Rachel Walker – Gaol

Album Review | Red Rose Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Not to be confused with the old English term for prison, but the Scots Gaelic term for lurve, Gaol, pronounced ‘girl’ (or thereabouts), is packed with love throughout, the eleven songs addressing love from a variety of angles, from family love and kinship, healing love, deceitful love and the love of the land, to that old favourite, unrequited love, each performed in either Gaelic or English and each kindly translated in the accompanying booklet.  The Lochaber singer songwriter, composer and teacher, delivers each of the songs with confidence and conviction, wearing her heart very much on her sleeve in places, surrounded by esteemed company, including Alice Allen on cello, Aaron Jones on guitars, Rory Grindley on drums and Jarlath Henderson on Uilleann Pipes and whistle. 

Gaol really doesn’t keep you hanging on waiting for something special to happen; the quality of both the writing and the performance is evident from the start with “La Luain”, which serves as an inviting opener and features a complimentary duet with James Graham. Rachel’s voice is both strong and delicate at the same time, a passionate singer with an additional spark. Made up mostly original material, Gaol also includes one or two traditional songs, including the stunning “Thug mi Gaol Dhut, Thug mi Gradh Dhut (I Gave You Love)”, which closes the album. Lyrically, the opening line to “All For You”, ‘there’s a scar on my finger where a promise burned my skin’ is the sort of considered meditation that Leonard Cohen would’ve been proud of and provides the album with one of its high points. Recorded far from the madding crowd beside a wood burning stove at St Mary’s Space in Appin, Argyll, some of its crackles evident towards the end, the warmth comes through loud and clear on this superb album.