RG Absher

R.G. Absher at Kinvarna.

Celtic Cottage

Thoughts go back to western Ireland with its battered coastline, its jagged cliffs and its thatched cottages. The lush green hills and wind swept coastline are places of enchantment and beauty. It's a land of past turmoil and conquest, and the land of sheep farmers and pubs. Picturesque towns, round towers, and sleepy castle ruins dot the country side. And Ireland's culture is both vivid and colorful! The ancient Celts provided legends, folk lore, and music that still excite and captivate the residents and tourists today.

During the summer of 2000, I toured western and southern Ireland. The visit gave me the opportunity to experience the homeland of my ancestors and to play some music in the pubs and taverns. "Come inside and play us a wee tune," a man said in the town of Kinsale on a beautiful and sunny afternoon of mid-July. Wow - What a haven for musicians!! For at night, the towns and villages of this rolling greeen country seems to burst alive with Irish music and good fun! Music flows as freely as stout from the tap!

This was a fun recording project!! My goal here - To relate some of the musical excitement that I experienced in putting this colection together. From hornpipe, to jigs, reels and airs, this is a recording project that seeks to echo the sounds of the Celtic past as they have been translated by a Southern Appalachian son who just happens to have most of his roots tied to Ireland. And to be sure, this project certainly has a connection to Southern Appalachian sounds as well. The tunes on this project swing back and forth between more purely traditional Celtic sounds and those of Southern Appalachian traditional acoustic music.

Today in the mountains of North Carolina, events like the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games celebrate the Celtic heritage. Both Scottish and Scotch-Irish traditions abound in the state. Many have traced their roots and found that they descended from Highland Scots families living in eastern North Carolina who settled areas like Fayetteville. The Highland Scots settled the area in the mid-1700's after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's army in 1746 at Culloden in Scotland. Those eastern North Carolina Scottish immigrants impacted the culture, local dialects, and music in that region. Highland pipe bands continue even today in North Carolina.

Those native to the Southern Appalachian, are quite likely to have descended from the Scotch-Irish or (Ulster Scots) as those eighteenth century American immigrants from Northern Ireland were sometimes called. Beginning in the early 1700's and continuing until about the time the American Revolutionary War began, thousands of those Ulsterr Scots crossed the Atlantic by ship. They then moved south from Virginia and Pennsylvania along the "Great Wagon Road" through the Shenandoah valley. They journeyed down the Appalachians in search of less populated areas with the hopes of acquiring land and a new way of life.

Often depicted as rough and independent sorts, they settled in small valleys and towns on mountainous sections with the patriot cause in the American Revolution and many became productive and outstanding citizens in the new nation called the United States

And along with them they brought their music. Celtic textures, tones and hues several centuries old, still creep into those sounds of today's Appalachian and related folk music. The music traditions of Ireland and Scotland certainly influenced the folk music of the Colonial Period residents. War songs and pub songs of the Colonial Period frontier. The fiddle was played at barn dances, community gatherings and even mustering events of local militias. A majority of the early fiddle music repertoire came from tunes brought across the Atlantic during immigration. The modal and sad sounding laments and airs influenced the tendency of the mountain forms to also have sad and lonely sounds. A quick look at today's old time and bluegrass music, the older hoe downs and breakdowns evolved from Celtic style reels and hornpipes.

My first recording project, Gypsy Wagon (1996), was also a tribute to the Celtic roots in Southern Appalachian music. Celtic Cottage is a natural outgrowth of that effort in that it focuses a little more on the haunting tunes of the old. Hopefully here the listener will experience both the lively and the haunting in a way which brings back images of that lonesome Celtic Cottage in the heart of old Ireland.

R.G. Absher


1. RG Absher- banjo (1,12,15), guitar on (2,4,5,7,10,13,15), hammered dulcimer on (6,8), and fiddle on (3,9,11,14)
2. Richard Beard- classical guitar on (4), and bouzoukie on (6,9)
3. Laurie Fisher- fiddle on (1,5,6,8,13,15), Irish bodhran on (2,6,12), and piano on (3,4,11)
4. Billy Gee- bass on (1,3,7,13,15), guitar on (1)
5. Jeff Pardue- accordion on (6,7,9,10), and vocals on (7)
6. Wes Tuttle- mandolin on (1,3,11,12,13,15)