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RAB NOAKES - Live At The Reid Hall Edinburgh 2005

RAB NOAKES - Live At The Reid Hall Edinburgh 2005
Neon NEONCD012

Nearly 50 years in the business is more than most of his contemporaries can claim and although he is somewhat less than prolific (barely 20 albums, if you include the cassette-only products), he is an icon of the Scottish folk scene and beyond. The essence of the man is his live performances and thus is it a performance outing such as this that would be a good starting place for those unacquainted with him. Pressures of work with his Neon Productions probably limits his live appearances to an average of one per month, so you’ll be lucky to catch him in the flesh, but I recommend that you make the effort, if he’s still on the form demonstrated on this album. Which is the first issue I have – this is a recording from a gig at the Edinburgh Festival some eight years ago and I know it is representative of his sets from around that time, as I caught several performances of Rab in the noughties, but it leads me to think that he has a dearth of new material to draw on. No matter, this is a slick performance of (mostly) his own songs in an intimate setting – just Rab and an acoustic guitar.

Particularly compelling is his Gently Does It (his song for Alex Campbell – most memorably covered by Allan Taylor). I also have a soft spot for Branch, which dates back to Red Pump Special (1973), the first of his albums I ever owned.

My only other issue, which may be due to the fact that I have a ‘review’ copy, is that there are no songwriting credits on the sleeve. The listener is directed to Rab’s website for accompanying detail – but that doesn’t include details of who wrote the songs (for anyone interested, they include Lennon/McCartney - I’m So Tired, Radiohead - High And Dry, Leiber/ Spector - Spanish Harlem and Boudleaux Bryant/Gene Watson - Take Me As I Am Or Let Me Go). Solid performance, and a brilliant demonstration of what Rab Noakes has always been – a compelling teller of musical tales.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.