CD Review of Love Is the Way by Eddi Reader
Eddi Reader: Love Is the Way
Recommended if you like
Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin
Label
Rough Trade
Eddi Reader:
Love Is the Way

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

G
enerally an artist chooses to strike out on her own to expand the following already attained with the band with which she belonged. At least, that was Eddi Reader’s intention when she split from the comfort of her original ensemble, Fairground Attraction, and opted to go solo via the singer/songwriter route in the early ‘90s. Unfortunately, despite amassing critical kudos and a steady string of albums that boasted a sound as sweet as cotton candy, Reader’s appeal has gone largely unnoticed, particularly on this side of the Atlantic where her releases have fallen victim to an revolving roster of record deals. That’s a shame, too, because Reader is one of the more talented modern performers of folk, chamber pop and light jazz, and if America ever got around to embracing this Scottish chanteuse, there’s no doubt she could be a big star.

Happily, then, Reader’s latest album may be just the thing to boost her to the big time. With a title that could clearly hold sway, Love Is the Way offers up yet another set of beautifully beguiling ballads and gently caressing melodies. As always, Reader’s collaborator Boo Hewerdine – a similarly gifted singer/songwriter in his own right – provides much of the material, but here she also branches out, offering rare yet graceful covers of Fleetwood Mac’s "Never Going Back Again" and Sammy Kahn’s "It’s Magic," both of which fit her airbrushed palette perfectly. Acoustic guitars, accordion, piano and snare brushes provide a gentle backdrop to Reader’s sensuous vocals, light and lithe with a hint of torch song inflection. Gracefully navigating a narrow divide that merges classic and contemporary, Reader adds old school charms on the Vaudeville-style "Dandelion" and sets up an after hours atmosphere on the title track, dimming the lights and basking in the afterglow of undulating desire.

Mostly though, this is an album filled with wistful pleasantries, lilting rhythms and an unhurried pace. Reader’s unabashed effervescence makes this a mood piece of a different sort, one that waltzes along with an air of nonchalance seemingly unaffected by everyday concerns. It’s the kind of idyllic approach that’s too often dismissed these days, particularly by those who feel they need to weigh in on all the world’s issues. Indeed, if Love Is the Way seems to sound naïve, or drawn from a starry-eyed perspective, so be it. In Reader’s world happiness and happenstance seem to go hand in hand.

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