Andy M. Stewart, Scottish Singer & Songwriter
Songs of Robert Burns jacket

Andy M. Stewart
Songs of Robert Burns

Andy M. Stewart: Vocals
Mánus Lunny: Guitar and bouzouki
Donald Shaw: Accordion  and keyboard
Charlie McKerron: Fiddle

Robert Burns (1759 - 96) has been described as "the greatest poet that ever sprung from the bosom of the people." Born at Alloway in Ayrshire, Scotland, on 25th January, 1759, he grew up labouring as a ploughman and orra worker, yet was able to receive the best education available to him in the limited circumstances of the time. It was only when Mossgiel, the family farm, faced economic ruin that Burns considered publishing the poems he had been writing since boyhood. In 1686 his "Kilmarnock Poems" was published to great popular acclaim. The poet, who had planned to emigrate to the Indies, instead found himself touring Scotland in triumph as "Caledonia's Bard." He remained in his native country, married Jean Armour, a Mauchline mason's daughter, and began another farm in Ellisland at Dumfries.

In the course of his short life of 37 years, Burns proved not only to be an extremely prolific poet and songsmith, but also an avid collector of the traditional music and songs of rural Scotland.  In his role as folklorist, he collected many beautiful pieces of music from the oral tradition that otherwise would have been lost.

Burns was a humanitarian, libertarian and equalitarian: his sympathies were for the common man, yet his poems have captured the hearts of all classes and nationalities. Burns' own experience conditioned his poetry; his experience was fundamental and there for universal and timeless. Although he died in poverty at Dumfries, 21st July, 1796, he was given a grandiose funeral, the "turn out" being one of the most extraordinary known to history.

Tracks and liner notes

  1. Rantin' Rovin Robin  
    (Robert Burns  Arr. Lunny/Stewart) 
    This song commemorates an incident which occurred when Robert Burns was only a few days old:
        "Our monarch's hindmost year but ane
          Was five and twenty days begun
          'Twas then  a blast o' Janwar win'
          Blew hansel in on Robin."
    The incident is best described in a letter by Gilbert Burns (Robert's brother), first printed in "Dr. Currie's Edition of 1803."

    "When my father built his clay biggin', he put in two stone jambs, as they are called, and a lintel, carrying up the chimney in his clay-gable. The consequence was that as the gable subsided, the jambs remaining firm threw it off its center; and one very stormy morning when my brother was nine or ten days old, a little before daylight, a part of the gable fell out and the rest appeared so shattered that my mother, with the young poet, had to be carried through the storm to a neighbor's house, where they remained a week till their own dwelling was adjusted."
    (From the third edition of "The Burns Encyclopedia" by Maurice Lindsay, pub. 1980, St. Martin's Press, Inc. New York)
  2. Ca' The Yowes To The Knowes 
    (Robert Burns  Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    Mrs. Burns, who was fond of singing this song, used to point out that the second verse and the closing verse were by the poet. Burns remodeled it for Thomson's Collection, which is the version used on this album. Tibbie Pagan of Muirkirk is the reputed authoress of the old set amended by Burns.

    The poet says of this song in a letter to Thomson*:
      "I am flattered at your adopting the 'Ca' The Yowes To The Knowes', as it was owing to me that it ever saw the light. When I gave it to Johnson*, I added some stanzas to the song and mended others; but still it will not do for you.  In a solitary stroll which I took today, I tried my hands on a few pastoral lines following up the ideas of the chorus, which I would preserve. Here it is, with all its crudities and imperfections on its head."

    Mr Thomson, in reply, calls the song "a precious merceau" and adds:
       "I am perfectly astonished and charmed with the endless variety of your fancy."
    (From "Scottish Songs Illustrated," pub. 1890, Adam and Gee, middle Street, West Smithfield, London)
    * George Thomson and James Johnson -- Burns' editors)
  3. Is There For Honest Poverty (For A' That)  
     (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    This world-renowned production was composed in January, 1795. Burns says, "This song is mine, all except the chorus," and his name is attached to it in the publication "Scot's Musical Museum." It is simply the "Bard's Song" in the "Jolly Beggars," omitting the first two verses, and substituting for these the present opening verse and fresh chorus.

