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March 17, 2021 / rockroots

Keltic Wine (& St Patrick’s Day)

17 March is of course Ireland’s national holiday but, arguably of even more importance, today also marks the tenth anniversary of the Rock Roots blog. Back in 2011 I didn’t expect to get away with sharing old records for more than a few months, so to still be writing new posts a decade later is astonishing. It also makes me wonder if I should have been doing something more productive with my time. In any case, this blog would have had a much shorter shelf life if there had been no interest in it, but it’s now approaching 92,000 clicks from over 43,600 individual visitors. That’s an incredible number for a site that has frequently been dormant for very long periods of time, and it surely says something about the enduring legacy of this music. So a sincere ‘thank you’ to all who’ve visited and commented over the last ten years, and most of all to the musicians who made this little island rock!

For the day that’s in it, let’s revert to stereotype and enjoy a slice of ‘Celtic Rock’.

As a conventional rock band, ‘Topaz‘ formed in about 1970. By early 1973 they had become Keltic Wine to signify the addition of traditional Irish instruments to the mix. At the time, comparisons were drawn with Mushroom in particular, though Horslips were another obvious point of reference. On the evidence of their only single ‘A’-side, their use of electric fiddle as a lead instrument also bears similarities to Fairport Convention. 

The line-up of the band seems to have been fluid to say the least, but was largely based around Roy Fitzgerald (fiddle/guitar/mandolin/recorder/harpsichord) and Richard Fitzgerald (bass/fiddle/whistle/mandolin). A picture sleeve for this single also credits Dick Farrelly (organ/guitar/mandolin/accordian), Paul McAteer (drums/bodhrán) and Topes Curnce (guitar/whistle/flute/uilleann pipes). As can be seen, the sheer range of instruments played by the group is boggling, and they added multi-part vocal harmonies to the mix as well. They prided themselves on a live set of original material and unique covers, and their single from August 1973 showed off two of their own compositions.

‘Hurricane Sailor’ is the above-mentioned example of fiddle-driven rock. ‘B’-side ‘An Fhuiseog’ (which appropriately translates as ‘the lark’) is a gentle instrumental with lots of flute (or is it recorder?) and mandolin. As with so many bands covered here, that was their entire recorded output. And – also as with many bands covered here – the hype would suggest that Keltic Wine had a lot more to offer than just one single. Celtic Rock had only a brief moment in the sun, but what was probably just as damaging for this group’s prospects was their frequent changes in personnel. They split permanently around 1975. Paul McAteer was perhaps the only member to have a lasting career, with Supply Demand & Curve and Barry Devlin among a long list of session credits.

Keltic Wine (192 kbps):

  • Hurricane Sailor
  • An Fhuiseog

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: Keltic Wine

Irish Keltic Wine

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