This was a
relaxed and informal gathering for Rab to perform in and it was fun to
have a chat.The conservatory was set
with chairs for the 30 or so people invited for this special evening.
We had time
to chat with Rab before his set and he clearly enjoyed the more social setting. He said he sang song interpretations , rather than cover
version.. I asked him about his musical influences and how he mixes both a Scottish and American sound. He said, like Dylan he grew up listening to the
radio and to musicians such as Buddy Holly, Billy Fury and to 20th
He said his
SONGWRITING was an organic process and that no two songs came in the same way.
He said sometimes the melody and idea came first, or playing a guitar riff.
first set he sang songs from his new album and some of his most popular songs.
Moving On, out of Sight, I’m Walking here. No More Time, Moonlight and Gold,
When one dog barks at the shadow, Most dogs bark at the sound, Branch, It
happened All the Same, Mississippi.
second half Rab performed some Americana songs
say money doesn’t matter, Roll on Saturday, Lonely by Twilight, Jackson
Greyhound, Where Dead Voices Gather, Waters my Friend, One More Shavin Haircut,
Travelling Light, Slippin Away
spoke of the opportunities come your way – grab them.
partner told me about his submitting songs for the project ‘SCOTLAND SINGS’.
club was packed out with people standing at the sides - the club is often
filled with addicted folkies like myself(!) and with relaxed friendly chat. The last
time I saw Rab here the crowd was half this size perhaps as it was the month
before Christmas. I usually pick gigs of artists I particularly enjoy.
Noakes released a 40th anniversary edition of his Red Pump Special album.
He told us that the album was first recorded in Nashville with a cracking squad and somebody
in the room had worked with Hank Williams.
4 excellent cover songs choices – Brand New Heartache (The Everly
Brothers?), Your Clear White Light (Alan
Hall of Lindisfarne), Guessing Kitchen
Porter (Michael Marra) and O The Wind
and the Rain (Percy's Song) - Rab likes juxtapositions in songs and this
one was a murder ballad sung to a sweet guitar waltz.
Rab sings songs
of different eras with small histories and moods and stories and like fine wine
gets better over time... I dont' wish to pick out favourites as every song has
something special.He said the mark of a good song was if it can
age with you.
One song was
about being able to recognise a window of opportunity when it opens...., and I
wondered about his lost times when he left Stealers Wheel with Gerry Rafferty
and his slot on the BBCs Old Grey Whistle test. He told the stories behind his songs and
musical journeys and his songs range from harder hitting questions to subtler
his style 21st century skiffle - in the style of Guthrie or Leadbelly before
the folk revival and also a wee bit Buddy Holly. Noakes
crosses the generations, as he looks and sounds both of now and of those
fifties folk songs. .
understand that artists like to perform their newer material while I know also that
fans would wish to hear some of his older favourites such as Branch or
Clear day - perhaps the audience might sing the backing vocals!
For a man who's
been touring for a very long time Rab Noakes looks fit and well. He was
asked how long had he been singing in front of people and he answered
that he thought it was about 60 years but that it seemed like no time at
all. In fact 'it didn't too seem a day too long.' Noakes guitar playing is both melodic and assured. He has written many memorable and thoughtful songs, that are sometimes full of pathos, over his career in music - such as Branch, Eden's Flow, Clear Day, Together for Ever, and Turn a Deaf Ear. He mixes folk, blues and rock n roll styles. He played with well known Scottish singer songwriter Gerry Rafferty in his pop-folk band Stealers Wheel in the early 70s. I first heard Noakes songs in my twenties when we had singing sessions and his songs were always favourites for harmony singing.
During his long career there has been influences by a wide variety of music from skiffle to the Rolling Stones. He mentioned guitarist Dot Watson, who was his first reference point, and said that he enjoyed 'rootsy' country music rather than 'pop' country. He saw The Rolling Stones in 1964 at the Barrowlands and explained that in their first albums they were gatekeepers for many to interesting blues artists, such as Rufus Thomas's 'Walkin The Dog' which Noakes performed.
Noakes had an older wooden guitar with him as he likes to use different guitars for different melodies. His latest album 'I'm Walking Here' will be Tin Pan Alley and 21st century Skiffle Music.
Noakes enjoyed sharing his fond memories of his musical career and had many interesting anecdotes. He remembered phoning Dylan's manager about the old Scots songs that Dylan sang on his Bootleg album in 1961. He frequently mentioned Gerry Rafferty, whom he remembered with great affection and said when he first met him he was an unassuming young man from Paisley with all these outstanding songs. Noakes explained that Rafferty often used the day as a metaphor for life in his songs. He spoke of the Humblebums' Concert at the City Hall in 1969 and how after Rafferty died in January, 2011, he strummed a guitar melody about the loss for a long time. Eventually, while at an art gallery in London, Noakes wrote words that seemed to work with the melody on his smart phone. The song was the poignant 'No More Time', which Noakes performed in his second set.
He spoke of the recent loss of another legend, Scottish singer songwriter Michael Marra. He described Marra as a master of location and brevity, with words that resonated wider. He performed Marra's 'Oh No More Will I Roam No More, It's Over.' Noakes is organising a concert in Marra's memory for Celtic Connection 2013 called 'All Will Be Well'.
