Eddi Reader has proven her worth as a sublime singer of pop and folk material (and beyond), but this returns her full-bore to her Scottish roots. Born from the concerts she did at the 2002 Celtic Connections festival, it's a decidedly lush performance that hauls in several well-known Celtic names like Phil Cunningham, John McCusker, and Ian Carr to help her along. But it's Reader's rendition of Robert Burns' classics that's the key here. She picked familiar material, songs that have become part of the folk continuum that can be both a blessing and a curse. But she reinvents something like "My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose," investing it with rich emotion. She positively flies on the more romantic songs, such as "Ae Fond Kiss," but she brings a surprising depth to "Charlie Is My Darling" and the chestnut "Auld Lang Syne," and "Ye Jacobites" sizzles with tension. The arrangements go for the cinematic rather than the intimate, putting them on the dangerous edge of new age. But such is the quality of everyone involved that there's no danger of teetering over and it becomes a tour de force. It is one of the highlights of Reader's splendid career, and even "Wild Mountainside," decidedly not a Burns song, fits in perfectly.
Eddi Reader's voice falls like a soft autumn rain. Despite its cleansing nature, it carries a touch of melancholy for the coming darkness of winter; it bears a hint of sadness and solitude for the one who longs for sunshine and warmth. Simple Soul is a sweet setting for Reader. Although it's not overflowing with catchy pop songs, it's the kind of soothing record you might listen to while making a quiet, candlelight dinner or meandering around the house on a lazy Sunday morn. While Reader's honey voice swirls beautifully around, the pristine acoustic guitar sounds dance with Indian tamboura and harmonium, creating an almost mystical ambience. Again, don't expect to tie on your dancing shoes. This is definitely more of a slipper and robe kind of thing. The main musical and production support comes from Boo Hewerdine, Roy Dodds, and Teddy Borowiecki – talented fellows one and all.