Thursday, January 24, 2008

Now playing: Eddi Reader sings Robert Burns

When Eddi Reader was growing up in Glasgow and Ayrshire, she studied the poetry of Robert Burns as part of her school work, as all children in Scotland do. She thought, then, that his work was meant for highbrow situations, to be set up on the shelf and not for the likes of her. But as she grew into her own career as a professional musician and songwriter, she read more of Burns work and came to a different view. “As I read more and more about him,” she says, “ I get the sense that he was a spokesman for the glorious in the ordinary, the sublime in the mundane. I have met many, I guess, who might be like him, in that county of Ayrshire, and in the rest of Scotland. We are all Robert Burns’ babies.”

Reader was asked to do a program of Burns songs by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. She collaborated with both classical arranger Kevin McCrae and folk musician John McCusker to make a program which would “sort of have that band in bar sound, circa 1787. I wanted a bit of that in there. I needed that live, passionate sense behind the music just to make it real for me, keeping it an alive music, rather than a music that was presented as to you you’d present a bunch of flowers,” Reader said. “As I had everybody together, I thought I’d go ahead and get it recorded too, and make an album out of it.”

The result is Eddie Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns, which includes eleven of the more than three hundred songs Burns wrote, and a lovely bit of contemporary song, Wild Mountainside, by John Douglas. She included that song because “I wanted to show that poetry is alive and well today in Ayrshire,” Reader explained. Her selections range across the work of Robert Burns, from the bawdy double entendres of Brose and Butter to the bittersweet romance of Ae Fond Kiss, from the plea for the end of war and strife as a way of solving problems in Ye Jacobites to the celebration of friendship in Willie Stewart, to the gentle story of lasting love, John Anderson My Jo. And of course, Auld Lang Syne. Reader respects the poetry of her national bard while making the songs her own, creating a a set that Burns himself might have enjoyed joining in on.

to read an extended interview with Eddi Reader, look for the April/May issue of the folk music magazine Dirty Linen. available in early March.

On 25th January, Scots and others the world over will join to remember the work of Robert Burns with songs toasts and meals which may include cock a leekie soup, haggis, tatties, neeps, aand cranachan. In 2009, Scotland invites them all home for the Year of Homecoming.

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