10 Irish Folk Bands You Must Listen To
These 10 essential Irish folk bands will help you learn new songs for your next ‘sing-song’ or just discover new music to listen to.
There are many different forms of Irish folk bands. Many of them use instruments commonly seen in traditional (trad) Irish music, such as the Bodhrán, Fiddle, Tin Whistle, Uilleann Pipes, Accordion, and Harp.
Some of the below include both traditional forms of Irish folk music, as well as those that blend more contemporary styles into the genre.
1. The Dubliners
The Dubliners revolutionized Irish folk music in Ireland and introduced it to people around the world. They were formed in 1962 by the founding members Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, and Ciarán Bourke.
Over their 50 years of activity, their fast-paced folk sounds, street ballads, and lively instrumentals brought them international success.
Their most popular songs include ‘’Seven Drunken Nights’’ and ‘’The Black Velvet Band’’. They also made some rebel and political songs such as ‘’The Foggy Dew’’. However, most of the band’s focus was on non-politicized folk music.
2. The Chieftains
The Chieftains became an international phenomenon during the 1970s and 1980s due to their original traditional Irish folk sound. They were formed in 1962 by Michael Tubridy, Sean Potts, and Paddy Moloney.
Their distinct use of musical instruments which centered around the uilleann pipes helped them popularise a new style of folk music. Some of their biggest hits include songs like ‘’O’ Sullivan’s March’’, ‘’Friel’s Kitchen’’ and ‘’I Know My Love’’.
Having collaborated with famous artists such as The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, and Madonna over the years, the band has built its fanbase and is still active to date, with their ‘’Irish Goodbye Tour’’ ongoing since 2019.
3. The Pogues
The Pogues are widely praised for bringing punk music influences into traditional Irish folk. The band was formed in 1982 by Shane MacGowan, Jem Finer, and Peter ‘’Spider’’ Stacy.
Their live performances were often exciting and brought them a cult following during the 1980s. They disbanded in 1996 but re-formed from 2001-2014 to play live tours.
Most of The Pogues’ music was political. However, their biggest hit was the Christmas carol ‘’Fairytale of New York’’, a song that became one of the most well-known Irish Christmas songs.
4. The Wolfe Tones
Since their formation in 1963, The Wolfe Tones have remained one of the most political Irish folk bands that are still together to date.
The band was started by Derek Warfield, Brain Warfield, and Tommy Byrne. Their folk music has a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. Some of their most notable songs include ‘’Irish Eyes’’ and ‘’Celtic Symphony.’’
5. The Clancy Brothers
The Clancy Brothers re-popularized folk music during the 1950s and 1960s. The band was formed in 1956 by the brothers Tom, Liam, and Patrick. Their first few albums were a collaboration with Tommy Makem.
Their musical style is prominent for bringing a lively twist to the traditional ballad folk singing. Some of their most recognizable songs include ‘’Jug of Punch’’ and ‘’Irish Rover’’.
After various group formations, they finally disbanded in 1998.
6. Christy Moore
Also known as the lead vocalist of Planxty and Moving Hearts, Christy Moore is considered to be a pioneer of contemporary Irish folk music. Throughout his career, he brought in rock and modern influences to traditional songs.
His first solo album, ‘’Paddy on the Road’’ was released in 1969 and was followed by several more successful albums. His music has also continued to be a source of inspiration for other artists like U2 and The Pogues.
For his second album ”Prosperous”, Christy Moore wanted to experiment with traditional music, so he asked his friends Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, and Liam O’Flynn to help record the album.
The group led to the formation of Planxty in 1972. Planxty’s music brought modern influences to Celtic music. They also brought in sounds from other backgrounds like Eastern Europe. With unique songs such as ‘’Cliffs of Dooneen’’, the band attracted worldwide attention.
The band broke up in 1975 but reunited a few times until their last performance in 2005.
Lankum was formed in 2000 by Ian Lynch, Daragh Lynch, Radie Peat, and Cormac MacDiarmada. Their music revitalized folk music by mixing in progressive, alternative, and psychedelia styles.
They are known for their lively performances, as well as their captivating musical style, which has brought them worldwide acclaim, with songs such as ‘’The Wild Rover’’ and ‘’The Young People’’ being their most widely-recognized songs.
Formed in 1970 by siblings Ciarán, Pól, Moya Brennan, and their uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan, Clannad has been influential in promoting Irish music and language across the world.
Their melodies brought Celtic music and pop together, and songs such as ‘’I Will Find You’’ and ‘’Harry’s Game’’ helped the band reach international success, as demonstrated by their eight top ten albums in the United Kingdom.
Horslips added Celtic rock and progressive instrumentation to traditional folk music. They were formed in 1970 with John Fean, Barry Devlin, Charles O’Connor, Eamonn Carr, and Jim Lockhart.
The rock influences in their music resembled Genesis or Jethro Tull, as evident in songs like ‘’Dearg Doom’’ or ‘’Trouble’’.
The band broke up in 1980 but reunited in 2004 to continue recording and touring.
Folk music is an important part of Ireland’s identity. It has been a great way for Irish people to share stories and express their thoughts and opinions. This is why Irish folk bands are beloved in Ireland and by people from all over the world.
We hope you enjoyed this list and found some great music as a result of it!