In 1976, 12 years into her recording career, Scottish folk singer Jean Redpath embarked upon the ambitious task of attempting to record all of the songs of Scotland's favorite son and national bard, Robert Burns. With literally hundreds of songs and lyrics to adapt, this was no simple feat, but Redpath was already a respected historian and noted interpreter of her country's musical traditions and with her hauntingly lovely mezzo-soprano voice, Burns' material was an excellent match. Collaborating with American pianist and ethnomusicologist Serge Hovey, she released The Songs of Robert Burns, Vol. 1 in 1976. The simple, yet often pastoral piano arrangements were occasionally accompanied by flute or fiddle, but the real stars were Redpath's alluring voice and the wonderful Burns source material. Redpath's and Hovey's treatment of well-loved songs like "To the Weaver's Gin Ye Go" and "Red, Red Rose" are remarkably evocative of Scotland's revered physical beauty and the album garnered them much respect. A second volume of Burns songs appeared four years later in 1980, again on American folk label Philo Records. The project would continue for another five volumes until Hovey's death in 1989, after which Redpath respectfully abandoned the endeavor, refusing to collaborate with anyone but her original partner. Collected here are original recordings of Vols. 1 & 2 of the Burns project.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger