderline theatrical, and while that would be a negative on most folk albums, it manages to rise to the top on this effort.
The most memorable aspect to Love Is The Way is that it's timeless and transcendent. Had someone said the disc was released in 1975, there'd be little reason to think otherwise. The 1950s bar-room vibe on "Never Going Back Again," is just as quintessential as the Tin Pan Alley classic, "It's Magic." Never oversinging and always firmly grounded, this 13-song amalgamation of warm, acoustic treasures is easily her best album since 2001's Simple Soul and may arguably be her best work since Fairground Attraction.
As if cognizant of how pleasant the disc is, Reader has gone on record as saying, "My history is well known and if you happen to not know it, good. I am starting from here." With an album this inviting, there are far worse places to start. The former Glasgow street busker, who once sang backup for Gang of Four and served as a session singer for Eurythmics, has found herself again, and perhaps most fittingly, it comes at a time when most 50-year-old musicians are fading into obscurity.