IN THE caring, sharing of spirit of Christmas, veteran cult troubadour Rab Noakes ceded some of the spotlight at this good-natured gathering to a couple of special guests.
Singer/songwriter Jill Jackson, formerly of Speedway, now with The Chaplins, harmonised gently with Noakes on a number of songs and gingerly covered one of Noakes’s own gems, Wrong Joke Again, while comedian Bruce Morton tickled with a raucous routine so local in its references that the “tourists” (non-southsiders) in the audience may have been stumped by some of the references.
Both brought their respective band members with them – Morton’s Roustabouts were cheery enough but outgunned by the country chemistry of Jackson and washboard player Lisa Tring.
However, the evening belonged to one-time Stealers Wheel member Noakes, a natural storyteller, soothing vocalist and mesmerising guitar player who passes on his knowledge and appreciation of the roots of rock’n’roll with an unpretentious enthusiasm.
Noakes is a great communicator, both verbally and musically, and could have held the crowd much longer with the likes of Where Dead Voices Gather, his freewheeling tribute to influential minstrel Emmett Miller, an absorbing version of The Twa Corbies and a subtle mellifluous new song, Jackson Greyhound inspired by the US civil rights movement.
But there was a seasonal singalong of throwback favourites to fit in too, including Noakes’s connoisseur’s choice of Elvis Presley’s underappreciated Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me). Quietly evangelising to the last.
FIONA SHEPHERD – ****The Scotsman 22 December 14