What they say about I’m walkin’ here
“Perfection” * * * * * – Maverick “Magnificent” * * * * – Guardian
“Zestful” * * * * – Scotsman “Gem-laden” * * * * * – Morning Star
“Splendid” – Sunday Herald “Superb” – Music News Scotland
“Beautiful” – Music News Nashville “Uplifting” – folkradio
The Scotsman 03.10.15
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This zestful double album sees singer-songwriter Noakes hark back with worldy-wise warmth to the skiffle and other strands that have informed his music over five decades. Wielding his vintage guitars he’s supported by a bunch of musicians and singers including Roddy Hart and Emma Pollock while longstanding pals Barbara Dickson and Jimmie Macgregor make guest appearances. It was mixed in mono, so you can’t get more authentic than that.
There’s a certain Stealers Wheel-ish energy to the opening Slippin’ away (Noakes co-founded the band with the late Gerry Rafferty), but Noakes is very much his own man, coming out with the gloriously Confucian shuffle of “One dog barks at a shadow/Many dogs bark at the sound”, while Where dead voices gather sheds any morbidity with its guitar twanging rockabilly drive.
The second CD features fond renditions of songs ranging from Garbage’s Only happy when it rains to some wonderfully vintage-sounding old chestnuts such as Buttons and bows and Freight train.
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/oct/15/rab-noakes-im-walkin-here-review Rab Noakespop and folk
The Guardian 16.10.15
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Rab Noakes is unique. He’s a Scottish singer-songwriter, guitarist and music historian who can switch effortlessly between pop and folk, and has worked with everyone from Gerry Rafferty (with whom he co-founded Stealers Wheel) to Barbara Dickson. And he’s still in remarkable form, as this double album of his “21st-century skiffle” proves. The first set consists of new compositions that show his gift for melody and love of Americana, and include the glorious Out of Your Sight, influenced by Buddy Holly (who apparently admired Lonnie Donegan), a stomping tribute to a 1920s minstrel singer and a poignant lament for Rafferty. The second album is dominated by “interpretations” (he hates the word covers) of songs from early Cliff Richard to Garbage and Beck, along with the skiffle standard Freight Train, on which he’s joined by Jimmy MacGregor and a finely sung treatment of the traditional The Two Sisters. Magnificent.
From Barry Mckay, Lindisfarne manager back in the1970s
Rab Noakes Tribute to Alan Hull, “Your Clear White Light” from the new double CD “I’m Walkin’ Here”
Back in the 1970’s, I was honoured to be managing Alan Hull and having been a fan before that (Pipedream instantly became my most played LP on first release), looking back today, I almost have to pinch myself to believe it. Fast forward over 30 years and I was trying, at first unsuccessfully, to obtain a memorial for Alan Hull in Newcastle . In late 2011 I finally mounted a public campaign, which led to a memorial plaque unveiling outside Newcastle City Hall….. and also to my meeting Rab Noakes for the first time.
Rab’s simple and poignant musical tribute to Alan Hull was inspired by the memorial plaque unveiling. Rab was present outside Newcastle City Hall for the unveiling by the Lord Mayor, speeches from Councillors and the Newcastle MP (as well as one from me) that day back in July 2012 and I can quite understand Rab wondering what Alan would have made of it all, involving as it did, Councillors, Magistrates, Men of Renown. But he would have approved of the memorial plaque……in the words of Ray Laidlaw, “Alan would have been chuffed.”
Rab Noakes is an inspiration to so many musicians and has been so for many years……including to both Alan Hull and Lindisfarne. The authenticity of his art made him a musician’s musician long ago. Rab’s lyrics on his tribute to Alan…. “’Your home town won’t refuse you The speeches would amuse you….as they try to get everything right. I can’t help but wonder what you’d make of it all,……. if you could see it by your clear white light” struck a chord with me.
I have often been impressed by Rab’s song-writing…and so, clearly were Lindisfarne. Although Alan was never into recording new songs by other contemporaries, LINDISFARNE made an exception when it came to Rab Noakes who of course composed “Turn a Deaf Ear” on Nicely Out of Tune, and “Together Forever” on Fog on the Tyne. This means that Rab Noakes is a hit song-writer and he has been so since the early 1970’s.
Rab and LINDISFARNE go back a long way…well before my involvement started in 1975…….in fact Rab Noakes did that legendary tour with Lindisfarne and Genesis in Autumn 1972 taking the middle spot. Rab told me that he also joined them for the finale which was ‘The Battle of New Orleans’. Rab took a verse – ‘they ran through the briars’ etc. Somehow, I had never met Rab… until 40 years later…..on the day of the Newcastle City Hall memorial plaque unveiling back in July 2012. Rain was expected and in the hours before the ceremony, the sky looked dark and threatening, which was a worry given that the band’s loyal friend and ex-road manager, Jimmy Moore, had just donated the outdoor stage set-up (via his PA/Lighting and Stage company, Nitelites) and spent many hours having it built. However all present were lucky and the rain stayed away.
