Wolfstone & Stuart Eaglesham: |
a carving on the rock
An interview by Dave Howell,
Although Wolfstone has worked long enough to be considered part of the "old guard" of Celtic rock, they are still one of the most exciting touring bands. This year they played in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for two different festivals, Musikfest and Celtic Classic, drawing excited audiences for multiple shows at each event.
The group's live songs might be divided into two groups. One type has Stuart Eaglesham singing mostly original compositions while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Electric bassist Ross Hamilton usually provides backup vocals and joins him in rock star jumps during many of the songs.
The other types of songs are longer instrumentals. They mainly feature solos by electric fiddler Duncan Chisholm and Scottish bagpiper/whistle player Stephen Saint. The two often harmonize their instruments during a song. The harmonies are fast and upbeat, and move listeners to start dancing.
Wolfstone has a few surprises, too. For example, at Musikfest they featured Eaglesham singing the decidedly non-Celtic "Geronimo's Cadillac."
At the beginning of some songs, drummer Alyn Cosker started a sequencer with string pads, providing a mellow "new age" backing keyboard sound. This sets a quiet mood that gives a dramatic contrast to the solos and singing. The vibrant sound of a live Wolfstone show is well captured on their 2001 live CD Not Enough Shouting (Once Bitten Records).
I spoke with Eaglesham after the group's final gig in their latest U.S. tour, their third show at Celtic Classic. He told me the band's name came from a carving of a wolf on a stone in a field close to the studio where they did their first recordings.
"We formed in 1989," he said, "and broke up in 1997. Members of the band had ill health and relationship problems due to heavy touring. We also were receiving no royalties and got no support from our record label." Eaglesham and Chisholm are the only original members still with the band.
Wolfstone reformed, however, after doing a contractually required final CD for their record label. It was a positive experience, so with fan support and newfound recording freedom, the band came back together.
Over the years, Eaglesham says that Wolfstone has become less heavy and more rhythmic. Or as he puts it, "It's more of a precision tool and less of a blunt instrument."
He is optimistic about the future of Celtic music. "There are a lot of young musicians in Scotland that are even more talented than we are," he says.
Whether that is true or not, Eaglesham proudly adds, "They cite us as an example to live up to."