Posted by: Mish | March 17, 2009

Celtic Tunes

This plug post has been on the back burner for a couple months now, but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here it is. During a conversation about music, I was asked about Celtic tunes. Already knowing he liked folk music, I started there. So here’s a list from my CD collection, with a bit of something for everyone’s tastes or moods.

Folky & Traditional:

  • Castlebay: Frank Gosbee and Julia Lane weave together songs and stories of Maine’s British Isles heritage. They even take listeners back across time to 12th century Wales. Frank, who plays a 12-string guitar, fiddle, and tin whistle, made Julia’s gorgeous Celtic harp from a canoe.
  • The Chieftains: Around since the 60’s, they were one of the first bands to popularize traditional tunes outside of their native Ireland. They do a lot of collaboration with other artists, such as Sting, Ziggy Marley, and a slew of others.
  • Clannad: Their sounds also extend into folk-rock and New Age. They began making their mark in the 70’s, but later helped to popularize traditional Irish music outside of Ireland. The sister of a few of its members, Enya, did her first recording with them and later went onto her own pursuits.
  • The Irish Rovers: A Canadian-Irish folk group from the 60’s who are one of the sources for some of the tunes heard in pubs today. Funnily enough, at a recent trivia night, I answered the “name that tune” correctly. It was Shel Silverstein’s “Unicorn Song” that they made popular. Regular rock and roll tunes, no clue.
  • Kíla: This Irish band’s music is a mix of chants, traditional, and contemporary. I believe I counted 18 instruments among the 6 performers when I saw them.
  • Loreena McKennitt: Her world music is heavily influenced by her Celtic roots. Her rendition of “Greensleeves” is one of my favorites.
  • Solas: Their sounds are a blend of traditional Irish, folk, country, jazz, and even blues.
  • Turlough O’Carolan: This blind composer from the 17th and 18th centuries is Ireland’s Beethoven. Along with writing over 200 songs, he also played the harp and sang. Some of his work can be heard through Carolan’s Dream, a collaboration of Garlic Bread and the Concert l’Hostel Dieu, a baroque music ensemble from France. (Hmm…I might have to get some Garlic Bread.)

Rock & Rowdy:

  • Black 47: Along with playing jigs and reels, this Irish rock band tends to be more political.
  • Celtic Cross: Their sounds are folk-rock, rock, and indie.
  • The Glengarry Bhoys: They blend together old and new Irish and Scottish tunes, and even American rock and Quebecoise music. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them at Irish music festivals and other random spots.
  • Tempest: Their music is a mix of traditional Celtic; progressive rock; and American, European, and Norwegian folk.
  • La Volée d’Castors: “The Flying Beavers” are a contemporary band, whose Quebecoise and Acadian tunes will set the feet stomping. Quebec’s Acadian music is a blend of French and Gaelic cultures. The Acadians that moved to Louisiana in the 1700’s were one of the influences for the Cajun culture.

A few other songsters I’ve listened to through the years are Enter the Haggis, Gaelic Storm, Mary Jane Lamond, the classic Clancy Brothers, Uffington Horse… Yep, just a wee bit of Celtic tunes to get through St. Paddy’s Day with.

What Celtic music do others like, if at all? Are there any particular songs or musicians you listen to on St. Paddy’s? Are there any I should become familiar with?

Slaínte mhath!

The Clancy Brothers’ “Whiskey You’re the Devil”

A funny rendition of “Danny Boy” from a few residents of Sesame Street

Clannad’s “Teir Abhaile Riú”

The Glengarry Bhoys:



  1. Very cool although I do have to say that I am sad you left the wonderful Celtic Woman out! Lol! 😦

  2. Can’t get to everyone… and for whatever reason they just don’t jive with me. (note, response made with several pints of stout in me)

  3. thought you guys might enjoy some of the music on

    check out the schedule tab to find shows that have Celtic music, traditional music, etc

    slán go fóill

  4. Interesting. I am a big Clannad and Chieftains fan.Too bad you left Connie Dover and Capercaillie out!

  5. Only because I’m not familiar with them. I’m listening to Connie Dover now, really liking Ubi Caritas. Gorgeous voice! I’ll check out Capercaillie later. Thanks for the new tunes.

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