The Wolfhounds are Fenian rogues who love Celtic music. And how.
When it’s time to write about a band, I generally have one of three ways to figure out who it will be. It may be that I saw the band at a show and thought, “Hey, wow, they’re really good.” It may be that one of my friends in the musical community comes to me and says, “Here’s a band that’s really good and could use some press.”
The third (and surprisingly least common) method of selection is that the band itself approaches me, which is really what should be happening (I’m talking to you, every band that hasn’t done this). This week I get to do something different. I get to tell you about a band whose progress I have monitored since their inception (and before that, really). They call themselves The Wolfhounds, they play Celtic tunes and they’re pretty damn good at it.
The Wolfhounds are Christopher Armstrong and Brian Davis. For just two guys, their instrumentation is broader than one might expect. Both are accomplished guitarists, though with different, albeit complementary, styles. Armstrong has an aggressive approach to playing, in the words of one observer, “thrashing the guitar like it owes him money,” while Davis’s style is a quieter and more reserved finger-picking approach. Both men possess a broader range than that, of course, but as a rule they seem content to play specific roles on stage, which makes for an excellent dynamic, a sort of Gaelic Smothers Brothers approach.
In addition to his guitar and vocal work, Armstrong is a highly accomplished bagpipe player and indeed is a familiar fixture downtown in the warmer months. Generally found on one of the ends of Walnut Street Bridge, Frazier Avenue, or Market Street, Armstrong has been known to play in street clothes or in full Scottish regalia...the latter of which has prompted more than one alarmed motorist to cry out, “Oh no! That monster is attacking that old lady!” but he suffers such indignities with the cheerful smile and good humor for which he is known.
In addition to the bagpipes, Chris is also accomplished on the small pipes, the Irish drum (or bodhran), and most recently the mandolin. Regardless of the instrument, the man can be counted on to put his heart in to every note, a sincerity too often lacking in the folk music scene.
Davis began his musical career on trumpet, and to that end spent time playing symphonic music, jazz and ultimately swing and big band tunes (including a memorable solo at the annual Riverbend festival) before picking up guitar and pursuing a passion for Celtic music back in the ’90s. In addition to his guitar work and vocals, Davis also brings the penny whistle and drum to the ’Hounds.
Interestingly, Davis has a penchant for the rarely heard Welsh folk music, music that is as beautiful as it is incomprehensible (which is to say it is extraordinarily beautiful). His version of “Dacw ’Nghariad” is heart-wrenching and I recommend requesting it whenever you see him. The pronunciation is something you’ll have to work out for yourself (see previous comment regarding Welsh folk music).
While the boys have yet to release a recording, they are gigging steadily and can be found sharing the bill at the Honest Pint the last Sunday of every month. Their musical selections run the gamut from good old pub tunes and murder ballads to gorgeous instrumental pieces.
The transformation from their first fledgling appearances into the bold, Fenian rogues they are now ensures they will be around (and much loved) for a long time to come.
Their stickless-butt approach to folk music brings a lot to the party, folks, and if you want to see for yourself (and you do) catch their next free performance at the Honest Pint on Dec. 28.