Wolfstone are a Scottish folk rock institution. Between 1989 and the present day, they’ve toured the world, recorded and released numerous albums, over the years gathering a huge following and mainstream success.
The band’s namesake is the ‘Wolf stone’, an ancient Pictish carved stone found built in to a drystone dyke near Ardross. Easter-Ross, and Inverness-shire are where the roots of the band lie – home to its founding members, and the traditions forming the basis of their music. But their music extended far beyond this. As their fiddle player Duncan Chisholm said: ‘At the end of the day we are a rock band from the Highlands of Scotland that happen to use pipes, whistles and fiddles in our repertoire’.
Wolfstone began in a pub session in Inverness, with the meeting of Chisholm and vocalist/guitarist Stuart Eaglesham. Joined by piper Allan Wilson and guitarist Andy Murray, they played their first gig at the Dingwall Traditional Music Festival in 1989. It was a hit, and soon they were touring village halls the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands.
Orcadian guitarist, singer and songwriter Iven Drever joined the band, and work began on Unleashed, their first album with Iona Records – the label started by Ossian in 1978. Mid-recording, they were offered the chance to support Runrig at their 1991 Loch Lomond Midsummer Concert, on a lineup also including Capercaillie and Hothouse Flowers. The gig led to a new level of exposure for the band, and when released, Unleashed ultimately achieved BPI silver status.
In 1992, Unleashed’s followup – The Chase – was released. With it the band really started to move towards mainstream success, reaching BPI gold status and touring more than ever. Next came a 1994 record deal with Green Linnet, and the ensuing album – Year of The Dog – had them reaching a truly international audience, touring America, Europe and as far afield as Kazakhstan.
At that time, their songs were mostly originals from Drever and Eaglesham. Scottish themes, in this rock context was a winning combination, their material crossing musical, cultural and age boundaries, to win fans around the world.
After two years of almost constant touring, came the band’s next release – The Half Tail. It was met by the same success as their previous releases, but such an intensely busy time had taken its toll on the band. So what followed was a period of winding down and lineup changes.
But at the turn of 1998 the band headed back in to the studio to make Seven, their seventh studio album. With a new lineup including Tony Soave on drums and Andy Simmers on keys, the band were refreshed, and Seven became something of a comeback album. The band toured throughout 2000, until they were hit by the tragic death of Andy Simmers.
In the wake of this blow, the band continued, setting up their own label – Once Bitten Records. Their first release – Not Enough Shouting – was a live album, recorded in concert at The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow, and The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen.
Finding their feet with their own label on their own terms, the band began to take touring at a slower pace, taking more much needed breaks. Following Not Enough Shouting came Almost an Island, the first studio release on their own label. The record features a guest appearance from Phil Cunningham, who produced that very first album over a decade earlier.
Now, the band’s appearances are less frequent, the members busy with other projects. Highlights from recent years include the launch party for their most recent album – Terra Firma – to a sold out crowd at the Ironworks Inverness, and a concert celebrating twenty one years of the band at Pitlochry’s Festival Theatre in 2011. Though their appearances now are more rare, they are still met by a loyal following. Of their audience in Scotland, Chisholm once said: “In Scotland people between eight and 80 listen to us… they understand the music and want to be part of it”.