    The poet's observations on sending it were as follows:
       "A great critic (Aikin) on songs says that love and wine are exclusive themes for songwriting. The following is on neither subject and consequently is no sing; but will be allowed, I think, to contain two or three pretty good prose thoughts invented into rhyme. I do not give it for your book, but merely by way of 'vive la bagatelle,' for the piece is not really poetry."
    (From "Scottish Songs Illustrated," pub. 1890, Adam and Gee, Middle Street, West Smithfield, London)
  4. Green Grow The Rashes, O  
    (Robert Burns / Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    This is one of the most characteristic of all Burns' songs, although one of his earliest. Founded on an old and licentious song with the same chorus, he set it down in his "Commonplace Book" in August 1784.  During this period, Burns kept a notebook of his thoughts and poetry known as "The First Commonplace Book" with some rambling remarks on "the various species of young men" whom he divides into two classes -- "the grave and the merry." The last stanza is not included in the copy inserted in the first "Commonplace Book," therefore the presumption is that he added it while in Edinburgh.
    (From "The People's Edition of the Poetical Works of Robert Burns," as arranged and annotated by W. Scott Douglas. Revised, corrected and condensed by D. McNaught, Kilmaurs, Scotland, pub. 1903) 
  5. Ae Fond Kiss  
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    "Ae fond kiss and then we sever..." This immortal lyric has Burns' name attached to it in the publication "The Scot's Musical Museum." Clarinda (Mrs. M'Lehose) sailed for Jamaica from Leith in February, 1792 in "The Roselle" -- the sane ship which Burns had intended to sail in from The Clyde in 1786. Meeting with unkindness from her husband, she returned to Scotland in the same vessel, arriving in Edinburgh in August, 1792. Burns never saw her again, although a few letters passed between them. The present composition is Burns' poetical farewell to her.

    Sir Walter Scott thought that "Ae Fond Kiss" contained "the essence of a thousand love tales."
    (From "The People's Edition of the Poetical Works of Robert Burns" and the third edition of "The Burns Encyclopedia" by Maurice Lindsay)
  6. Hey, Ca' Thro'    
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    This song was never in print before it appeared in Johnson's Volume, and tradition has supplied another verse as follows:
       "Never break your heart for love
        Just turn the boat about
        There's as gude hish i' the sea
        As ever yet cam' out.
        (Hey, ca' thro', etc.)
    Dysart, Buckhaven, Largo and Leven are four fishing villages on the south coast of Fife.
    (From "The People's Edition of the Poetical Works of Robert Burns")
  7. Hey How Johnie Lad     
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    There is an unsigned version of "Hey How" in the fourth volume of "The Scot's Musical Museum" containing some alterations and an extra verse from that found in David Herd's manuscript (1776). It is unclear as to how much Burns had to do with this song, but according to an authority on Burns, Robert D. Thornton, Burns had to find a tune, as Herd mentions none, and work out words and melody. These words are set to the tune "The Lasses of the Ferry." Apparently, no one before Burns had ever set these words to that melody.

    (From notes for the album "The Songs of Robert Burns, sung by Jean Redpath, Volume II," researched by Serge Hovey, © 1988 by Philo Records, Licensed by Greentrax Records)

  8. The Lea - Rig   
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    Burns, in sending this song to George Thomson, which he had founded upon an olden composition with the same title, wrote:
       "On reading over 'The Lea Rig,' I immediately set trying my hand upon it, and after all, I could make nothing more of it than the following..."
    (From "The People's Edition of the Poetical Works of Robert Burns")
  9. It Was A' For Our Rightfu' King    
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    This very fine ballad, with its beautiful air, was supplied by Burns to the Scot's Musical Museum* -- but no name is attached to it. One of its verses, and perhaps the best, "He turned him right and round about," is found in copies of a stallballad of no value, called, "Mally Stewart," and Burns' authorship has been questioned on this slender pretext.
  10. A Red, Red Rose    
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    This song was an improvement of a street ballad, which is said to have been written by a Lieutenant Henches, as a farewell to his betrothed.
    (From "Scottish Songs Illustrated")
  11. To The Weaver's Gin Ye Go     
    (Robert Burns/Arr. Lunny/Stewart)
    The poet says in his manuscript notes: "The chorus of this song is old, the rest is mine.  Here, once for all, let me apologise for many silly compositions of mine in this work. Many beautiful airs wanted words, and, in hurry of other avocations, if I could string a parcel of rhymes together anything nearly tolerable, I was fain to let them pass. He must be an excellent poet indeed, whose every performance is excellent."
    (From "The People's Edition of the Poetical Works of Robert Burns")

For links to web sites about Robert Burns, see the "Connections" page.

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