In The Land of Aztec Camera, Teenage Fanclub, and Orange Juice

Call me naïve but I expected to arrive in the UK on a recent expedition to buy vinyl, er. . . I mean to have a relaxing vacation with my wife... and find great stuff that cannot be found in the States, not to mention tons of vintage goodies. In my fevered thirty three and a third delusions, I envisioned plum and orange-label original Led Zeppelin pressings piled high in shops; streets paved with copies of Rubber Soul and Let It Bleed, swarms of cockney street urchins hawking 45s of "Baba O'Riley."

Beautiful Edinburgh, Auld Reekie, in wonderful Scotland was the first stop and VoxBox Music down the hill from New Town in gentrifying Stockbridge (home hood of Shirley Manson) proved to be a small but fairly well-stocked shop where I got a UK copy of Los Lobos The Neighborhood. Nice back room there for diggers as well. A quick run through Vinyl Villains failed to turn up much of interest though the LP jackets hanging in long plastic sleeves from the ceiling, with like four per sleeve, is something I’d never seen before. It's weird and makes it impossible to check out the jackets other than to peer up at them from the floor. A shocking lack of classics and collectibles for such a venerable store.

The gem, and I did not get to every shop in town (see the word “wife” above) was the one that puts the lie to the belief that all record stores have to be disorganized, dirty, junk holes. Coda Music up on The Mound, just down the hill from the Royal Mile is a fantastic little store. Once just the celebrated road between Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill and Holyrood Palace at the bottom, the Royal Mile has now unfortunately become the Scottish equivalent of Times Square, in all its crowded, annoying commercialism run amok glory. No topless women with the Union Jack or Saltire painted across their breasts yet, but give it time.

Coda, however, is a very inviting place with a focus on contemporary and traditional UK folk music though they had records by Adele, Albert Collins and Art Tatum in there as well. Coda’s owners Dougie Anderson and Rose Norton have recently decided to put their faith in the staying power of the recent vinyl boom and have opened The Vinyl Room, which has its very own logo that can be found splashed across t-shirts. The room itself is crammed full of new vinyl and during my visit there were some dedicated college age shoppers clutching armloads of new titles that cost somewhere around £20 sterling each. I succumbed to the self-titled debut of the much-admired Irish band, The Gloaming and Mount The Air the latest by the English sisterly duo, The Unthanks.

Both groups are writing and performing new music that is folky in name only. This is modern acoustic music, intricately arranged, with definite connections to the grand history of UK folk music, be it Fairport Convention or Silly Wizard, and which is performed, both live and on record, with great gusto.

In the case of The Unthanks, which tends towards a slower, more sepia bent in their tunes and lyrics, 16 different musicians, including the sisters, played on the record. Another purchase which only came on CD was Blackhouse by the Peatbog Faeries from the Isle of Skye who mix electronics with fiddles and pipes. While some is soft and meandering though not in a god awful New Age-y way, this instrumental only sextet can jam out with the best of 'em. On the track “Is This Your Son?” they let loose on a loud, reverb and beat-heavy version of Scottish, dare I say it, dance music. It’s actually very creative stuff and fans of Celtic traditional music should avail themselves of a copy athoot delay.