The Songs
Tam Lin (also Tamlane or Tom Lane) is an ancient ballad, cited as early as 1549, which Robert Burns collected, added a couple of verses to, and published in 1792.

Love songs, drinking songs, laments, a political rabble-rouser, and more. With their new CD "Tam Lin," Bob Hay & the Jolly Beggars further explore the rich lode of songs that Robert Burns left us.

Song by song
1. Bonnie Ann
The melody of "Bonnie Ann" was written by Burns' friend Allan Masterton, who also composed the melody to "Willie brew'd a peck o' maut," which is on the first CD. Burns wrote "I composed this song out of compliment to Miss Ann Masterton, the daughter of my friend Allan."

2. Sandy and Jockey
In this 8-line song Burns efficiently deals with his favorite theme: love and money, and as always, goes with his world-be-damned attitude.

3. Handsome Nell
This is the first song Burns ever wrote. He was 15 years old and composed his lyrics to Nell's favorite melody. Burns later wrote a letter stating "I never had the least thought or inclination of turning Poet till I got once heartily in Love, and then Rhyme and Song were, in a manner, the spontaneous language of my heart."

4. Whistle o'er the lave o't
"Whistle o'er the lave o't" appears to have been an all-purpose chorus to any number of bawdy verses which Burns used for his musings on the progress of marriage.

5. The rantin dog, the daddy o't
The theme of this song is teen pregnancy. Burns obliquely accepts the daddy's responsibilities.

6. Big belly'd bottle
Another one of Burns' favorite themes: the joys of drink and comraderie.

7. Awa, Whigs, awa!
The chorus dates from the 1680s. The author of the song obviously didn't like the Whigs. Burns either wrote or touched up the verses.

8. The gloomy night
In 1786, faced with several difficulties, Robert decided to emigrate. More about that here. He wrote, "I compoosed this song as I conveyed my chest so far on the road to Greenock, where I was to embark in a few days for Jamaica. I meant it as my farewell Dirge to my native land." Burns set his words to the traditional air Roslin Castle.

9. Meg o' the mill
Again the theme of love versus money. In this one, the lassie leaves the barley miller and runs off with the rich guy. The use of the third-person voice contrasted with the amount of hurt and anger in the storyteller's voice is remarkable.

10. Lady Onlie, honest lucky
This drinking song lurches along nicely. Burns visited the fishing village of Buckie in September of 1787 on his way home from his tour of the Highlands. He was apparently so impressed with the honest percentage of alcohol in Lady Onlie's ale that he burst forth with this song praising her, setting it to a recently learned strathspey known as Ruffian's rant.

11. Duncan Gray
A song that laughs at the foibles of courtship. "Ha ha, the wooin'."

12. Blythe hae I been
"Blythe hae I been" was specified by Burns to be set to a dance tune known as Merrily danced the Quaker's Wife. Never has an unrequited lover's complaint been set to such a relentlessly merry melody.

13. Tam Lin
The story of how young Janet rescued Tam Lin from the thrall of the Fairy Queen is told in an archaic narrative style. Mr. Burns hand-written manuscript of this ballad is probably the most coherent of all the many versions of Child Ballad #39. He wrote the verses beginning "My right hand will be glov'd" and "Gloomy, gloomy was the night".

14. Caledonia
Burns' recounts the history of Scotland, which is personified as the goddess Caledonia, in pure, correct (and sometimes purposefully redundant) English, with no Scots dialect at all.

15. I love my Jean
This song was written by Burns for his wife Jean, shortly after they were married. She was living with her parents while he was setting up their house and farm several miles away. He wrote it to the melody known as Miss Admiral Gordon's Strathspey.

16. A red, red rose
How much of this is traditional and how much is Burns is unclear, but it has become his most famous song (other than the ubiquitous Auld lang syne). John Keats was impressed that he repeated the word "red", though that may have been done mainly to fit the melody.

17. Gude-wife count the lawin
Translated: "Barmaid, add up the tab... and bring another." It's another drinking song. It has an almost Beatles-esque tempo.

18. Ae fond kiss
Robert Burns met Agnes "Nancy" M'Lehose in early December 1787, when he was in Edinburgh arranging the second printing of his book. They had a short, passionate, yet platonic relationship that Winter and wrote each other dozens of letters and songs, using the pen names Sylvander and Clarinda. (He left Edinburgh in mid-February 1788, and in March he married Jean Armour who had already born him four children.) Sylvander visited Clarinda a few more times when business called him to Edinburgh. After their last meeting on December 6, 1791, he sent her one last song, which was of course Ae fond kiss.

© 2014 - Bob Hay & the Jolly Beggars