During the interval a fan asked Rab to sign his vinyl of Red Pump Special, and Noakes reminisced about the day the photographs for the back cover were taken in Edinburgh.
SET (1). Brighter blue, Blues Around Me Now, That's the Way the Whole thing Ends, Out of The Blue, Walkin the Dog, Branch, Light in my Heart, Seeing is Believing, Turn a Deaf Ear, SET (2) Highway To Take Me Home, Absence, Goodbye, Oh no more will I roam no more, it's over, ( Marra), Bye Bye Blackbird, No More Time, Moonlight and Gold, That's the Way the Whole thing Ends, Encore: See what booze has done for me, Mississippi,
Rab is quiet and unassuming, and his demeanour, look and sound remind me of Buddy Holly and those 'Americana rock n' roll week day blues'. He hails from St Andrews. I especially enjoyed his song Gently Does it (Standing Up album 1995). He is a big Dylan fan and for his encore sang a excellent version of Mississippi. I was pleased my son came and he has been playing this song since the gig. Nice to hear!
Noakes says music is all about the dialogue and more about performing than simply the song. He spoke of those residency night gigs were artists can learn their craft in front of the live audience and the live performance when 'flying' in the heart of the music toughens you up and you have to learn loads of songs. He played in Denmark 6 nights a week. (I hope those residency nights are not in the past with those large tv screens so prevalent in bars nowadays?) Noakes now runs his own production company Neon.
It seems to me that these intimate venue gigs enrich and soothe the soul. His new album will be called I’m Walking Here – and will be Tin Pan Alley, 21st century Skiffle Music.
Noakes was supported by Colbeg,
It is fun for me to follow the older folk tunes and folk artists
alongside the newer pop music songs. I begin to wish some of these older folk
artists would collaborate more with the younger musicians.
A two way street though. Experience and wisdoms might be passed
on and the energy and enthusiasms of the younger artists could inspire and
innovate. Mumford have cleverly mixed dance rhythms with folk tunes to great
success. Gently Does It
And a few years ago you'd been on this road so
Now they're building a highway to take you home
Gently does it for a change
I used to think you were just like a mountain range
Your big boots stomped where small men feared to tread
I can hardly believe what I've just read
They say you can't travel any more
But you've got the key to a new front door
And don't you know 'cause you once said it all
When you stand so high you've got so far to fall
Not everyone can look you eye to eye
'Cause you get difficult, dangerous I'm damned if I lie
But we all pay the price
And they place your ante high.
Many Voices and the Songwriter gave them One Voice
A stellar cast took to the Glasgow Royal Concert hall stage as part of Celtic Connections 2012, to celebrate the life and fine tunes of folk pop singer songwriter Rafferty. He gave us unforgettable songs that certainly stuck in our heads back in the 70s – among them his biggest hits with the soaring sax of Baker Street and the dancing rhythms of Stuck in the Middle With You.
The concert was led by former Humblebum member and friend Rab Noakes and his daughter Martha Rafferty. The songs selected ranged from the Humblebums, Stealerswheel to Rafferty’s solo career. The Rafferty family, blended their perfect harmonies when they sang The Ark, Family Tree, and Whatever’s Written in Your Heart. Noakes commented that only siblings can produce this special sound. Three of Rafferty's regular band members - guitarist Hugh Burns, multi-instrumentalist Graham Preskett and saxophonist Mel Collins joined with the house band, Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire.
The Proclaimers gave a stirring performance of City to City. Ron Sexsmith had flown in from Canada, and with his strong vocal he sang Days Gone Down. Mark Rafferty sounded like Gerry on the wonderful song Mary Skeffington and former Cream bassist Jack Bruce finished the first half with a resounding version of Shipyard Town. There were spirited backing vocals from both Betsey Cook and Barbara Dickson.
This was a concert full of fine jewels. Other highlights were Noake’s accomplished rendering of Moonlight and Gold;Maria Muldaur’s beautiful blues-filled Another World; the soaring vocal of Songbird by James Vincent McMorrow; the Rafferty Family singing the moving The Ark. Martha said that this song best showed Rafferty’s philosophy about life.
The rousing finale came with Paul Brady singing Rafferty’s biggest hit song Baker Street, after which the entire cast took to the stage for Stuck in the Middle With You which had the concert hall audience on it’s feet. These songs were led by the strong playing of lead guitarist Hugh Burns and saxophonist Mel Collins. Noakes gave the glue and character to the show with his stories about Gerry, the Humblebums, late night travels and more. He spoke of Rafferty’s intelligence and of his love of harmony; of his mystical and spiritual side; and of his strong will and self belief. He spoke of the poignancy yet hard core centre of Rafferty’s songs.I'm still singing Rafferty song two weeks later! His songs are spiritual and offer hope.
Rafferty’s songs cover the full spectrum of emotions, they express full-on-energy, questioning cynicism and mystical spiritualism. He was from Paisley Scotland and his music gave the folk song a new voice. He cared about the craft of the song and not celebrity or it’s trimmings. He was an artist in the true sense of the word and had a rare clarity of artistic vision. A wonderful celebration of one of Scotland’s greatest ever singer songwriters that did Gerry proud and a highlight of this years Celtic Connections.
are copyrighted Pauline Keightley and are taken with the permission of the artists, the
festival, and the venues involved. Please respect my copyright. Photos at Celtic Connections since 2008.