Fayette native Tricia Walker releases gospel album

Published 4:53 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nicole Zema | The Natchez Democrat Tricia Walker performs at Holy Family Catholic Church in Natchez recently. Walker, a Fayette native, has released her latest album, “Farther Along,” which features classic gospel songs.

NATCHEZ — The great life lessons singer/songwriter Tricia Walker picked up through Mississippi music continue to propel her work farther along today.

So in her latest album, called “Farther Along” after the old hymn, Walker returns to the sounds of her youth –– melodies and lyrics she heard growing up in a small Methodist church in Fayette.

“The old hymns you sing over and over get stuck down in your bones,” Walker said.

Walker said she was influenced, not just by the white church tradition in Fayette, but also the musical traditions of black churches in the area. Her early career took her into contemporary Christian music, but her “Farther Along” studio project has brought Walker back to the very beginning.

“I got into writing music of my own style, but always wanted to come back around do a gospel album (honoring the) white church tradition and African-American church tradition,” Walker said. “I felt it came full circle. This is what a record needs to be –– a continuation of who you are.”

In addition to singing and writing songs, Walker is also executive director of the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University, her alma mater. Walker said she encourages young musicians to follow their hearts, but also live within their means.

“I encourage young people to learn as much as you can about the music business,” Walker said. “Know how the industry works. It’s a challenging life, it’s a creative life, but there are no guarantees. Do what you love to do –– just know that you have to live simply, and don’t go into debt.”

Walker brought her guitar and one of her students to Holy Family Catholic Church in Natchez recently for a Friday afternoon concert. She shared the familiar, nostalgia-inducing hymns from “Farther Along,” that had the audience and choir singing as well.

Walker said she played at Holy Family because people in Natchez know Alvin Shelby, project keyboard player and arranger, who attends church and directs the choir there.

“He’s an amazing musician,” Walker said.

Walker said that songs from “Farther Along” are meant to be shared live.

“I wanted to recreate what the record did,” Walker said. “Most of my performances are with guitar and piano, and I also wanted to replicate that on the album.”

Walker said while older folks love to sit, listen and sing along with the old hymns, gospel music is really for everyone, as is the new studio project.

“The truth is the same, no matter who’s singing it,” Walker said. “Music is a universal language that everyone understands, and hopefully they receive the message as well.”

Walker said while her faith is the foundation of her life and career, she is just softly conveying what she knows to be the truth.

“I’m not a preacher,” Walker said. “I just want to be a communicator, a connector –– to the story, to the truth, to each other.”

On the horizon, Walker said she would like to produce an album that expresses more of a narrative.

“(The next project) will have more to do with stories about characters in Mississippi, some real, some fiction, and it will all tie together,” Walker said. “I’m working on the title, ‘Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I.’ I want specific stories for this one, but it will be a couple years.”

Walker has worked in Nashville, played at the Opry, backed up some big names and has written for some of country and Christian music’s heavy hitters including Alison Krauss, Debby Boone, Faith Hill and Patti Loveless. But, Walker will tell you she is still the girl from a little town in Southwest Mississippi who simply let the songs of her youth carry her farther along.

For more information about, to listen, or to purchase, “Farther Along,” visit Walker’s website at www.bigfrontporch.com.