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Scottish song books

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I'm frequently browsing through bookshops to find good songbooks, but most of the time they're of the tourist top 40 genre with only the most popular tunes in. These are the sort of tunes you might hear played at the Edinburgh tattoo, and not the sort you'd here at a folk concert or down the pub.

I was at Blackfriars Music (now closed) and got a copy of an excellent book by them called "The Singing Tradition on Scotland: Book 1, The Birken Tree". This particularly caught my eye as The Birken Tree was a song which our singing group performed in a concert in 1994. The book is 3 pounds 50p, has 56 songs and is 64 pages. All the songs are Scottish, have staff music supplied, as well as a glossary of Scots words, notes on the songs and notes for guitarists.

There's the usual tourist songs such as The Lewis Bridal Song (Mairi's Wedding), Scotland the Brave and The Skye Boat Song, but the majority of songs are of the type that folk artists would record or which you would here down the pub. There's about 10 by Robert Burns. Unusually for book not written for the Gaelic market, there is a Gaelic song "Cumha Mhic Criomain" = MacCrimmon's Lament.

"The democratic muse" is definitely also worth a read. This covers the Scottish folk movement revival since the 50s and covers the major singers who have influenced the revival, their songs and some history about the folk song revival and the context of the songs. ISBN 1 898218 10 2

The Feis movement (Feisean nan Gaidheal) has a songbook out and it is excellent for anyone interested in Gaelic song or musicians interested in Gaelic tunes. 28 songs; 36 further tunes. Title: Ceol nam Feis. Music (staff format) and translations available for all the songs which range from the traditional to the new. The address is in answer [6.4]. ISBN 0 9528687 0 9, price approx 10 pounds.

The Corries Songbook (and their CDs) can be ordered online from Gavin Browne's home page at
He is extremely efficient - My book was mailed the same day I ordered it. This book has full lyrics and staff music and guitar chords for 62 of the Corries' favourite songs.

Gavin's e-mail address is mailto:

For Gaelic songs, I'd recommend Bruce Campbell's Orain nan Gaidheal, in 3 three volumes each about 5 pounds. Published by Gairm, Glasgow and available from the Gaelic Books Council (address in [7.3]) Each contains about 37 well known songs, lyrics in Gaelic and English and music in sol-fa. No music in staff format.

For children's songs, contact The Singing Kettle:
Kettle Records, The Post House, Kingskettle, Cupar, Fife. Tel. 01337 31121

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