Can there be any more appropriate place to testify to a joyous musical talent than the magnificent St Mary-in-the-Castle?
Not many venues merit a round of applause when praised from the stage but this was the case on Sunday night when fans congregated to hear Eddi Reader play at the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Hastings seafont.
Eddi is deeply immersed in a tradition of singing, proved by ninety minutes of almost flawless pitch and control. Her fills and trills weaved around the guitars filling the room with ribbons of sound, sometimes pointing to the heavens sustaining a long note in her upper register, producing diamond-sharp song.
Together with her band she played a range of music harking back to her award-winning Sings the Songs of Robert Burns album, tracks from her immaculate Love is the Way album, an airing for her number one Fairground Attraction hit Perfect and a selection from the newest offering Vagabond.
But Vagabonds would have been a better name for this tour as she brings with her a ragtag medley of musical talent - notably John Douglas, husband and musician, and Boo Hewerdine, her long-time musical partner, both playing guitar. Joining them was Irish accordionist Alan Kelly, leaving his Gang for the tour, and Kevin McGuire on double bass. This musical provenance brings in Kate Rusby, The Trashcan Sinatras, Michael McGoldrick and Karen Matheson among many others.
During the evening Eddi embellished her songs with personal stories about her family and friends, often to one of Boo’s background guitar refrains. We got to know her mother and father, aunts, uncles and children. Her tales were touching, intelligent, poignant and funny and lent credence to the notion that this music is very real and respectful to a meaningful musical tradition. By the end of the evening it was hard not to feel that you were bidding farewell to an old friend.
The support act on the night was from folk guitarist Findlay Napier, a Billy Bragg from the Ozark Mountains, also playing tunes co-penned by Boo Hewerdine.
Eddi last came to our little part of England two years ago when she played at the De La Warr Pavilion. I was convinced it was the best concert I’d seen and I thought she was at the top of her game then. I was wrong; she just gets better.