After beginning her Songs of Robert Burns project in 1976, Scottish folk singer Jean Redpath managed to record the first two volumes over a five-year period, interspersing other unrelated projects in between the releases. The task of adapting every song of Scotland's most famous poet and bard was a daunting labor of love which she shared with American pianist and ethnomusicologist Serge Hovey and the two of them doggedly kept at it for nearly two decades. Issued here are Vols. 3 & 4, which first appeared on Philo Records in 1982 and 1983, respectively. The enchanting mix of Redpath's lovely mezzo-soprano voice and Hovey's inventive arrangements were at their best on tracks like the evocative "Banks O'Doon" and "Song, Composed in August." Taking more instrumental liberties than on the two previous volumes, Hovey's addition of strings, whistle, harpsichord, and other adornments are unique, adding a respectful but personal stamp to the songs without detracting from Burns' wonderful source material or Redpath's interpretations. The pairing of these two musicians over Burns' work was a truly magical partnership, and these reissued recordings featuring tracks like the classic "Green Grow the Rashes, O" and the mysterious "Wha Is That at My Bower Door?" should be viewed as national treasures of Scottish music.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger