Celtic Music Bands

Bally166I love Celtic Music. Irish New Age to Plastic Paddy Punk, I like it all. I’ve compiled a list of my favorites for your pleasure. Now, this is just my opinion – do not keelhaul me that your favorite was somehow snubbed!

That is not to say that this is a comprehensive list, but a list of some of the bands and performers I enjoy. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments!

I had thought about arranging them by type, but some bands defy type and category, so I’ll do them alphabetically… and then give a brief description of the type of sound they have.

  • Afro Celt Sound System – I have several of their albums, including Seed and Sound Magic, and love them all.  This is Celtic and Senegalese music mixed.  Very funky and upbeat.
  • Aine Minogue – lovely Irish Harpist with a bit of New Age
  • Albannach – drums and pipes and LOTS of energy
  • Altan – the lead singer, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, has a wonderful voice!
  • Anuna – New Age music with a Celtic feel, uses nonsense words to convey dreamy music
  • Bear McCreary – American composer who has done music for Outlander, The Walking Dead, and Battlestar Galactica
  • Black ‘47 – sometimes silly, always passionate, fun and energetic
  • Blackmore’s Night – Ritchie Blackmore used to play guitar for Deep Purple, and then went mystical with his girlfriend singing – neat stuff
  • Bohola – a Chicago-based duo, really, consisting of Jimmy Keane on piano
  • Bothy Band – traditional Irish trad group from the 1970sBoys of the Lough – they combine Irish and Scottish influences, but include in their number Cathal McConnell, one of the great Irish song-collectors
  • Brobdingnanian Bards – Traditional ren band, very good, very nice!  I also see them at Dragoncon every year.
  • Caladh – a local pub group we saw in Kilkenny – they were great!  (and the lead singer is cute!)
  • Capercaillie – This band features wonderful vocals by Karen Matheson, and a haunting feel.
  • Cara Dillon – Irish folk singer with clear, sweet vocals
  • Celtic Thunder – Irish American group done with polish and talent, a bit like a male version of Celtic Woman.
  • Celtic Woman – all-female Irish vocal ensemble which has high production value, and has launched many careers. Chloe Agnew, Orla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Hayley Westenra, Mairead Nesbitt and many others.
  • Cernunnos Rising – New Age, Druidic and Celtic music
  • Cherish the Ladies – New York based group with lovely vocals, traditional/ceili
  • Chieftains – Another 40 year old band, well respected and making music.
  • Christy Moore – the Granddad of Irish Folk music
  • Claire Roche – Irish harpist who loves Yeats’ Poetry
  • Clanadonia – drums and pipes and tribal energy
  • Clann An Drumma – tribal band from Scotland, drums and pipes
  • Clannad – Enya’s family, very talented.   They do a lot of trad, but also do many ethereal original pieces.
  • Coda – male a capella traditional band in Ireland, great harmonies. I got to see them live in Westport a couple of years ago.
  • Crannog – Traditional Ren Faire musicians
  • Culann’s Hounds – great traditional Irish folk band from San Francisco
  • Damh the Bard – Wonderful pagan music, traditional sounds
  • Danú – a fantastic trad-based band hailing mostly from Co Waterford.
  • Davy Spillane – hands down, the best Uillean pipe player
  • De Dannan – Top Irish trad group from the 1970s
  • Déanta – Lovely young vocal Irish groupDervish – teetering a little close to more modern style songs
  • Donovan – Scottish singer with an eclectic blended style, mainstream in the 60s and 70s.
  • Dougie MacLean – Scottish folk singer, best known for his song Caledonia, which still makes me tear up every time I hear it.
  • Dropkick Murphys – Celtic Punk Rock band
  • Dubliners – legendary band from Dublin
  • Emerald Rose – This is a wonderful live band, not as magical on their CDs though.  I see them at Dragoncon every year – they combine Irish traditional with rocking pagan music.
  • Empty Hats – the prior incarnation was Double Indemnity, and are now Empty Hats.  They are one of the BEST ren bands I have ever heard, full of energy, humor, and talent.
  • Enter the Haggis – Celtic Rock band from America, lots of fun and energy
  • Enya – Who hasn’t heard of Enya?  Her haunting singing and mythical music got her the gig to do the Elves music in Lord of the Rings.  Who better?  Was part of Clannad (her family) at one point.
  • Erin’s Guild – Trad Rock band out of New England
  • Flogging Molly – Celtic Punk band
  • Gaelic Storm – This is the band that played below decks in the Titanic movie – lots of energy, lots of fun!
  • Grainne Hambly – traditional Irish harp music
  • Great Big Sea – they sing a lot of traditional songs, as do most Plastic Paddy bands, but with modern energy and beat (from Newfoundland)
  • Heather Alexander – Californian singer and fiddler
  • Hollie Smith – A beautiful haunting, smooth voice, sometimes in duet with Steve McDonald
  • Horslips – Irish Celtic rock band inspired by traditional musicIrish Rovers – I grew up listening to ‘The Unicorn’ and other fun songs by this very folk group
  • Iona – progressive Celtic rock band from the UK
  • Jethro Tull –  Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull released (2000) a wonderful flute album called The Secret Language of the Birds that is enchanting.
  • Julie Fowlis – fantastic Scottish Gaelic singer, on the soundtrack from Brave
  • Kate Rusby – throaty singer of traditional songsKelliana – Pagan singer extraordinaire
  • Liadan – lovely group of female vocalists out of Ireland
  • Loreena McKennitt – She has an incredible range for her voice, and tends to do original songs based on legends and myths in Celtic culture, such as Arthurian legends.
  • Lothlorien – this New Zealand band takes traditional music and enchants it with mystical music.  Theirs is one of my favorite Celtic CDs of all time.
  • Luke Kelly – Irish singer and folk musician from Dublin, founding member of the DublinersLúnasa – Irish folk band with great energy
  • Maire Brennan (Moya Brennan) – lead singer of Clannad, she has fantastic music as solo as well
  • Mary Black – Irish singer of both folk and modern material
  • Makem Brothers – Sons of Tommy Makem reviving the trad
  • Mary Black – Beautiful Irish vocalist
  • Mediaeval Baebes – wonderful a capella harmonies
  • Mike Freeman/Tania Opland – I first discovered this duo because they produced a wonderful CD based on Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern books, and I was hooked.  They are a wonderful studio band, and my special favorite is Cut to Rhythms.  I have all of their albums.
  • Morrigu – Celtic Trad and Irish punk, mix thoroughly
  • Narada – This is actually a collection of music, and each CD has a theme. One, Celtic Mysteries, is a mix of Celtic and Indian (Asian) music.  There is Celtic Odyssey, Celtic Dance, etc.  You get the idea.
  • Natalie MacMaster – fantastic fiddling
  • Noel McLoughlin – traditional singer with throaty, powerful vocals
  • Off Kilter – We saw them first at EPCOT in the Canada exhibition – rock music to bagpipes, what a combo!
  • Old Blind Dogs – Great harmonies and rhythm (Scottish)
  • Omnia – Neoceltic pagan folk band based in the Netherlands
  • Paddy Reilly – best known for Fields of Athenry, a traditional Irish folk singer and balladeer
  • Pandora Celtica – Delightful a capella band with a great deal of sea shanties and beautiful harmonies
  • Peatbog Fairies – Scottish rock and house music fusion
  • Planxty – Irish folk music band from the 1970s, included Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn. Helped popularize Irish music.
  • Prodigals – Another group of great energy, combined with wicked humor. Their CD ‘Dreaming in Hell’s Kitchen’ is just very happy and fun.
  • Runrig – Great Scottish folk/rock band
  • Sarah McLachlan – Canadian singer best known for songs that make you cry
  • Seven Nations – American Celtic rock group with lots of power
  • Sharon Shannon – Accordion player extraordinaire
  • Shooglenifty – Celtic/rock Scotland group that does a bit of house style music
