IN addition to 40th anniversary tours, the thing to do live nowadays is to play a significant album from your catalogue in its entirety. Rab Noakes combined the two, billing his show From Nashville To Muirend, with the first half comprising a performance of his 1973 album Red Pump Special, which was recorded in Nashville; and the second, tracks from sessions recently recorded in John Cavanagh’s studio in Muirend.
The ever affable Noakes interspersed songs from the album with anecdotes about the circumstances which brought about his working with producer Elliott Mazer, whose work on Neil Young’s Harvest album he had admired. He told of running through some of his songs in San Francisco and realising that the bloke clapping in the corner was Neil Young himself. He “took that as some encouragement”.
The songs were, generally, laidback Americana and had stood the test of time well. His band gave a beautifully understated performance, and he was aided and abetted by special guests. Roddy Hart lent his harmonica skills to opener Pass The Time and sang and played guitar throughout. Emma Pollock, Alice Marra, Jill Jackson and Barbara Dickson, all of whom contributed to Noakes’s recent sessions, were here to provide backing vocals on old tracks such as Tomorrow Is Another Day and the outstanding Clear Day.
The second half featured the new material, described as “21st-century skiffle”.
I’m Walking Here was excellent, as were the two cover versions, Beck’s Don’t Pretend Your Heart Isn’t Hard and Garbage’s I’m Only Happy When It Rains. John Cavanagh’s bravura, if economic, performance on tambourine deserves special mention.
It was an excellent show from one of this country’s finest songsmiths.
Stuart Morrison The Herald (28 January 2014)