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Monday 15 July 2024

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As I Roved Out. A Story of Celtic Rock 1968-1978 – Various Artists.

Jun 19, 2024

‘As I Roved Out’ is a 3CD compilation that takes the first in-depth look at Celtic Rock, the important sub-genre of 1960s-1970s rock music.  Spanning the years 1968 to 1978 and illuminated by an interest-grabbing and fact-filled booklet, the fifty-one tracks go roving out over Great Britain, Ireland and Brittany, reminding us of those almost forgotten days before simplicity and complexity walked hand-in-hand in the folk music world. Rock music injected with traditional Celtic sounds emerged in late 1960s/early 1970s Ireland with groups like Skid Row, Taste and Thin Lizzy taking up the cause. ( ‘Jig a Jig’ by East of Eden could be the first Celtic Rock hit (number 7 in 1971)).

The easy tunefulness of Celtic folk music became infused with the immediacy of a multitude of rock bands and sometimes by means of  urgent, rock-tinged renditions, insistent percussion and amplification alone. Dark and sad folk songs were being beefed up as an alternative to being wrapped in musical lamentations. Across the decade came  jazz, Eastern and other influences – Latin American carnival trumpets riffing happily alongside electrifying accordion jigs. The stylistic offshoot grew and grew, and although by the early seventies some of the arrangements were even beginning to echo emergent Prog-rock there was stark simplicity too. Thin Lizzy’s ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ was not a carefully crafted merging of two styles but the straightforward lifting of a traditional song, (with a lasting popularity and a legendary riff thrown in for good measure!).

There are milestone tracks in this Roving-out.  ‘A Sailor’s Life’ was Fairport Convention’s ‘Didn’t see that one coming!’ track from ‘Unhalfbricking’ (1969) and was the track that presaged their ground-breaking follow-on album, ‘Liege and Lief.’ Dear Old Battlefield’ was from the Incredible String Band’s ninth album ‘Liquid Acrobat (As Regards The Air)’, their last offering before incredible strings began to slacken and then fray. There are also numerous essential guide-posts along the way, pointing to a strong Welsh, Scottish and French slant.

The passage of time may have dulled early memories of Celtic Folk as a time of suspicion and perhaps even conflict, but this box-set and the years between tell a story of an encounter that became an embrace, a shot-in-the-dark that turned into a nailed-on inevitability. Between John Martyn’s raw mutant arrangement of Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail’ and  the ballad-meets-pyrotechnics of the Joe O’Donnell/Rory Gallagher track ‘Poets and Storytellers’ you’ll find the dazzling meeting points.

This box-set recaptures the excitement of those early years before Celtic Rock  became part of the whirl. Treasure the ones you brought forward with you from those days and discover some more!


Bob Langstaff.


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