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3 Canadian covers of Robbie Burns songs to enjoy with a wee dram

Robbie Burns Day has never generated quite the riotous celebrations in North America that St. Patrick’s Day has, but perhaps that’s an oversight on our part.

I mean, what’s not to love about a poet and lyricist who, more than 200 years after his passing, is still regarded as his country’s greatest ever citizen?  (That’s according to an STV vote in 2009, by the way.)

Here at Roots Music Canada, we’re all for taking advantage of every possible reason to celebrate something during these dismal times, and we’re also up for any excuse to celebrate great lyricists.

So happy Robbie Burns Day everyone!

Cook yourself some haggis, or a reasonable substitute, prepare some neeps and tatties, pour yourself a wee dram, and enjoy these covers of Robbie Burns songs performed by Canadian artists.

Much gratitude to the recently-retired publisher of Penguin Eggs and the quintessential Scotsman Roddy Campbell for these suggestions.

1. Enoch Kent – “Some Ha’E Meat”

We Canadians sure did luck out when Enoch Kent decided to settle on these shores in the 1960s. The man is legendary for his work reviving traditional Scottish folk music. It started with his group the Reivers, which researched Scottish folksongs – which were published in The Scotsman – and later performed them regularly on television. Later, he became a member of the Singers Club with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and of the Scottish folk band the Exiles. Enoch has released solo albums in Canada with Borealis Records and performed at festivals to riotous applause. He also taught Heather, our editor, to appreciate scotch, so we thank him for his service.

2. Bobby Watt – “A Man’s A Man”

Scottish-born Bobby Watt has a voice that will soften the hardest of hearts and a working class life that mirrors those immortalized in folksongs. He is a master stone-mason whose work includes helping to restore the Canadian Parliament Buildings.  Before he turned to stonework he was a beat cop with the Toronto police department’s underwater dive unit, and he played in a bagpipe-driven rock band on the side. Before arriving in Canada in 1975,  he played in a band that did covers of Cream and Jimi Hendrix songs.

3. John Mann – “To a Mouse” (“Of Mice and Men”)

The late beloved lead singer of Spirit of the West recorded “To a Mouse” on his The Waiting Room album, which documented his battle with colorectal cancer.  John, who starred in the theatre production of Of Mice and Men at the Vancouver Playhouse, modernized the language of the second to last verse, which states that foresight might be in vain, for the best laid plans of mice and men are wont to go awry, leaving nothing but grief and pain.  He also repeats this passage as a chorus, as if to reinforce its message. How could any of us have known at the time that those words might prove to be prophetic as much as they were reflective?

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