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Modern Songwriters in Scots

The 20th-century Scottish Folk Revival with its mixture of politics and the search for cultural identity has given rise to a healthy body of songwriters who use Scots as a vehicle for their ideas and expression.

Often these songwriters give voice to their own local area, as in the case of Dundee's Michael Marra, who has captured the spirit of the city and its characters in his distinctive songwriting. Fellow Dundonian Rod Paterson sings Marra's Hermless, in this clip from the archive




Jim Reid is best known for setting the words of Angus poets to music, but he has also written some classic songs, including Vinney Den, nearby Letham, Angus, where he lived for much of his life. Here Jim Malcolm sings Vinney Den from the album Rohallion:

Vinney Den


- from CDTRAX150, used by kind permission Greentrax Recordings. 

Jim Malcolm himself has established a fine reputation for songwriting.

As well as giving voice to the sights and sounds of his native Glasgow, for example in his Jeely Piece Song (aka The Skyscraper Wean), former English teacher Adam McNaughtan's skill with words is evident in his take on the Shakespearean tale of Hamlet:

Oor Hamlet


- from CDTRAX195D, The Words That I Used to Know, used by kind permission of Greentrax Recordings. 

Here's Adam singing his song for the Travelling People of Scotland, Yella on the Broom, inspired by the story of Betsy Whyte of Montrose: 

Matt McGinn of Glasgow was a prolific songwriter, perhaps best known for his more humorous material about Glasgow life, but as a communist, his songs also took the form of social commentary: 

Davy Steele of Prestonpans wrote many songs about his native East Lothian and its mining and seagoing communities, trades which were in his own family. Davy is featured at our Edinburgh and the Lothians page.

Davie Robertson from Longniddry in East Lothian is best known for his song Star o the Bar. Davie has a wide selection of songs at his website available for free download: Here he is singing his humorous composition, The Hanky:

Brian McNeill from Falkirk was a long-time member of the Battlefield Band, and is now an established solo songwriter and fiddler. His song Lads o the Fair describes the trysting fair in his home town, sung here by Old Blind Dogs:

Nancy Nicolson of Caithness has written a wide variety of songs including in her native Caitnes dialect, and is featured at our Caithness page.

As well as being an established contemporary songwriter, Karine Polwart from Stirlingshire has turned her hand to songs written in the ballad idiom, in her songs with the band Malinky, including The Dreadful End of Marianna for Sorcery, and this track, from the 3 Ravens album, Thaney:


CDTRAX233, used by kind permission of Greentrax Recordings.