After the ceremony, someone shook my hand and thanked me, in a strong Scottish accent. The face was strangely familiar but I had to embarrassingly ask him who he was….”I’m Rab Noakes” said Rab gently and with a warm and friendly smile. I could have kicked myself! Meeting Rab made me feel even more emotional than I had been when introducing Ray Jackson’s musical tribute minutes earlier. I could never have imagined, when I started presenting the City Hall Christmas Shows back in 1976 that nearly 40 years later…….and after over 130 more Christmas shows at the City Hall (and many hundreds across the UK), which had come to an end so many years earlier, I would be back with my friend Ray Jackson to honour Alan Hull. And then Rab appeared.
Rab emailed me two years ago…..a year after the memorial unveiling, “I have a song to send you which I’ve just recorded for a new album. It’s called ‘Your clear white light’ and the lyric bounced off the plaque unveiling and is my wee Alan commemoration…I’ll send it to you soon.”
Rab’s double CD turned up at my home two years later, in August 2015 and I have been living with it ever since. Sadly, Rab’s illness put his plans on hold for a while but happily he is now back on track. Side 1 is Rab at his best while Side 2 is a terrific and highly accessible collection of mainly very familiar songs performed and interpreted brilliantly in Rab’s unique style and it is this side which contains the most touching tribute to Alan….”Your Clear White Light.” This year is of course the 20th anniversary of Alan’s passing and also the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death…..and we know from Gus Dudgeon (who was a mate of Lennon and produced him) that John admired Alan’s songwriting just as Alan was a great John Lennon fan. They were both working class heroes with many similarities and views.
If only Rab had been born in the USA (perhaps New York City or even Nashville) he may have gained the even wider appreciation he deserved…. but I doubt Rab would want to change anything.
Rab’s influence on LINDISFARNE can be in no doubt. Rab must have been delighted to see his songs recorded and appearing on Lindisfarne’s first two albums. But less known is the fact that it was Rab who showed Alan the dropped D tuning for the very first time and which Alan then used when composing “ Clear White Light.” Rab told me that he was so pleased to have made a contribution to ‘Clear white light’ and I am delighted to now be able to add my own words about Rab Noakes, to coincide with the release of “I’m Walkin’ Here.” It is one of Rab’s best ever albums.
I’m not giving away any private information when I mention that Rab has recently been fighting cancer and has hopefully come out of this ordeal with a permanent cure. I know that everyone who appreciates Rab’s music and his contribution to the early days of Lindisfarne will wish Rab many more years of good health and entertaining his fans.
Rab Noakes released his first solo album in 1970. He’d already been playing professionally for three years, had songs recorded by Archie Fisher and Barbara Dickson and, along with Gerry Rafferty, was a founder member of Stealers Wheel in 1972. More than 40 years and 20 albums later, Rab remains a prolific songwriter, a hugely popular performer; and one of the leading lights of the Scottish music and broadcasting industries. Having reached his 68th birthday back in May you might expect Rab to begin taking things easy for a while, but he’s showing no signs of that. Recent successes include a re-issue of his 1974 album Red Pump Special, the Reunited EP with Barbara Dickson and Demos And Rarities Volume 2 – Adventures with Gerry Rafferty. All supported, of course, by a string of live appearances. Early 2015 saw Rab preparing for the release of this eagerly anticipated double CD – I’m Walkin’ Here.
Unfortunately, that release was delayed due to illness. Last February, Rab was diagnosed with tonsillar cancer and has since been undergoing, and recovering from, some extensive treatment. Happily he’s now on the mend and the album is ready for release, set for 16th October. Rab’s also gearing up for a series of live dates, which began with an appearance at Roddy Hart’s 70th-birthday tribute to Neil Young, at Aberdeen’s True North Festival in September.
In a general, but far from arbitrary, division of resources the first CD contains mostly Rab’s own songs, which he lovingly refers to as 21st Century skiffle. The second is comprised of songs he’s collected for interpretation (Rab abhors the term ‘cover versions’) and a few to commemorate lost friends.
It’s worth starting with the lively, attention grabbing opening track, Slippin’ Away. Instantly reminiscent of the sound that made Stealers Wheel such a success. Along with piccolo from Emma Roche, Stuart Brown’s irresistible percussion and more 70’s R&B references than you can shake several sticks at, it’s a great opener that’s immediately followed by the forward looking, positive Out Of Your Sight: Una McGlone’s bass and harmonies from Hilary Brooks underline the 21st century skiffle tag that’s apparent throughout the album.
