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Fife folk troubadour Rab Noakes talks nutty lunches and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds as he returns to The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool to continue 40 years of gigs

By Kyle Walker

AT 72 years old, you still can never be quite sure what Rab Noakes might be doing next.

The veteran Fife folk troubadour, Musicians Union executive committee member and former BBC producer is tuning up for his latest raft of shows – including his annual return to Ullapool for a show at the Ceilidh Place. There’s just the small matter of a “nutty lunch” first.

Wait, pardon?

“Well, we call it a nutty lunch – it’s not really nutty!” Rab laughs, speaking from a hotel room in London the night before said lunch. “It’s a biannual thing, a bunch of music journalists and popstars from the 60s set it all up and it goes on one in the summer and one at Christmas time, in Barnes.

“It’s been going on for about 15-20 years now, I think. A journalist called Keith Olson – he used to write a lot for New Musical Express before it was even known as NME – and Tom McGuinness from Manfred Mann – they were amongst the people that set it up.

“It’s really good fun – an invitation is sought after, so it’s nice to be among the regulars!”

But the nutty lunch is just a break from what Rab loves – getting out to play his music

And Ullapool has become a beloved haunt for the singer/songwriter. “I’m looking forward to coming and playing in the Ceilidh Place, it’s become such a regular now.

“It’s been 40 years since I’ve been coming up and doing it as a solo thing, and it’s been nearly 50 years since I first came up and played in Ullapool with the Great Clyde Roadshow in 1970.”

Since his last visit, Rab’s new album has seen the light of day – Welcome to Anniversaryville, recorded with the band he played his 70/50 anniversary show with at Celtic Connections 2017.

Rab Noakes returns to his longtime Highland home of The Ceilidh Place next week.
Rab Noakes returns to his longtime Highland home of The Ceilidh Place next week.

“I like that album because there’s a lot of landmark stuff about it,” he explains, “and there’s a bit of a narrative to it as well, and there’s a great band and everything.

“It’s the kind of record I like to make, with quite a lot of live performance and then we add to it.

“It’s the old Nick Lowe principle – bash it down quick and you can tart it up later!” he adds, laughing.

He’s also been keen to find out about what’s been happening in the Highlands in the last year – and finding about last weekend’s Noel Gallagher gig. “It really sustains well that each of them, when they do their shows, there’s still a draw – a lot of people have a lot of fondness for that whole Oasis thing.

“I wasn’t a big fan of the music, per se – they were good records to hear – but I really liked that success. You know, they were probably the last of the bunch of lads from the housing schemes getting into the charts.

“The access to that has definitely been truncated considerably since then. So many people who get success nowadays have come through some sort of fee-paying or some telly talent show.”

As somebody who grew up in similarly modest circumstances, Rab is keen on ensuring that those opportunities remain for people – even as the drawbridge is being raised. “It’s not just in music either, we’re talking about a divided society. The divisions that have appeared a wee bit more since the EU departure debacle that has been going on, those fissures were there already.

“And stripping music, taking instruments away from secondary schools and all that kind of stuff, it’s all part of that whole kind of thing – we’re mentioning music, but it’s not just music, it’s all aspects of arts and cultural pursuits.

“Having grown through the beat boomers of the 1960s myself, virtually everybody there was a bunch of mostly lads – but women as well – from fairly modest backgrounds.

“And people’s parents weren’t buying them guitars, you had to go on a paper round and buy it yourself!”

Rab Noakes plays The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool on Tuesday. Entry costs £10. For more info, go to www.rabnoakes.com

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