Discussing traditional folk music with a friend, I got to thinking about the music of my ancestors (the McBeths) and which songs would make up a list of the best Scottish traditional folk songs of all time and I came up with the following list.

I suggest that the top 3 are:

  • Amazing Grace

Written by John Newton, the captain of a slave trader, this folk hymn is probably the greatest of them all. Newton eventually became a clergyman and the song he penned has far exceeded any memory of his career as a slave trader. The song tells the story of a sinner who changes his ways and turns to salvation. I have been to many funerals in my day and can truthfully say that this song is played more often than any other song, be it folk song or hymn. The haunting lyrics and melody demand that this song be played as a lament for lost loved ones!

  • Auld Lang Syne

This song is probably sung by more people annually than any other folk song. It is sung the world over at the stroke of midnight. It is also sung at many farewell ceremonies as well as at funerals, at International Boy Scouts jambories and at graduations. Written by Robert Burns, a Scottish icon in his own right, the song epitomizes the best in Scottish folk song writing. Canadian Guy Lombardo played the song using mass broadcasting on radio and television thus ensuring its association with New Years Eve and the passage of the old year into the new.

  • Loch Lomond

This is a favorite from my boy-hood. It was very popular at sing-a-longs in the days before television and electronic devices. The song is centered around Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Great Britain. This traditional folk song, like so many others, has numerous interpretations. It is like the words of a dying Scottish soldier who will never see his true love again on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The catching melody and poignant lyrics make this one hard to keep off any list of great traditional folk music. Like so many of these great traditional folk songs from all locations, the author goes unknown.

Whether or not you agree with my picks, there can be no argument that these are some of the best Scottish traditional folk songs of all time. If you like folk songs you might also like to check out Smokin’ Joe Wiseman He has covered traditional folk songs and writes his own. Click here to download a copy of his latest single for free.

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