Friday, May 2, 2014

Various Artists – Jock’s Juke Joint Contemporary Blues from Scotland Volume One and Volume Two Album Reviews

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the July 11, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Various Artists – Jock’s Juke Joint Contemporary Blues from Scotland Volume One and Volume Two

Lewis Hamilton Music

Volume One 17 tracks / 1:17:44

Volume Two 18 tracks / 1:15:25

In my ignorance, it used to be that I associated the UK blues music scene only with London and the seaports of Liverpool and Belfast. But over the past year I have reviewed CDs from some really fine Scottish blues artists, including Lewis Hamilton and the Boogie Brothers and the Bare Bones Boogie Band. Despite these positive experiences I still did not fully grasp the depth of their blues scene until I got Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Jock’s Juke Joint Contemporary Blues from Scotland. It turns out that great blues was always there and I just did not know about it.

These two compilation CDs are intended to provide an anthology of the great original blues music heritage of Scotland. In the real world there is no Jock’s Juke Joint (nor any other juke joint in Scotland), but you should think of it as the place where you could go to hear some fine tunes and have a good time. Many of us will not be familiar with these bands, so the liner notes provide a nice biography for each artist in addition to describing their roles in the local blues music scene. This is a very helpful and pleasant surprise, as many CDs I get these days are bereft of interesting information like this.

Compilation albums like these are awesome because they provide exposure for bands that may not otherwise see the light of day. I often find stuff I really like to listen to -- leading to many album purchases, which is surely what the people that put them together are hoping for. I guess their marketing works well on me!

On the two discs of Jock’s Juke Joint Contemporary Blues from Scotland there are 35 tracks from different artists, and they cover the gamut of blues types from delta to boogie to Chicago-style and blues rockers. There is no way I can describe each one in detail (and have you finish reading this review, anyway), which is a shame because there is not a bad song to be found within. So here are highlights of a few tracks from each volume that stand out for me.

From Volume One “South of the City” by Albany Down got my attention early on in this disc. This well-written blues song starts out with a basic acoustic guitar riff and builds into a monstrous guitar anthem. Paul Turley gets guitar credit, and Paul Muir’s vocals are smoking! Also, Lewis Hamilton and the Boogie Brothers’ “Empty Roads” is a hard-edged countrified blues number which gives Hamilton a chance to tear loose on his guitar. This is surely one of the standout tracks from this disc.

I would be remiss if I did not mention The Bare Bones Boogie Band’s contribution of “Fallin’ for Foolin” from their Blue CD, one of the best albums I reviewed last year. Helen Turner’s vocals are incredibly emotional on this 7-minute jazzy slow burner, as are fellow Scot Iain Black’s guitar work and Trev Turley’s spot-on bass. This song is so tight that you can tell they have been together for over two decades.

Volume Two is just as good, with some fun stuff including the instrumental “Jam’al” from the 4 Als (which really is four guys named Al) led by Alan Nimmo on lead guitar. This uptempo boogie is only 3 minutes long but every second is pure gold. Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters’ “Don’t Tell Me” has a fifties delta feel to it, and Cameron Grey does a masterful job of playing his harp off of Potts’ soulful voice and smooth guitar stylings.

Angela Moore’s vocals on the Baby Isaac original tune, “What the Hell,” capture the proper amount of indignation that you would expect from the title. Gary Arnott’s harmonica is also first-rate in this song which evokes images of the 1960’s rhythm and blues divas. Hot Tin Roof provides some no-frills blues with “Maybe Baby,” which features Andy McKay Challen on vocals and acoustic guitar and Gavin Jack on electric lead guitar. These guys prove that you don’t need a lot of personnel to make intricate and interesting music.

Jock’s Juke Joint Contemporary Blues from Scotland Volume One and Volume Two are a stone cold awesome collection of all genres of blues music. And if this is not enough for you, a third volume is in the works and will be released soon. If these discs are any indication of the blues to be found in Scotland, I have got to find a way to get over there and check it out for myself!


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