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.