About Scottish Narrative Songs
A narrative is a story. Bothy ballads, ballads, Jacobite songs and some work songs tell a story and are therefore narrative songs. However, some songs on this site, for example 'The Day We Went to Rothesay O', 'The Deil's awa wi' the Exciseman' and 'MacPherson's Rant', represent traditional Scots songs which do not quite fit the other song categories, but which you ought to know something about.
There are many songs that comment seriously on some aspect of Scottish life or history, for example 'The Flowers of the Forest' and 'Sic a Parcel of Rogues'. Some songs comment on society or work, such as 'Tramps and Hawkers' and 'The Wark o' the Weavers'. There are also many Scots drinking songs, for example 'Hame Drunk Cam I', 'Jock Stewart', 'Blue Blazing Blind Drunk' and 'Willie Brew'd a Peck o' Maut'. The largest group of all is of love songs.
Traditional love songs or songs about love are not just about emotion. They do not just say, 'I love you, love me too' or 'I love you but you don't love me' or even 'I used to love you but I don't any more'. They tell you the name of the person, where something happened, what happened and why it happened. Examples of such songs are 'The Bleacher Lassie o' Kelvinhaugh', 'The Road and the Miles to Dundee', 'The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond' and 'The Banks o' Red Roses'.
Some dramatic narrative songs, for example 'The Gallawa Hills', 'The Lowlands of Holland' and 'Hot Asphalt', look very much like work songs, ballads or bothy ballads, but are not usually put under those headings. This may be because they are not thought to be old enough to be ballads or do not come from the North East of Scotland where farm workers lived in bothies.