Monday, March 12, 2007

Memories of Celtic Stone

One of the first years I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival I picked up the eponymous first cassette from the band Celtic Stone. I do not remember what year it was, and even though I was a latecomer to the CD bandwagon*, the fact that I was buying a cassette should give us some idea; lets put it somewhere around 1985 or 1986. I bought the tape because while listening to the band I heard a tune which was familiar to me from stories my mom would tell me about playing with her maternal grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father). He used to bounce her on his knee and hum a song to her, a song to which she did not know the title, or even if there was one. As it turns out it was "The Irish Washerwoman." Little did I know what buying this tape would do to my taste in music.

I loved this tape. When I was younger I was not allowed to listen to a lot of music, as I have previously discussed here, however I always loved music and, oddly enough, encouraged to be musical. Much like books it fires my imagination; I am, quite literally, able to lean back, close my eyes, and let it carry me away. This tape was one of the first experiences with folk music that did not involve Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, or Simon & Garfunkel and thus opened my eyes to a whole new world of sound, one which I was allowed to listen to. It is because of that tape I tracked down Gary Coover’s brilliant “Shepherd’s Hey” program on KPFT and Gary built on these twelve songs, introducing me to bands such as Battlefield Band and the Chieftains, but I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.

I listened to that tape over and over and over. I particularly loved "Little Beggarman", "John Barleycorn", "The Irish Washerwoman/Swallowtail Jig", "Do You Love an Apple?", and "Two Magicians". Sadly eventually my love for the tape led to its demise and I was not smart enough to have made a copy. It has been years since the tape went the way of the Dodo, and it was something I missed whenever I would get in one of my Celtic music moods.

From time to time I would try and track down the tape again, checking in the used music stores and searching on-line. The only thing I was ever able to find was a webpage which indicated the band was defunct. I was bummed. Clearly I would not be able to replace this cassette in my collection. This resulted in a half-formed business idea where I would track down the masters and covert them to MP3s which I would then offer for sale either via on-line delivery or on a CD you could customize with your selection of tracks from our library. (Imagine my chagrin when far more industrious people would make this idea a reality to the tune of a couple of dollars profit.)

Eventually Celtic Stone passed into the realm of fond memory and was destined to stay there. Until last week. While wandering the forums somehow I managed to come across the homepage for Marc Gunn’s Irish & Celtic Music Podcast. After a bit more clicking around I decided to run my old search for Celtic Stone again and this time I hit paydata. The fourth entry down on my Google search was for the Celtic Stone page at some site called I listened to a couple of the samples from the CD to make sure I was getting the songs I so fondly remembered and when it became clear that I was getting at least some of them, I went ahead and plunked down my $17.22 for the CD.

This was Thursday so I was very pleasantly surprised when it arrived today. Although most of the tracks are not the ones on the tape I cherished into oblivion I spent the afternoon listening to the CD over and over and over again and it was good.

* My first CD player was the CD ROM drive my dad gave me for Christmas during my first year of college and my first CD was Battlefield Band’s Anthem for the Common Man.

Bonus Stuff

Because I am all about the extras I thought I might put some samples of Celtic Stone's work on here for you. By richt-clicking here and selecting "Save Link As..." you can download "Do You Love an Apple?" and by right-clicking here and selecting "Save Link As..." you can download "Two Magicians," which, to be honest, is one of the filthiest songs I have ever heard. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Hello; I am Robyn (Llewellyn) Hilliard, the guitarist and vocalist for Celtic Stone. I rarely offer this, but I can send you a burned CD of that treasured 1st LP, if you email me with your address at

I am honored that you hold such dear memories of our group and that you're still interested in what we did thirty years ago.


Anonymous said...

Just saying hello out there. I remember seeing Celtic Stone at both Texas & Scarborough Renaissance Festivals, Houston International Festival one year (featuring the UK or Spain possibly), and also at University of North Texas. I also had the Natural Bridges(?), Enchanted Rock, and David Clauss cassettes. Enjoyed the music and good times.

briddie said...

I loved Natural Bridges and Druid Wood; I played both cassettes until they died. I was so excited to find Druid Wood on iTunes and I still check for Druid Wood occasionally. I know some of the songs are on Digital Flashbacks, but I want the Civil War songs as well. I went to Scarborough several times; if I'd only had the sense to buy multiple copies of the tapes!