And if you’re wondering what Rab’s 21st Century skiffle is all about, Out Of The Blue should answer any questions. Lively and questioning, an addictive mix of electric and acoustic guitars, with lively percussion from Stu, and Roddie Hart’s harmonies. I can’t wait to hear this one live.
Where Dead Voices Gather drifts towards New Orleans jazz with Richard Merchant’s cornet in a song inspired by a 1920’s blackface minstrel.
The myriad of musical influences Rab has assimilated during his five decade career are well represented, of course. As if proof were needed he’s a contemporary of Dylan at his best, It Happened All The Same takes a swipe at the emotionally insensitive with a deliciously unhurried vocal and Roddie Hart’s tenor harmonies. Or there’s the challenge to political lethargy, One Dog Barks (featuring Emma Pollock); a more upbeat delivery and a lovely big bass drum.
When received ideas are on show nobody takes a chance when they hear stop they will lie low when they hear go they’ll dance There seems no need to question what’s this path they’re being led down One dog barks at a shadow, many dogs bark at the sound
Some of the tracks stand quite simply on their own. (Don’t Say) Money Doesn’t Matter with its electric piano, piccolo and handclaps echoes 1960s West Coast pop. The title track, I’m Walkin’ Here takes Dustin Hoffman’s classic sequence from Midnight Cowboy as inspiration in a song packed with subdued outrage. There are too many to go into more detail, but every one comes across as a modern classic.
A Little Time Left provides a sublime instrumental break. A bitter-sweet steel guitar accompanied by Ula Kinderyte’s violin. The tune preludes No More Time; a variation of the same melody in an emotional memorial to Rab’s friend and co-founder of Stealers Wheel, Gerry Rafferty. A sleepy song of memories and regrets for a lost future.
We were in it for the long-haul but you chose not to stay
The only other instrumental track on the album, Two Days In May closes the first CD and is a summery dream to lose yourself in.
As CD2 starts to spin, Buttons And Bows sees Rab in a duet with Barbara Dickson to introduce an interlude of Americana. It’s old timey time, and very little says skiffle quite like Freight Train. Over Stuart Brown’s washboard there’s a delightful vocal duet with Jimmie MacGregor, who was a skiffle aficionado in the early days of the folk movement before his successful partnership with Robin Hall. Two vintage guitars join two vintage singers for a skiffle outing to rival any 21st century offerings, and Travelling Light makes you forget it was a hit for Cliff Richard and The Shadows.
Of course, Rab feels no need to restrict himself to any particular era or genre for new material to interpret. Beck’s Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard makes the most of Alice Marra’s harmonies and Jim McEwan’s electric piano in a fragment from a Beck-a-thon with Una McGlone and Jim McEwan. Trans-Atlantic rockers Garbage provide a surprise influence in Only Happy When It Rains, a sleepy vocal duet featuring Jill Jackson.
All In Down And Out Blues is a throwback to Rab’s 1960s string band adventures with fellow Fife native Robin McKidd (Balham Alligators). It features a lovely finegrstyle guitar and Jimmie MacGregor with beautifully understated bass harmonies; and Goodbye Booze pays tribute to his days (or mostly nights) spent in 1960’s folk clubs. And in particular to Hamish Imlach and Alex Campbell.
Which brings us to the third aspect of this fascinating song collection, Rab’s memorials to lost friends. In addition to No More Time, from CD1, Moonlight and Gold pays tribute to Gerry Rafferty. In 2012 Rab brought this Rafferty favourite to Celtic Connections as part of Bring it All Home, a concert celebrating the work of the Paisley-born singer/songwriter. In an inspired piece of dexterity and technical wizardry, Rab plays both guitar parts. The Guernsey Kitchen Porter is typical of Michael Marra’s oblique views on hardship and acts a fitting tribute to a great man.
Your Clear White Light is superb, in memory of Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull.
Your home town won’t refuse you The speeches would amuse you As they try to get everything right. Can’t help but wonder what you’d make of it all If you could see it by your clear white light
The mood may be sombre in places but I’m Walkin’ Here is a truly uplifting album. As if to underline the point, Rab brings it to a satisfying conclusion with Bye Bye Blackbird. How he manages to combine jaunty with melancholy we may never know.
I’m Walkin’ Here comprises 26 songs over 2 CDs. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are a host of extra tracks to supplement the album. Download them from Rab’s website and you won’t be disappointed!
