Chris Caswell

A Rememberance

By Danny Carnahan

Chris_Caswell[Ed. Note: Chris Caswell, Northern Californian Celtic musician and harp maker, died of cancer on January 21 at 60. Beginning in 1976, Chris recorded three albums and toured North America and Europe with Robin Williamson and His Merry Band. In 1980 he formed Caswell Carnahan with Danny Carnahan and recorded two albums: New Leaves On An Old Tree and Borderlands.

Holy Wood (2001) is Chris's solo bronze-strung harp album displays this rare and hauntingly beautiful instrument in a mix of the popular and eclectic from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England and France,. Celtic Tidings (1999) is his well-loved Christmas CD. He is on over thirty recordings, including Bonnie Rideout's multi-award-winning Give Me Elbow Room and Grammy-nominated Kindred Spirits. Chris was a featured artist with Bonnie’s national A Scottish Christmas tour, 1998-99 and Live from the National Geographic, 1997.]


At the point when I first met Chris Caswell I was already bound and determined to be a performing musician but I had little idea how to go about doing it. I hung out with Chris at the Renaissance Faire and we played and drank and joked and shared plenty of youthful enthusiasms. But when I saw him perform with Robin Williamson's Merry Band I had a real epiphany. Here was someone my age, interested in the same wacky stew of musical styles I liked, who was breezy and confident in front of an audience, damn good at a load of instruments, and most important, clearly having the time of his life on stage. That was the life for me.

Chris and I started playing together all the time at the moment when the Merry Band was winding down and Robin Williamson wanted to try solo work for a change. The electricity of the Merry Band leaked into our partnership and we launched off practically without a pause. It turned out to be beautiful piece of timing, as the Celtic Explosion happened in Ireland and Scotland just as we were putting ourselves out there in California as The Next Cool Celtic Thing. It was a lovely, fun ride for several years, two albums, and touring that took us as far as Texas and the Great Lakes and Canada. I never would have done it alone. Chris was my musical foil and emotional back brace as I became who I would be publicly for the rest of my life. I owe him plenty and will miss him a lot.

Chris Caswell at Lark in the Morning (2011)