This version of Dowie Dens came to me from Willie Scott, a shepherd and wonderful traditional singer from the Borders. He sang at events all over the world, and in the halls around the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys. He could command any room he found himself in and gave his traditional songs the platform they deserved.

This was a song that, as a young musician, I didn’t think I would ever be able to sing. I have three different melodies to this tragic tale, this one I associate more with my local community – where the story is set. As usual, the song has changed shape a bit in my hands. This melody, in isolation, is actually very happy sounding. This is often the case in Scottish song and sometimes you get a shock when lyrics emerge from a musical first impression.

(Child 214, Roud 13)

The dowie dens are the low lying plains along the river Yarrow, there are several Yarrows in the song as the plooboy lad, sister and brither move around the valley.

Traditional song arranged by Lori Watson and Duncan Lyall
Vocal by Lori Watson
Piano by Duncan Lyall
Recorded and mixed by Duncan Lyall at Red Deer
Mastered by Iain Hutchison at Glo Worm Studios


Dark and brooding, windswept, contoured, joyful, turbulent, sparse: Yarrow is an evolving collection of traditional and original songs and new music by Lori Watson.

Yarrow is an exploration of human connections to nature and one another, through time, inspired by the Yarrow valley in the Scottish Borders. The project centres on the development of a contemporary album that carries these themes beyond conventional folk sounds, and as part of the exploration a series of acoustic singles will be released (Yarrow Acoustic Sessions).

“With Yarrow taking place over a couple of years, I can give more time and space to allowing the music to develop towards the final album and share the experience as we go in the monthly acoustic singles: so yeah there’s an element of risk in that I don’t quite know what’s going to evolve.”

“I’m interested in unfinished works and fragments, whether traditional or original. They’ve always been inspiring starting points for me. In Yarrow I’m creating and interpreting fragments; crafting something that expresses the connections between us and our environment spanning hundreds of years: and then it’s filtered by what inspires and resonates with me right now.”

Scots Singer of the Year, Lori Watson is a fiddle player, singer and composer. She has drawn on the rich tradition of the Scottish Borders throughout her artistic life, including experimental works and a PhD thesis and creative folio exploring innovation and contemporary traditional music practice.

A folk musician with considerable pedigree, Lori is touring and recording with Boreas, Iain Morrison and a range of other solo and collaborative projects, and has six albums in circulation, including two critically acclaimed albums with her trio Rule of Three. But this is Lori’s first significant song work and she aims to let us in on the process as well as the finished products.