The plan to record Should We Tell Him was hatched long before Rab Noakes and Brooks Williams actually got into the studio. Five years, to be exact. But for Rab Noakes it had been on his radar for many more years than that.
“I’ve long had familiarity with the recordings of the Everly Brothers,” writes Rab. “I’m not quite a completist, but close, and I’ve harboured an idea to record some of Don Everly’s accomplished works for quite some time”, Rab continues, “Although a number of the Everly Brothers’ big hits were written by Don (and others by acclaimed Nashville songwriters, especially Felice and Boudleaux Bryant), many others were B-sides and album tracks. There’s little doubt he doesn’t get celebrated enough as songwriter.”
Although Brooks Williams knew of Rab’s music since his teenage years, he famously included one Rab song in every gig he did in the first five years of his professional career, the two didn’t actually meet until Brooks invited him to sing on his album Lucky Star in Glasgow. A friendship was formed and a musical collaboration was born.
“When I mentioned to Rab that the Everly Brothers’ Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, one of their more obscure recordings, was among my favourites, he rose from his chair, grabbed his Gibson guitar, and proceeded to sing the whole of one of the tracks from start to finish. I knew then I had met a kindred spirit and had a partner in crime. Shortly thereafter is when we first talked about making a recording of Don Everly songs.”
It took a few years from that first conversation, but the stars and life aligned in 2022 and work on the project began in earnest. In deciding what to sing, Rab and Brooks avoided the bigger, more well-known hits and instead found inspiration in a spiral-bound mimeographed songbook called Songs By Don Everly, that Rab got from Acuff-Rose, Don’s publisher, in Nashville in the early 1980s. They each chose their favourites and over the summer worked on them at Rab’s flat in Glasgow, recording ‘demos’ on Rab’s smart phone. They booked the musicians and the big room at Chem19 in Blantyre outside Glasgow for late September. There, behind a perspex divider, Rab and Brooks, acoustic guitars in hand, sang the songs you hear on the album. Surrounding them were Hilary Brooks on piano, Kevin McGuire on bass, Conor Smith on pedal steel and electric guitar and Signy Jakobsdottir on drums. With Paul Savage at the mixing desk, they recorded these eleven songs over three days ‘live from the floor,’ as they used to say in Music City.
A little over a month later, sensing all was not well health-wise, Rab asked Brooks to see this recording to completion. To that end, Brooks gathered Paul and Hilary at Chem19 to mix the tracks. A month later Brooks joined Frank Arkwright in London at Abbey Road to put the final magic on the mixes. It all joins up as Rab was fond of saying. The first concert he saw in Glasgow, within a week of moving there from Fife, was the Everly Brothers on 17 October 1963 at the Odeon Cinema on the corner of Renfield and West Regent. Brooks’ earliest professional gigs in the late 1980s featured ‘Dublin, Take Me’, a Rab song he learned from a cassette given to him by a fan who’d bought it while on holiday in Scotland and said, “I think you’ll like this.” On a warm, late September evening at his flat in Glasgow, Rab played Brooks a few Beatles’ reissues. He enthused, “It’s like they’re in the room with us.” “I hope we come close to this sound in our efforts.”
“To that end”, says Williams, “I decided to have the recording mastered at Abbey Road. I like to imagine Rab getting a kick out of that. It is an honour to have worked with Rab on what turned out to be his final recording, and an honour to help that recording see the light of day and get out into the world.” It all fits.
For more information, please visit https://brookswilliams.com/should-we-tell-him
‘Jackson Greyhound’ – live in the studio: