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Songs of a Scots Tinker Lady

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Album Review

Jeannie Robertson was a member of a Scots Tinker clan, a gypsy-like extended family of singers and musicians. After she was discovered in Aberdeen by the folklorist Alan Lomax in the early '50s, Robertson went on to make several albums of traditional Scots and English songs. This set, recorded with Josh MacCrae on guitar in 1959, is typical in that it includes variants of several of the Child ballads as well as other familiar texts, all of them delivered in Robertson's extremely distinctive voice. Blessed with one of the thickest Scots burrs ever captured on audiotape, Robertson's voice is a rich, deep instrument far removed from the twee soprano most commonly associated with traditional folk music of Great Britain in some listeners' minds. The song selection ranges from the murder ballad "The Butcher Boy," given a chillingly deadpan reading, to the lighthearted wit of "The Bonnie Wee Lassie Who Never Said No," a saucy tale of said lassie pulling one over on the lad who thinks he's taking advantage of her. Though lesser known than Robertson's original Lomax tapes, this album is every bit their equal.


Born: 1908 in Aberdeen, Scotland

Genre: Folk

Years Active: '50s

The ancient ballads of Scotland were preserved through the singing of Jeannie Robertson. Her unaccompanied recordings for Alan Lomax in November 1953 were initially released as part of Columbia Records's series World Library of Folk and Primitive Music. The 18-tune album was reissued as The Queen Among the Heather in 1998. The following year, James Porter and Herschel Gower's book Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice,...
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