Jocks Juke Joint - Three Compilation Albums 2012/13
Not a lot of people know that The Hat is a direct descendant of a fearsome and very successful clan of murdering Border Reivers, Raiders and cattle thieves. By rights, I should be living in Stobs Castle, Roxburgh, wearing my rare blue family clan tartan and drinking proper drink. This quite reasonable aspiration was sadly thwarted because in 1712 some ungrateful and churlish wretch burned down My Castle and most of the legal records of My Rightful Inheritance. I mention this, not to unnerve you with my impressive lineage, but to add credence to my observations on a recent piece of Scottish musical history.
Even if you have only a passing interest in the background of any of our much loved music and how it came to be archived, you will probably know that Alan Lomax was one of the greatest of American folk and blues music collectors. Similarly, Cecil Sharp was the extraordinary man who collected our huge inheritance of English folk music. The wonderful title 'Songhunter' was attached to these two and many more dedicated individuals who painstakingly collected names, music, lyrics, dates and recordings,so that we, in the future, could enjoy what they found before it disappeared for ever.
With the arrival of the internet, digital storage and compact recording equipment, this task is now made much easier but it is still a rare breed that does the job thoroughly and makes it easier for the rest of us. One such riveting example of how important this is and how exciting it can be when it is put together with care and love is the recent Jocks Juke Joint trilogy comprising three discs crammed to overflowing with a stunning cross section of the contemporary Scottish blues community.
Kick-started with a fire-in-the-belly passion and enthusiasm by Nick and Lewis Hamilton and Duncan Beattie, it is easy to see how the project took off and developed a life of its own. You can understand how the mad meetings and the back of an envelope notions caught the imagination of the artists and turned into an internet-led success. Every musician, singer and song writer clearly gave it their all - as eager publicists as well as artists. The seed of a smart idea grew rapidly into a national and international viral sensation with thousands of hits. The first album was launched to great acclaim in September 2012 and amazingly, was followed just a few months later by the second. Spring 2013 saw the launch of the third album. Somehow, they have gathered together fifty three tracks full of surprises and thrills covering everything from electric and acoustic to folk blues and even a bit of swing. The reviews are consistently warm and supportive.
What was particularly encouraging about the reception given to the project was the way the reviewers and internet stations got behind it – not simply because it is a Great Listen, but also because it represented, possibly for the first time, a serious coming together of a significant collection of Scottish blues music and a major acknowledgement of a traditional depth of Scottish talent where amongst others, Tam White, Alex Harvey and Frankie Miller have proudly led.
The Hat has previously wondered out loud about the value of compilation albums. Often they are simply a re-run of the 'best of' with a few 'make-weights' thrown in to make up the numbers. The JukeJoint project is different, not only because its long arm reaches right into the heart of the blues in Scotland; not only because it is hot, exciting and contemporary but particularly because its driving forces have, in putting it all together, managed to follow in the footsteps of Lomax and Sharp and have carefully documented and recorded for us a classic moment in Scottish blues history. You have to agree that took some nerve, ambition and imagination... I'll raise a dram or two to that...