I first saw a Celtic mandolin at my initial traditional music session, in November 1989 at Quail Hollow State Park in Hartville, Ohio, where a musician named Tom played a James Jones mandolin. That night, at age 32, I started playing Celtic and Appalachian music, and I passed through a door, from an aimless life into another, one holding purpose, passion, and hope for the future. I met my wife that night, I joined the band she played in a few weeks later and the band Tom formed the following year, and Celtic music transformed my life. Since then it has defined my being.
Nine days later, at a private music party held by a lady named Joanne, who plays hammer dulcimer, among other instruments, Tom brought another Jones instrument, which he called a bouzouki. I had never seen such an instrument, and I was enchanted and intrigued. Thus began my love with the mandolin, specifically the Celtic style, and the Celtic mandolin clan. That family of Celtic stringed instruments even more closely defines my essence as a musician.
My interest further ascended the mandolin ladder the following summer when Tom told me he had a mandola he would sell, and I knew I wanted it even before seeing it. At the same time I was saving money for a Jones mandolin while playing an el cheapo generic instrument, and soon after buying the mandola my vision crystallized into the Celtic mandolin family consort. I bought my James Jones mandolin in April 1991, and it and the mandola accompanied me, and still do, on many a performing junket. It took many years to acquire a complete set of Celtic mandolins, but I have done so, and with it and digital technology I can create the sound that formed in my head so long ago.
In this category of my blog I will introduce each member of the Celtic mandolin family and explain origins, tunings, the role of each instrument in an ensemble, and players and builders. I will also include music suitable for each instrument and tuning, and I will provide links to my YouTube channel showing me playing each instrument. The Rampant Mandolin in its name indicates my mission to make the Celtic mandolin a strong solo instrument, taking no back seat to the more traditional dominant instruments.