Oft-overlooked among the manifold shadows of the Incredible String Band
, Robin Williamson'
s Merry Band
was, in fact, responsible for some of the finest music of his career, and American Stonehenge
ranks up there with the best of it. Designed after Williamson
took time out to visit the so-called Celtic remains that baffle archaeologists of modern America (the front cover depicts a dolmen in upstate New York), American Stonehenge
s vision of a full-fledged Celtic musical tradition as it might have taken root in the United States, ten songs that naturally draw from that music's spiritual homelands, but which are nevertheless firmly planted in the new world.
Within that, it is very much a "traditional" Williamson
album -- maddeningly funny, oddly eccentric, and deliberately obtuse all at the same time. The melodies are created from instruments as far apart as the jew's harp, swanee whistle, Celtic harp, and dobro, the puns fall like rain ("Rab's Last Woolen Testament" is a particular cracker), and there are moments when it seems impossible to reconcile the sheer majesty of the musical atmosphere with the knowledge that it was written and recorded in Los Angeles in 1977. Like a buried treasure, or a hidden secret, or the mysterious stones that inspired it in the first place, American Stonehenge
is a piece of ancient past that still stands proud and relevant today.