ARTIST: THE SIMPLY BURNS ARTISTS
(CRAIK, DEWAR, HEPBURN, HEWITT)

TITLE: SIMPLY BURNS

LABEL: DC ASSOCIATES (Independent)

RELEASE DATE: January 2009

By Susie Glaze

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If you've ever studied Scotland's poetry, music or theatre, the name Robert Burns will linger in your memory and consciousness as a bright flame of genius. In the liner notes to this wonderful recording of selections from the show Simply Burns, Robert Burns' poetry, prose and songs are presented as a fine project. "In January of 2008, four talented individuals came together to create an evening of song, poetry and readings in celebration of Scotland's best-loved bard, Robert Burns. Their aim was to offer an eclectic collection of material written by and inspired by Burns...designed both to entertain, and to simplify the man and his works for those who find it all a bit daunting." Simply Burns was intended originally for just a one-night show (at the Watermill bookshop in Aberfeldy, Scotland to be specific). However, after that spectacular night in the packed bookshop, they were surprised to find the show being requested through the countryside. They decided to revive it and "take it on the road throughout Scotland and beyond." Luckily for us, we have the companion recording to share and savor.

The selections from this show include songs (performed simply and feelingly and in a wonderful traditional sound), and spoken word pieces from poems, prose and letters from the Burns collection, and some "inspired" by Burns' work. The juxtaposition of spoken word and song is a treat for the ear, refreshingly pure, bringing you into the world of rich Burns language and environment. Some of that language, as you may suspect, does take some getting used to and might require you to check the liner notes for a "translation." Some of the prose and less formal pieces have not been transcribed on the liner notes, so they will simply have to be a feast for the ears and not the eyes, such as Burns on Whiskey, Marriage or Hope not Sunshine every Hour, short bits of humorous reflections or observations. I particularly enjoyed Kate O'Shante's Tale which the liner notes explain is the answer to Burns' epic poem Tam O'Shanter. They tell us that the author has not been found for this piece, and it's a sad thing, too, ‘for I would have liked to thank her!' Now it makes me wonder where they got it. They also combine spoken word material from various sources, such as Extract from a letter in which Hepburn reads Burn's letter to his brother Gilbert followed by a poem he found on a chimney piece of Kenmore Hotel during a visit there. Also there is Clarinda, a bit about Burn's relationship with "his Clarinda" followed by an extract from one of her letters to him. As a real treat, the CD ends with Auld Lang Syne, perhaps "the most famous song to come from the pen of Robert Burns, the inspiration coming from an old Scots ballad." They use an older tune, "sometimes called the ‘original' tune, although it's not certain whether it's the one Burns first applied to these words..." You might need more scholarship to completely understand the words as written.

The artists are terrific in their authenticity and sweetness, bringing the Scot's landscape to life. They are Linda Dewar and Douglas Craik on vocals and guitar, Anna Hepburn doing spoken word and Claire Hewitt on vocals and clarsach (a type of harp that I've not been familiar with, a beautiful sound). Listening to these stories with the wonderful songs, you feel as if you've been transported to the lovely, soggy heath! I would love to be in the audience for this show, but in the meantime, we can all light a fire, sit back with a good glass of whiskey or a pint, and put on this CD and enjoy the stories, be touched by the beauty of the music, and let yourself swim in the poetic work of Robert Burns.

This CD can be purchased directly at CD Baby.


Award-winning recording artist and critically-acclaimed Bluegrass powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called by BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED "...an important voice on the California Bluegrass scene." Her new release Green Kentucky Blues and others can be found at www.susieglaze.com