  • Sileas – traditional Scottish harp musicSilly Wizard – One of the forerunners of modern traditional music – no, that’s not a contradiction.  They started out in the 1970s playing traditional music to huge crowds, and were one of the reasons for the current resurgence in Celtic interests.  The lead singer, Andy M. Stewart, wrote many well known modern songs such as Queen of Argyle and Ramblin’ Rover.
  • Sinead O’Connor – Irish pop and trad singer. Her vocals in Foggy Dew, for instance, are incredibly powerful
  • Sliabh Notes – fantastic Sliabh Luachra-style music.
  • Smoky Finish – They are probably the least Celtic of these, but still have some traditional music in their CDs.  Again, modern take and energy on old songs.
  • Solas – American Irish trad music group
  • Stan Rogers – Canadian folk and traditional singer known for his sea songs
  • Steeleye Span – English folk-rock band from the 1970s, still active today
  • Steve McDonald – Ethereal bagpipes with a story – what else could you want?  His CDs Sons of Somerled and Stone of Destiny are among the best I’ve heard.
  • Teada – another really, really great trad band, whose leader Oisin Mac Diarmada is one of my favorite fiddlers, and who along with flute-player Damien Stinson is from Sligo.
  • The Clancy Brothers – This group practically defines Irish folk music – they’ve been around over 40 years, singing the folk music to us beautifully.
  • The Corries – Scottish folk duo, traditional
  • The Corrs – Pop Irish Trad family, Irish. Andrea Corr has an incredible voice.
  • The Cranberries – Powerful vocals and lyricsThe Gothard Sisters – Lovely true sisters with beautiful vocals. I just saw them live in November
  • The High Kings – sort of a male version of Celtic Women, great voices and high production value in concertThe Irish Rovers – Traditional Irish Band that was actually my first exposure to Irish music. My mom had The Unicorn album.
  • The Pogues – short for ‘Pogue mo Thoin’, or Kiss my Ass, this punk Irish band exploded on the scene
  • The Proclaimers – best known for their song ‘500 miles’, this Scottish rock band has many other hits
  • The Rankin Family – Cape Breton traditional Celtic/American Country band
  • The Saw Doctors – Irish folk/rock group with lots of powerThe Young Dubliners – American Celtic Rock band
  • The Waterboys – Traditional band, mainly musicians from Scotland, England and Ireland
  • Tommy Makem – A founder of the irish folk/traditional revival, father of the Makem brothers
  • Tommy Sands – Singer and Songwriter from northern Ireland, best known for his sacrifice during the hunger strikes
  • Turlogh O’Carolan – not a modern composer, but one from the 18th century. The last true Bard
  • U2 – The most famous Irish band, enough said.
  • Van Morrison – Van the Man. Northern Irish singer, mainstream in the 60s.
  • William Jackson – traditional Scottish harp music
  • Wolfe Tones – Known for their strong political songs, this is another folk group

 

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Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.

– Legacy of Hunger

– Stunning, Strange and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland

– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
More info at Green Dragon Artist :: Home ,
Christy Jackson Nicholas, Author , and
Tirgearr Publishing – Christy Nicholas

Green Dragon Artist Blog

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I am an artist, accountant and author living in western New York, transplanted from Denmark, Michigan, Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania (in that order!) I love the beauty of the world and sharing it with others through jewelry, photography, digital painting and writing.

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Posted in History, music, Travel
4 comments on “Celtic Music Bands
  1. Cathy says:

    Wow that’s guite the list ! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy says:

    Could listen to Steve McDonald and Hollie Smith all day (sometimes I have!). The High Kings version of “Fields of Athenry” is my favorite. I do like Karliene Reynolds and a long time favorite, Billy Boyd. Thanks for the list. I’m always looking for artists in the Celtic genre and most of these names are unfamiliar to me. You Tube, here I come!

    Liked by 1 person

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