Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX414 

Ian’s one of the most highly regarded of Scotland’s singer-songwriters, a strong and characterful singer and guitarist with a reputation for well-crafted and tuneful songs and a ready rapport with his audience. He’s released many fine albums, both solo and in duo partnership with brother Fraser or Ian Walker, and he’s been involved in a number of key projects including the Far, Far From Ypres stage presentation.

One of Ian’s earliest successes was 1998’s Hodden Grey album; named after Lord Elcho’s tartan, as bestowed on the London Scottish Regiment, and dedicated to his father, who had been the Regiment’s Pipe Major during World War 2. Ian was the natural choice, then, when (cutting a long story short) The London Scottish Volunteer Enterprises decided to commission this commemorative project in honour of the Regiment. His brief was to attempt to re-imagine, rewrite and remember the old songs found in a book of trench songs collated by Duncan Tovey, a storyteller of the Regiment during World War 1. This soon developed into Young Territorial, a sequence deploying original songs and linking recitations to tell the Regiment’s long and colourful story and highlight its role in quietly lacing Scottish culture through the streets of London and touching almost every major conflict from the Boer War to the present day. Major Rob Pitt, VR Rifles sets exactly the right tone with the recitations, while Ian’s supreme songwriting skills enable different facets of the story to be told authentically and affectionately. To realise the story, Ian’s assembled a 13-piece roster of guest singers and musicians, a crack team humorously christened The Tartan Spiders, who rise to the occasion with true spirit and are clearly enjoying every moment of their involvement. The musical idiom embraces the proudly anthemic scale of the title song and Hallowe’en, full-on brass-band backing for The Big Drum Major, cheeky music-hall on The Auld Corps, the deliciously fun tale of Sandy The Piper, and Fairport/LJE-style folk-rock on Grey Kilts and the cumulative ensemble piece Wey Hey For The Hodden Grey. Ian’s stirring original poem, A Legend Of Sheppey, 1910, memorably recited by Charlie Milne, makes a fitting finale to the album.

Young Territorial is beautifully presented in the best Greentrax tradition. It’s self-evidently a labour of love for Ian, a well-unified sequence of songs and readings that celebrates its subject mightily in entertaining and accessible folk style while also providing uplift and enlightenment in these troubled times.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine