2016 has seen Rab out-and about doing shows, mainly promoting his double-CD ‘I’m walkin’ here’ which was released in October 2015.
The album, which features many new Rab new songs alongside some characteristically interestingly wide-ranging interpretations, was received with high praise in reviews and has attracted positive comment from audience and journalists alike.
This album was made in John Cavanagh’s Muirend studio and features an interesting collection of musicians (mostly selected by John) including Una McGlone, Stu Brown, Harry Hussey and Ula Zoola. Rab is joined by a stellar array of singers including Jill Jackson, Roddy Hart, Emma Pollock, Jimmie Macgregor, Alice Marra and Hilary Brooks.
2015 was a bumpy year as Rab had some health issues to deal with but the end of the year saw him on tour, on telly and radio as well being honoured by Nordoff-Robbins with a Tartan Clef award for Contribution to Music.
As far as other 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 Vol2 – 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 that year.
2014 contained many Rab solo shows and a couple with harmonica-ace and occasional collaborator Fraser Speirs.
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.
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.
In previous Celtic Connections festivals Rab played a pivotal role in the production of a commemorative concert for Gerry Rafferty in 2012 and one for Michael Marra in 2013.
Rab’s first fully-professional engagements were in 1967. Almost 50 years and more than 20 albums later he remains a vital, popular, prolific and acclaimed songwriter and performer.
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.
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’s creative development from an early age.
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.