Rab Noakes & Brooks Williams “Should We Tell Him”

Independent, 2023

An album of Don Everly songs proves a fitting tribute to the legend of the Scottish Folk scene, Rab Noakes.

artwork for Rob Noakes & Brooks Williams album "Should We Tell Him"Rab Noakes, who died last October after a short illness, was a touchstone of the Scottish music scene for the best part of six decades, both as a singer, songwriter and radio broadcaster. The early seventies saw him write songs that would appear on Lindisfarne’s first two albums, become a founder member of Steelers Wheel with Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan, and later in the decade travel to Nashville and record two solo albums under the guidance of Neil Young’s producer Elliot Mazer. Brooks Williams has been a recording artist since the early nineties and is originally from the U.S. state of Georgia, but since 2010 has been living in the UK, residing in the idyllic countryside of East Anglia, and possibly best known to people for his work with Boo Hewardine in the duo State Of The Union.

The two artists first met up in 2018 when Williams invited Noakes to play on his album ‘Lucky Star’, and it was at this point they discovered a mutual love for the Everly Brothers and first hatched the plan to record an album of Don Everly’s songs. It would take a further five years, 2022, for the stars to finally align and allow work to commence in the big room at ‘Chem 19’, Blantyre just outside Glasgow where they immediately made the conscious decision to avoid covering any of the bigger and more well known hits and instead focus on songs that were either B-sides or album tracks. It was here, that together with a stellar support cast that included Hilary Brooks on piano, Kevin McGuire bass, Conor Smith pedal steel and electric guitar and Signy Jakobsdottir on drums, ‘Should We Tell Him’ was recorded.

The eleven tracks on this album include two tracks that first appeared on the Everly Brothers self-titled debut album in 1957, including the title track where some sprightly piano playing from Brooks propels the track along while the rhythm section of McGuire and Jakobsdottir superbly underpin the melody, and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, a beautifully plaintive ballad that highlights the understated harmonies that Noakes and Wiliams supply throughout the album. Elsewhere the opening track ‘It Only Cost A Dime’ which originally appeared on the Everly Brothers album ‘In Our Image’ has some fine pedal steel playing from Smith who also supplies some gritty guitar for the uptempo rock ‘n’ roll number ‘I’m Not Angry’. It’s fair to say that throughout the album the duo avoid, probably wisely, from trying to emulate the sweet sibling harmonies of the original version, instead choosing to focus on the heart and soul of each number, and in doing so help to expose a greater lyrical depth as on tracks such as ‘Since You Broke My Heart’, with its subtle nod to Bob Dylan in its delivery, and the reflective tone on ‘Hello Amy’. It’s on the slower numbers that Noakes and Williams’ vocal harmonies shine brightest in particular ‘That’s Just Too Much’, and the albums closer ‘It’s All Over’, with its rather poignant message “Love that warms like summer sun, shouldn’t die when winter comes”, as it was that on completion of the recording session Noakes was taken ill, leaving Williams to oversee the albums release.

‘Should We Tell Him’ is an album that works well on two levels. firstly as a reminder of what a fine songwriter Don Everly was, a fact for too long overshadowed by the ethereal sibling vocal harmonies. This is a fitting tribute to his overlooked talent, Secondly as an album in its own right, as it highlights the quite exquisite connection between Noakes and Williams, two masters of their craft, who have delivered and an album that I’m sure Noakes would have been extremely proud of.

7/10
7/10

About Graeme Tait 125 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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