Music review: Rab Noakes

Rab Noakes is celebrating 50 years as a performer
Rab Noakes is celebrating 50 years as a performer
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Having curated a couple of Celtic Connections’ biggest tribute shows to Gerry Rafferty and Bob Dylan, it was time for the fine Fife troubadour Rab Noakes to celebrate his own impressive back catalogue of “landmark songs” (his preferred euphemism for a lack of hits) as he marked a number of anniversaries, not least his forthcoming 70th birthday and 50 years since his first professional gig at the Glasgow Folk Centre, in the company of a supple, sensitive backing band specially formed for the occasion.

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow ****

Those landmark selections included the freewheeling country rockers Together Forever, which was a hit for his friends Lindisfarne, and Clear Day from his Nashville-recorded album Red Pump Special.

Yet this was not an overly nostalgic evening. There was a healthy showing for his recent material, including current release The Treatment Tapes, a wry reference to Noakes’ recovery from tonsillar cancer. Noakes has retained his vocal tone, eminently easy on the ear and natural in his phrasing, though the residual influence of Dylan was there in the subtle twang.

The stylishly suited and booted septuagenarian wore his great knowledge and experience lightly and modestly, making no reference to his early partnership with Rafferty in Stealers Wheel but raising up other musicians he has worked with throughout a career which has explored those Celtic connections between the US and Scots folk traditions – and he continued to do so with guest Kathleen MacInnes who led off a final soulful Tennessee Waltz in Gaelic.

FIONA SHEPHERD