Songs based on Robert Burns Poetry


Destination: Scotland

Musical Album: Adoon Winding Nith (Whitefall Records) recorded by Emily Smith and Jamie McClennan

A GUEST POST by Kerry Dexter

Today, as I settle in to my Paris apartment, Kerry Dexter brings us musical travel to Scotland with the Scottish National poet, Robert Burns.

Toasting the New Year with Auld Lang Syne: when the name of Robert Burns comes up, that might be what you first call to mind . A well known song indeed, and he wrote a few others you likely know, among them My Love is Like a Red Red Rose and Comin’ Through the Rye. When Emily Smith and Jamie McClennan started thinking about doing an album of Burns songs, though, they wanted to go beyond the expected.

McClennon and Smith

They did that, in several ways in Adoon Winding Nith. Smith, award winning Scots Singer of the Year, and McClennan, who plays fiddle, guitar, and other instruments,  began building the album around songs connected with Dumfries and Galloway, an area in the southwest of Scotland which was the poet’s home for much of his life. It is also where Smith grew up, and in her own writing,  a landscape she often explores. The pair added several lesser known Burns songs, and a few well known ones, Smith says, “just because we like them!”

The result is a balanced and engaging program, which serves the Scottish national bard’s work well and showcases Smith’s and McClennan’s individual gifts and their creative work as a duo.

  • The opening cut, Adoon Winding Nith, is an upbeat treatment of a happy song in which Burns moves quickly from musing on the charms of the River Nith to the charms of a lovely lady. It will have you taping your foot to the beat as the story unfolds.
  • Silver Tassie is  a reflective ballad of a man heading off to war and leaving his beloved, which Smith and McClennan handle with gentleness and grace.
  • You can almost see the lively farmer and his happy wife dancing along  in The Plooman.
  • The eleven tracks wind to a quiet yet powerful close with Burns’ song of brotherhood and equality, A Man’s a Man for a’ That.

Smith and McClennan invite you in to the songs with singing and playing which, while staying true to spirit and tradition, make the music sound as fresh as though the songs were written yesterday. You have to think Robert Burns would approve.

Kerry Dexter suggested songs for Scotland last year, and she gives us music to accompany the Great American Road Trip each Wednesday over at Music Road. Thanks, Kerry. I love Robert Burns down to earth poetry, and I’m sure I’ll like the musical version as well.

What music do you listen to that reminds you of a country you’ve visited? Remember that your comments enter you in the Bella Italy Contest. And please share this interesting post with friends on Twitter or Facebook (handy buttons below).

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About Kerry Dexter

Kerry Dexter is a regular contributor to A Traveler’s Library, bringing her knowledge of music and musicians who share a sense of place and travel. Her work also appears in Journey to Scotland and the Encyclopedia of Ireland and the Americas, among other places. Check out her bio on the contributor’s page to learn more and see her site at Music Road.

6 thoughts on “Songs based on Robert Burns Poetry

  1. Kiwi,
    Soldier Laddie might qualify, not only for the protagonist and her actions, but because it was (I think, I’ll have to go look it up) censored in Burns’ lifetime.

  2. Interesting. I will have to check out Smith and McClennan’s “Adoon Winding Nith”. Thank you for sharing! -r

  3. Jazz is America’s national music, now happily undergoing globalization. Luckily, I live in a country with high speed internet, so I can listen to my own nation’s wonderful and truly native music all the time. . .

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