Pur - "The Lassies' Reply" (2009)
January 25th is the birthday of Scotland’s most beloved poet, Robert Burns. Much of Burns’ verse was set to music and its timeless quality has inspired countless artists to record their interpretations of the bard’s works. The following is a guide to some of the best recordings of Burns songs available today. Enjoy them year-round, or share them with friends at your own Burns Night celebration this month.
- Legendary modern bard Dougie MacLean lends his distinctively mellow, smoky voice to Auld Lang Syne, Scots Wha Hae, Ca’ the Yowes and other Burns songs on his Tribute album (also paying homage to the works of fiddler Niel Gow and poet Robert Tannahill).
- Fiddler Alisdair Fraser teams up with cellist Natalie Haas and pianist Muriel Johnstone in Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol. 2: Tunes from the Life and Land of Robert Burns. This all-instrumental album combines the elegance of chamber music with all the spirit and vigor of a ceilidh band.
- Glasgow-born Eddi Reader puts a contemporary spin on tradition in Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. In the hands of Reader’s acoustic folk pop approach, these 18th-century songs sound as though they could have been written yesterday.
- Also with feet firmly in the modern camp is the duo Pur (Shona Donaldson and Katie MacKenzie). The Lassies' Reply was released to coincide with Scotland’s Year of Homecoming, and takes the unique approach of interweaving both Burns’ original Scots dialect lyrics with the songs’ Gaelic translations. Accompanying instruments include piano, guitar, harmonica, clarsach, percussion and accordian.
- Hailed as “one of the finest singers to come out of the Scottish Folksong Revival,” Edinburgh-born Ed Miller celebrated the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth with his Lyrics of Gold. Miller’s rich, warm voice is backed by guitar, fiddle, concertina, pipes, whistles and steel guitar. See Miller’s tour schedule for upcoming performances at Texas and Tennessee area Burns Suppers this month.
- Andy M. Stewart’s Songs of Robert Burns is a superlative collection of 11 songs masterfully interpreted by the former Silly Wizard member. Sadly, the CD is now out of print, although copies remain for sale online (their rarity has made them quite expensive). Still, anyone lucky enough to get a hold of Stewart’s album will surely treasure it. It is a true classic.
- And, for the ultimate collector, Linn Records’ Complete Songs of Robert Burns is a beautifully rendered library of over 360 songs. This comprehensive 12-disc series (which can be purchased individually or as a set) took seven years and over 80 musicians to record. Talent includes members of the Battlefield Band, Malinky, The Corries, Deaf Shepherd, Old Blind Dogs and many more.
Ca' the Yowes tae the Knowes sung by Andy M. Stewart:
Check back soon for an interview with Braveheart actor Andrew Weir as he shares some fascinating insights into the life and legacy of Robert Burns. Weir is a native of Burns’ own Ayrshire, and is currently the Western U.S. brand ambassador for The Balvenie, a traditionally hand-crafted whisky from northeast Scotland.