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Royal Oak: best of folk

The Royal Oak: Best of Folk was released on Magic Park Records in 2008. Born out of my love of folk music and the famous Royal Oak pub on Infirmary Street in Edinburgh. It was an absolute pleasure to pull together some of Scotland's best loved artists to record this album.

The Royal Oak: Best of Folk

Forward Note by Ian Rankin


I've had many a good night at Edinburgh's Royal Oak. I like my pubs small, intimate, and filled with regulars. But I also like a bit of chat and a bit of music (and I have a dislike of puggies and doormen both). The Royal Oak fulfils this remit - and then some. I even placed it in one of my books. Detective Inspector John Rebus is on his way home one evening but decides to have a nightcap. He's shocked to walk into the Royal Oak and find that his nemesis is singing a song there. As far as Rebus was aware, Big Ger Cafferty (the gangster who owns Edinburgh) was in jail for the duration. But Cafferty has been released and the Oak is his first stop. I forget now what song he sings - I think it was Rabbie Burns - but he points to the sense of true democracy in the bar: if you have a song in your heart and a burning desire to belt it out, no one's going to stop you.
(But you better be good, mind.)
I came to Edinburgh from Fife as a student in 1978 and the Oak was on the main route between the university and my digs. Not that this put it in any special category - I could say the same about a few dozen other pubs. But at school I'd been listening to some folk music (my sister was a huge Corries fan, while I preferred the likes of John Martyn, Rab Noakes and Dick Gaughan). An old schoolpal with similar tastes pointed me in the direction of the Oak. We had a wheen of nights there. Sometimes you would stumble upon effortlessly great musicians; other times, it would be a tone-deaf pensioner with attitude. It really didn't matter - all were accorded due respect. Some nights you could hear a pin drop as an unaccompanied voice floated into your ears. But then the atmosphere could turn suddenly and splendidly raucous as everyone with an instrument decided to `gie it laldy'.
As time passed, I found the Oak a natural watering-hole whenever there were visitors to entertain. Sightseeing to start with, then maybe a meal in town, and a late-night restorative and listening-session. I've yet to receive any negative feedback. And now I'm privileged to be able to present some of the music of the Royal Oak to a wider audience. You'll find your feet tapping along to some tunes, while others will have you scratching your head to identify half-remembered influences embedded in the songs. There's a bit of country, of course, the lineage from folk to country being fairly direct and unsullied. In fact, probably the only thing missing is the interaction - and hopefully you can add your own whoops, whistles and handclaps.
There's poignancy here, and humour, and rollicking good tunes. It represents all that a good night out at the pub should be.
You'll find it most nights at the Royal Oak.

Ian Rankin
April 2008

Royal Oak: Best of Folk Reviews

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