IRVINE'S finest Eddi Reader is something more than a singer, more a musical conversationalist.

Her music, deeply rooted in folk and tradition, tells stories and evokes moods in a way few can match.

Undoubtedly, people are drawn to Reader because of her remarkable voice, it's sweet, pure and at times towering, with an extraordinary range, but this canny Scottish lass is also a highly accomplished musical composer and arranger (often now in partnership with husband John Douglas), a craft which came to the fore in her folk compositions as she showcased new album Cavalier.

The album, her tenth, is more embedded in traditional music than more contemporary earlier albums such as the self-titled Eddi Reader (a Brit winner in 1994) or Love Is The Way, and is a triumph of songwriting and performance.

From it came the catchy Meg o' the Glen, jaunty Pangur Ban & The Primrose Lass, and the sublime My Favourite Dress.

Reader didn't forget her own roots, with tales from her musically formative years travelling around Europe with circus and performance artists, of working as a session vocalist with the likes of Annie Lennox/The Eurythmics, and a rousing version of Perfect – "the Asda song" – among a trio of songs from her first album First of a Million Kisses, which topped the British charts in the 1980s.

Boo Hewerdine, a talented songwriter who perhaps deserves greater recognition than he gets, is a long-time collaborator with Reader, contributes two songs two her new album and took the mic at The Sage to provide vocals on Patience of An Angel, a song he wrote but which took Reader into the charts as a solo performer in the mid-1990s.

Reader learned her craft busking and performing at local folk clubs - and her performance in Gateshead had a real flavour of that... lots of story, laughter and joy... only on a grand scale.

Dave Horsley