Welcome to Anniversaryville
published: 13 /
Often autobiographical celebration of fifty years in the music business from Scottish folk singer Rab Noakes which reminds us that his music is part of our story too
What a treat! In spite of the gesture on the cover (portrait of Rab by Celie Byrne, giving the V sign), this is an invitation to join in a celebration.
Back in February 2017 Rab Noakes and assembled musicians gathered together at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket. The concert was part of Celtic Connections and Rab called it 70/50, marking turning seventy with fifty years of paid performances behind him. Some of the musicians had worked together or with him before, others hadn’t. It was an adventure for all concerned and one that continued after the show, as trips to the recording studio captured the collaborations and music from that night.
Seventeen songs take the listener through fifty years of performing and songwriting, starting appropriately with 'Let the Show Begin'. Each song tells a story, not just in the lyrics but in the circumstances of writing or performing it. I saw Rab at a solo acoustic show in Sheffield a short time after the Celtic Connections concert. His introductions to the songs were moving and memorable, and the great sleeve notes with the album share these stories. I can’t walk past my local car wash without thinking of the questions 'The Handwash Feein’ Mairket' raises. It’s not the only political song. 'Tramps and Immigrants' uses a traditional Scottish tune 'Tramps and Hawkers' and Dylan’s 'I Pity the Poor Immigrant'. 'Jackson Greyhound', written on an American road trip in 2013, is about the Civil Rights movement. There are memories of Johnny Cash in 'Still in Town' and Rab’s great friend Robin McKidd in 'A Voice Over My Shoulder'. There are also lovely versions of pops and standards of the day, Doris Troy’s 'Just One Look', Al Jolson’s 'Anniversary Song 'and Pee Wee King’s 'Tennessee Waltz'. There’s a Scottish murder ballad, 'The Twa Corbies/An Da Fhennaig' and an American ghost story 'Long Black Veil'.
'Together Forever,' written by Rab in 1969 is balanced by 'It All Joins Up in the End', written in 2017. 'Gently Does It' was written about the singer Alex Campbell and his battle with cancer back in 1985, but also serves as a reminder that Rab has overcome his own health issues.
The band for the concert were Stuart Brown (drums), Christine Hanson (cello), Jill Jackson (guitar, harmonica and singing), Kathleen MacInnes (singing), Una McGlone, (double bass), Lisbee Stainton (8-string guitar, banjo and singing), Innes Watson, (guitar, fiddle and singing) and, of course, the man himself, Rab Noakes. Other players who appear on the album are Davie Craig (fiddle and singing), Alex Gascoine (violin), Sue McKenzie (baritone and soprano sax) and Emily Tse (bass trombone).
In interview Rab says, "It’s all too easy for artists to believe their latest is their best work. It’s seldom true, and in any case, it takes time for that to be proved. In this case, for me, it may well be true."
It’s a great celebration of his talent and achievements. Happy anniversary Rab.
Let the Show Begin
It All Joins Up (In the End)
Gently Does It
Oh Me Oh My
Just One Look
TCB (Working and Working Woman)
The Handwash Feein' Mairket
Long Black Veil
The Twa Corbies / An Dà Fheannaig
Tramps and Immigrants
Still in Town
A Voice over My Shoulder