Last month on these pages we featured the release of a double CD from Fife singer/songwriter Rab Noakes. I’m Walkin’ Here (read the review) confirmed Rab’s status as one of the most important figures on the Scottish music scene, and after more than forty years in the business he looks set to continue providing first class songs and recordings. Rab takes to the road this month for a series of solo gigs around Scotland. As well as the 21st Century Skiffle of his latest release, audiences can look forward to a generous sprinkling of old favourites and, as we learned in Kinross on Friday, one or two new songs.
In a sizeable back room at The Green Hotel in Kinross there’s an Aladdin’s Cave of rock and folk memorabilia where Mundell Music has, since 1999, presented intimate gigs for appreciative audiences. Rab Noakes is a familiar face at this venue, Kinross is almost a home crowd, and it isn’t surprising to find every seat in the house occupied as Rab takes to the stage for the first of his two sets.
Opening with three choice options from I’m Walkin’ Here, Rab’s rich guitar tones; strong, clear vocal and affable stage presence ensure a great start to the evening. The upbeat Don’t Let It Out Of Your Sight, was followed by the more sedate It Happened All The Same and I’m Walkin’ Here – both of which pack a memorable lyrical punch and received a rousing reception. Later, the equally punchy One Dog Barks prompted Rab to speculate that “dragging a song out of one good line is a risky business”. This, however, is what makes a song writer. Rab doesn’t drag a song from a single line, he adopts a theme and crafts a series of colourful explorations. The result is always fascinating, never contrived.
Much of Rab’s song writing is far more organic in nature, especially those he’s written in memory of departed friends. His ability to a adapt a musical theme, as well as a lyrical one, shines through when the sublime instrumental prelude, A Little Time Left is followed by his tribute to Gerry Rafferty No More Time. It’s such a heart-felt, sincere song you wonder how Rab can sing it without becoming lost in the emotion; but he steadies himself with typical humour as the song closes – “No more time? I’m gonna be on for hours yet”
There’s a palpable sense of anticipation just before Rab takes to the stage for his second set. The new material was warmly received, but most of this audience knows him well, and are looking forward to revisiting some of his back catalogue.
Pass The Time, Roll On Saturday and a menacing performance of Twa Corbies (inspired by his recent work with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes) are all enthusiastically received, and he clearly relishes going back to these old favourites. There’s some new material to set the chronological balance, though. In two new songs, Rab shares his thoughts on his recent serious illness which, refreshingly, he isn’t reticent about. He doesn’t complain about it either; and is keen to share the insights he’s gained as a result. With accompaniment that includes snatches of Bye Bye Blackbird, Mindful confirms Rab as one of our greatest song writers; and By The Day speaks for itself:
be here now
Bringing the night to a close with a return to I’m Walkin’ Here; Slippin’ Away and Don’t Say Money Doesn’t Matter bring us full circle and back to one of the most enjoyable albums to reach the shelves this year. Rab enlivens, enriches and entertains. With a wealth of songs, stories and experience to bring to his performance, Rab Noakes in concert is an event that every lover of acoustic music should make the most of.
Review by: Neil McFadyen