The Scotsman Sessions #201: Rachel Walker

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, from her home near Spean Bridge, singer Rachel Walker performs the traditional Gaelic song An t-Iarla Diùrach – “The Earl of Jura”

Lochaber singer Rachel Walker brings a beautiful Gaelic song to The Scotsman Sessions, An t-Iarla Diùrach – “The Earl of Jura”, one of the traditional numbers featured amid her own compositions on her recent album, Gaol, the title of which evokes the love that binds us to others, to land or to culture.

With An t-Iarla Diùrach, it’s a case of love marred by deception, the pain echoing bitterly down centuries to a melody so beguiling that it is still widely sung. And that was what drew Walker to it: “An t-Iarla Diùrach wasn’t a song I’d sung before, but when I sat down at the piano and started to play around with it, the melody was so beautiful and the words so lovely that it was quite an emotional thing learning it. That’s when you know a song is going to stick with you.”

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Walker is well known on the Highland music scene, a Mòd gold medallist who performs alongside Fiona Mackenzie, Brian Ó hEadhra and James Graham in the vocal quartet Cruinn, as well as with folk-rockers Skipinnish. Gaol, however was her first album under her own name for a decade: “The last one was in 2010, then other things took over, having young kids and work and other projects, so it was nice to be able to take the time to concentrate on this album.”

Rachel Walker
Rachel Walker

As a music lecturer at West Highland College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, lockdown has seen her remain busy teaching online from her home near Spean Bridge. She also performed during the recent online Celtic Connections.

Once restrictions lift, she plans a duo project with guitarist Aaron Jones, who plays on the album. “It’s been interesting,” she observes wryly, “having a new album and not being able to go out and gig it.”

For more on Rachel Walker, visit https://www.rachelwalker.co.uk/

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