Rab initially brought the idea for this collection of 21st Century Skiffle to former BBC Scotland colleague John Cavanagh, whose home studio in Glasgow seemed the perfect recording venue. With John enrolling an impressive array of musicians for the project and Rab drawing on an equally notable pool of vocalists work began on the series of live studio sessions that would form the core of the album. And when Rab Noakes records live, he really records live. There’s a natural rather than strictly controlled tempo that lets the music flow, not a regimented one; and a strong sense of people playing music together; in the same room, at the same time. Of course, there are also good reasons for making the most of the technology available, and the occasional overdub for guitar or vocal goes a long way to enhance the overall sound. In a final twist, and perhaps a nod to the music’s skiffle parentage, the whole album has been mixed in mono (with ‘back to MONO’, proudly printed on the CD). It’s a small stroke of genius that takes the music back from the intricately separated stereo sound and presents it as a truly unified listening experience.
Rab’s sleeve notes are extensive in their detail and make a fascinating glimpse of what drives an album like this, what inspires songs and how they germinate, emerge and flourish. There are countless insights into the recording process, the influences behind Rab’s own songs and those he was inspired to re-interpret; and his fascination for vintage guitars.
Rab’s tour in support of I’m Walkin’ Here is sure to provide some memorable performances (dates below), it’s amazing what one man with a guitar can do live; what this man gets up to in the studio is just marvellous.
I’m Walkin’ Here:
I’ve had enough of feeling like a cork on the ocean You think you can leave me hanging on a shelf. Hey, I’m walking here I can make this journey by myself I don’t need what you think is help Go and try to mess with someone else
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After a lifetime in the business and now looking decidedly weather-beaten Scotland’s premier singer-songwriter has come up with a double-CD of first-rate songs which is simply musical perfection. An eclectic mix of self-penned material as well as popular (and some less so) numbers from the ’50s onwards, Rab explores a plethora of musical genres with just one concession to true skiffle; Chas McDevitt 1957 classic Freight train. I have to confess that as a spotty-faced grammar schoolboy I was in love with Nancy Whiskey’s wonderful vocals which were something like we’d never heard before. Jimmie Macgregor, an original member of McDevitt’s skiffle group and who went on the join Robin Hall on the ‘Tonight ‘ programme, joins Noakes for this one. Of the covers, Cliff’s Travellin’ light brought back yet more memories. Lifelong friend Barbara Dickson adds vocals to Buttons and Bows; how many remember Bob Hope and Jane Russell’s thigh-slapping version in the film ‘The Paleface’? Everything is given that distinctive Rab Noakes blues or country-tinged treatment but whether it’s his own thoughtful and finely-crafted numbers or his well-researched covers, every single one is a gem. The album is superbly packaged and comes with an informative 16-page booklet giving the history or origin of each one of the 26 songs on offer. If that’s nor enough, by checking out his website, another seven are available for free download. Don’t let this on pass you by.
Morning Star 14.10.15
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ON I’M Walkin’ Here’s duet Freight Train, Rab Noakes plays an old Kalamazoo guitar and Jimmie MacGregor a 1936 Martin.
At the time of recording, their ages added up to 149, just five years short of the combined age of their guitars.
But this album is no rest home for old men. Noakes describes the 26-track double CD as “21st-century skiffle” and you only need to listen to the first couple of numbers to understand exactly what he means.
The rest is gem-laden, as Noakes and producer John Cavanagh marshal an engaging conspiracy of musicians and singers to create a life-enhancing “sessions” feel.
You can almost see the musicians smiling as they play.
I’m Walkin’ Here is Noakes’s 19th solo release and the first CD is a clutch of his recently written songs, while the second embraces varied sources from traditional to Gerry Rafferty to Michael Marra and the less expected Beck (Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard) and Garbage (Only Happy When It Rains).
For almost five decades we’ve been guaranteed quality musicianship and song-writing from Noakes but this collection also acquaints us with his mildly defiant side.
It’s not quite take-it-or-leave-it but his commitment to and belief in every track commands attention and respect.
Noakes claims that his objective was “to make an album that nobody else could make” and, given his extensive and eclectic reference points and the combination of experience and circumstance that make up this unique collection, he’s succeeded.
The heartfelt performances of first-rate songs, revelling in the unfettered joy of the music and lyrics is all here.
So, too, is the subtlety of Noakes’s social commentary on tracks such as All in Down and Out Blues and Michael Marra’s The Guernsey Kitchen Porter.
Noakes, who’s a member of the Musicians Union executive, has been a professional musician since 1967.
Nearly half a century later he remains vital, popular and prolific songwriter and performer and well deserves the acclaim this outstanding album will surely attract.
- I’m Walkin’ Here is released on October 16.