Despite the Wind and Rain, the debut duo album from Gaelic singer Rachel Walker and celebrated musician Aaron Jones, is a beautiful folk record with an important message at its core. Set for release on Friday 25th November 2022, the body of work pays tribute to influential but under-recognised women throughout Scottish history whose work has made a significant impact on the lives we live today.
The 10-track album recounts stories, not of the heartbreak or love-struck revenge on which so many female-led songs are based, but of scientific achievement, entrepreneurship and strength. With tales spanning centuries, each track is dedicated to a particular woman or group of women from Scotland’s past. Through Rachel and Aaron’s beautiful lyrics and intricate musicianship, these inspirational stories come to life in Gaelic and English song.
The album aims to ensure that the triumphs of these women are not forgotten, championing what they achieved in the face of inequality and the many obstacles put in their way. The project takes note of how, in spite of the patriarchy, sexism, misogyny and a system rigged against them, they all succeeded in their own right. They made a difference to so many, Despite the Wind and Rain.
The track Sgàthach was inspired by a warrior queen whose legend dates back to around 1300AD. Translating to ‘The Shadowy One’, Sgàthach’s strength was so fierce that the best fighters in Scotland and Ireland would come to her to be trained. Her story has long been told from the perspective of the men she taught, with little insight into her own life and background. Sgàthach is a song which changes that. Throughout the track, Rachel and Aaron celebrate the warrior queen’s strength, and that of all women, and honour her unwavering determination to raise others up while asking for nothing in return.
Paying tribute to Eilidh MacDougal, a ladies assistant to the Metropolitan Police in 1905, Rule of Thumb is a song which calls for change. Eilidh was hired to take statements in sexual abuse cases, which led her to call for the law to be changed so that abused women no longer had to sit in the same room as their attacker during court proceedings. She later became the first police commissioner for women at the Metropolitan Police and gained an MBE for her work. Rachel and Aaron share her story in Rule of Thumb with a purposeful rhythm and poetic lyrics which highlight the violence women have faced for centuries and what it takes to stand up to an imbalanced system.
Crescents and Stars tells the story of Mary Somerville (1780-1872) – a scientist, writer, polymath and astronomer born in Jedburgh and raised in Fife. Mary was one of the first two women to be elected as an honorary member of the Astronomical Society, thanks to her translation and expansion of ‘Mechanisms of the Heavens’, a book which made astronomical knowledge accessible to the everyday reader. With beautiful imagery and skillful storytelling, Rachel and Aaron recognise everything Mary Somerville achieved in her lifetime. They celebrate her intelligence, her thirst for knowledge and her will to overcome the sexism and patriarchy of her time.
During the collaborative writing process, Rachel, based in Lochaber, and Aaron, who lives in Dumfries and Galloway, took inspiration from each other’s musical style, as well as from the women they spent months researching, to produce tracks which are full of the soul and character of folk music. Rachel also worked closely with celebrated Gaelic poet Marcas Mac an Tuairneir to write the Gaelic songs on the album.
The stunning artwork for Despite the Wind and Rain was designed by Lochaber artist Ali Berardelli, who produced ten original designs based on each track on the album, and combined elements from each to create the album cover. Ali used a cyanotype printmaking technique to layer intricate drawings, photographs and wording for every image, each relating to the influential women who inspired the music.
Rachel Walker said: “We have both worked in the traditional music scene for many years, and in that time we’ve become aware of the lack of songs that celebrate Scottish women for their success or achievements. There are plenty of tracks out there which will detail a woman’s beauty, or her broken heart, but few which acknowledge her intelligence, sense of adventure or courage. We sought to rectify that with this album.
“We spent many hours in the National Library in Edinburgh researching a long list of women until we narrowed it down to just 10 songs. It was a collaborative process; we sent ideas back and forth, deciding what we wanted the tone of each track to be, and firming up lyrics and melodies. We feel incredibly proud of the end result.”
Aaron Jones said: “We both feel strongly that women’s stories should be told by both men and women. The women we have written about are truly inspirational and should be celebrated by everyone. We really hope everyone who listens to the album is inspired, and takes something away from each track.”
Rachel and Aaron are celebrated names within the traditional music scene in Scotland, having both worked as singers and instrumentalists for many years. Rachel has previously recorded her own solo album Gaol and has played with much-loved folk bands Cruinn and Skipinnish, while Aaron has recorded on multiple projects, including his own band, Old Blind Dogs.
Together, they have previously released an EP entitled The Happy Place, all proceeds of which continue to go to Maggie’s cancer care.
Despite the Wind and Rain features a stellar line up of musicians, including string quartet Katrina Lee, Patsy Reid, Rhoslyn Lawton and Alice Allen, and Duncan Lyall on bass and Moog.
Rachel and Aaron recorded their own instrumental parts at their separate studios – The Vault in Newton Stewart and The Shed in Gairlochy. Vocals and strings were recorded at St Mary’s Space in Appin by Jamie Smith, and Duncan Lyall recorded bass and Moog at his own Red Deer Studio. The album was mixed by Chris Waite at Gran’s House and mastered by Sam Proctor at Lismore Mastering.
Rachel Walker and Aaron Jones will perform at Celtic Connections on Wednesday 1st February 2023, where they will premier Despite the Wind and Rain with the full album line up.
Despite the Wind and Rain will be available to pre-order on BandCamp from Monday 24th October and out on all platforms on Friday 25th November 2022.
Artist website: http://www.rachelwalkerandaaronjones.com/
Single title: Sgàthach
Album title: Despite the Wind and Rain
Release Date: 25/11/2022
Single artist: Rachel Walker and Aaron Jones
Single duration: 4:33
Writers: Rachel Walker – Aaron Jones