The latest album from Rab Noakes, his 19th solo release, represents in many ways, a narrative containing references to his whole working life as a songwriter and performer. He describes it as 21st-century skiffle. It is a Double-CD with CD1 consisting of a clutch of Rab Noakes songs written within a fairly close space of time. CD2 contains songs from a variety of sources from traditional to Elizabeth Cotten to Michael Marra to Beck Hansen to the group Garbage plus some more Noakes compositions.
Working with John Cavanagh as producer an engaging range of musicians and singers were assembled for the sessions. Una McGlone on double bass and Stuart Brown on drums are joined by Ula Kinderyte on violin, Harry Hussey on accordion Richard Merchant on coronet and Emma Roche on flute and piccolo. Rab plays most of the guitar parts himself both as live accompaniment with the vocal on the track and a variety of overdubbed parts. Singers Hilary Brooks, Barbara Dickson, Roddy Hart, Jill Jackson, Jimmie Macgregor, Alice Marra and Emma Pollock join Rab on vocals on a number of the songs.
Rab said at the outset of the recordings that he wanted to make an album that nobody else could make. He made that comment with regard to the reference points and to the combination of experience and circumstance that make up its uniqueness.
This is an album full of heartfelt performances of first-rate songs. It is possibly Rab’s best but that’s for you to decide. It certainly hangs together as an album and contains some outstanding performances.
Rab Noakes is a force to be reckoned with in the world of music in Scotland and beyond.
2015 has been eventful in unexpected ways and has not quite been the continuation to 2014 that was anticipated. Later in the year Rab’s most-recent, “21st Century Skiffle”, recordings will be issued as a Double-CD entitled I’m Walkin’ Here which will feature new songs many of which have been cited in reviews and attracted positive comment from audience and journalists alike.
Rab is hard to pin down in terms of influences. He is an accomplished songwriter whose songs reflect his lifelong interest in the popular song, in folk song and in songwriting. Alongside his acclaimed performance skills as applied to his own compositions his celebrated interpretations feature songs from sources as diverse as Elizabeth Cotten to Beck Hansen.
His professional life embraces such activities as media production. Rab is also elected to the Executive Committee of the Musicians’ Union so, at times, he’ll be representing the MU membership somewhere in the world.
In January 2015 Rab played a significant guest role in the prestigious Opening Concert at Celtic Connections, an orchestration of Martyn Bennett’s acclaimed Grit album by Greg Lawson.
As far as recordings go 2014 saw the CD release of two albums plus one EP. The 40th anniversary of Red Pump Special was issued, along with Demos and Rarities Vol 2 – Adventures With Gerry Rafferty. The EP Reunited, a performance-based clutch of songs with Barbara Dickson, is also now available.
So, 2014 was busy and productive for Rab. A sold-out January concert at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections featured the whole of the 1974 album Red Pump Special in the first half followed by selections from his newer songs in the second. This show was also delivered in a more stripped-down version in June.
Not to mention the creative collaborations. These include the Reunited tour with Barbara Dickson. He has also been touring with acclaimed Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes with a variation on their ‘Love, Ballads and Murder’ show.
Rab’s first fully-professional engagements were in 1967. Almost 50 years and 20 albums later he remains a vital, popular, prolific and acclaimed songwriter and performer.
Constant highlights in his performing life have been a continually well-received series of solo shows plus the production of, and performance in, celebratory commemorative concerts on Gerry Rafferty and Michael Marra.
Rab’s first album Do You See The Lights? was released in 1970. Thirty years later in the year 2000 he, along with his wife Stephy, formed their own record label, Neon, and produced a couple of new releases. Before he and Stephy set up Neon in 1995 he spent an eight-year spell at the BBC where he produced music and entertainment shows radio in Manchester for Network Radio and subsequently headed the entertainment department at Radio Scotland. A formal job in that medium was appropriate as the radio had played a major part in Noakes’ creative development from an early age.
A relationship with Gerry Rafferty continued from the time Rab was a founder member of Stealers Wheel. He played guitar on one of Rafferty’s later albums, ‘Over my Head’.
So, further into the 21st century you’ll most likely find Rab on the road, playing in a town near you, either solo or in one of his creative collaborations.
It’ll be some time yet until he stops making songs, TV and radio programmes or some other creative noise.
Artist’s website: www.rabnoakes.com
A masterclass in how to get it right.” Stewart Cruickshank BBC Music Radio
‘No More Time’ – written for Gerry Rafferty and performed at Celtic Connections 2012. One of the songs from the new CD: