My Top List of Modern Celtic (not solely Irish) Folk/Rock Bands

Welcome to my personal list of some celtic flavored music, some traditionally oriented, some not

Read this, absolutely, prior to reading this article. If you cannot grant me this courtesy, you'll get your asinine comment deleted.

^ This is the hub that has been requested far too often, likely the one you actually were looking for in the first place!

This list is:

1) personal: it's a collection of MY favorites, not yours.

2) not God's list: he didn't write it, I did

3) this is a celtic bands list, not irish or scottish or british or canadian on a standalone. The collection of all celtic ancestry across the world can be summed up, I feel, in an expressive variety between these 10 bands.


Most of these bands are not irish, most don't even play irish music.

The ones that are actually irish (aka, from fekkin' ireland) are not necessarily "contemporary" (as one critic has already stated below). Let's define contemporary: I have defined it as anything post modern, aka, past the roaring 20s. Really, music drastically changed starting in the 1950s. That's when some of these bands got started. 62 years is not a long time, therefore, yes, they're contemporary by definition.

The Oysterband is BRITISH. Not sure why that particular band has so much ignorance surrounding it, but it's got to stop.

Read knowing this is a personal list. Don't like it, make your own damn list.

10 : The Dubliners

** Remain 10th **

The Dubliners formed in 1962 and consists of members out of Dublin, hence the name. The Dubliners are known for a few things vital to the celtic music scene, especially modern. First, they were officially the pioneers of the irish music scene in Europe, actually achieving a few songs on the top 100 charts in the UK. They have juggled members throughout the years, notably Paddy Reilly (who went on to a successful solo career). The current lineup has only two original members, and it's terribly difficult to follow the band through its history. That part of the band can be found on wikipedia.

The Dubliners most notably influenced the Pogues, who not only played alongside them but also adopted the same sound (instead adding electric instruments and driving punk beats). The Dubliners might arguably be the first folk rock band out of Ireland.

9 : Gaelic Storm

** Dropped from 8th to 9th **

Gaelic Storm is easily one of the most popular acts in the genre, arguably the current leader in it as well as they have topped the world charts on many occasions. Their sound follows in the footsteps of the Dubliners, Chieftains, Clancy Brothers, and Clannad, but they instead decide [especially recently] to delve into writing original pseudo-traditional material. It is, in fact, quite difficult to pick out the originals from the traditionals on their albums, and as such makes them one of the top balladeering bands of today.

Popular songs garnished with the instruments of Ireland and backed with drums of the world outside of the British Isles, Galeic Storm continues to play shows around the world for some of the largest audiences drawn to folk concerts.

8 : The Pogues

** Up from 9th to 8th **

The Pogues garnered their infamous sound by combining the drive of The Clash and the melodies of the Dubliners (as mentioned above). Fronted originally by Shane MacGowan, the band has also included powerful members like Joe Strummer.Their name is derived from a gaelic phrase translated "kiss my arse", which ironically becomes a popular tune in their lineup.

The Pogues are notorious for being the the pioneer of the irish-punk sound that has been replicated by bands such as the Dropkick Murphys, Tossers, and Flogging Molly (who we'll get to later). They have fielded many influential artists who have gone on to do their own gigs and the band itself is arguably the most successful in its genre of all time.

7 : The Saw Doctors

** Entering at 7th **

With songs like " I Useta Luv Her" and "Bless Me Father", there's no doubt in my mind that, while they stuck true to the arse-kicking attitude of the Pogues, they balanced it out with modern (at the time) rock, electrified more so than the Pogues, and developed a keen sense of straight up rock fusion with celtic backdrops. Diverging from the paths of their predecessors, yet clinging to the heart of celtic rock, has set apart the Saw Docs as something truly spectacular.

6 : Enter the Haggis

** Up from 7th to 6th **

Although not necessarily a "celtic" band, ETH has molded together the sound of multiple genre rock and melodious folk tunes. Known for their fiery live shows andhard-driving instrumentals, ETH has recently been important for writing numerous non-punk political numbers, and their newest album Soapbox Heroes has only one instrumental song on the entire CD. Fronted by...well...all the members, ETH has what is arguably the best fiddler in the industry and also the best bagpiper to boot. With every member having a powerful style and talented ability, this band is not one to let musicianship slide in the name of popularity.

True to their song "New Monthly Flavour", the band itself keeps varying it up. "If it's the same damn song, why are you listening?" rings through the chorus and pierces the mind with pervasive honesty.

5 (tied) : Dropkick Murphys

** Remains 5th **

There was once a day when I was a massive fan of punk music, specifically the Murphys. Recently I've matured into the less raw sounds of bands like the Oysterband or Great Big Sea, but regardless I cannot forget that this punk-rock band is one of the biggest around and has crossed genre so well that many who are opposed to folk music will end up finding something they like in it after all, especially after hearing the more underground punk tones of this band.

After forming in the late 90s, the band went on to produce an album every other year. Recently they were featured on the film soundtrack of "The Departed" with the song "Shipping Up To Boston."

5th (tied) : Runrig

** Enters 5th, tied with the Murphys **

Scotland's own, Runrig, has been around for a long time and has seen multiple facets of the band's development in approach. Once solely a scottish-gaelic band, it's morphed into a very solid southern rock approach to celtic music. One of the largest acts in the industry tallying a staggering amount of studio and live albums, Runrig is virtually the most distinguishable celtic act out there today.

4 : Flogging Molly

** Remains 4th **

To what the Pogues were in the UK, Flogging Molly is in the USA. Fronted by the legendary Dave King, the band has done very well in developing and refining the notorious sound of the Pogues and developing their own style in recent years, the most diverse example being "Float" [2008]. In this album the band approached a more ballad-like sound, including softer numbers like the title track and "Us of Lesser Gods." Make no mistake, the band is still a punk band, but this time they have matured the sound and become something much deeper.

They were also featured at the end of P.S., I Love You with the song "If I Ever Leave This World Alive." I was ecstatic to hear that song at the end, and ironically cheered up the droll ending considerably.

Flogging Molly continues to press forward, with the poetic lyrics of Dave King blending with the melodious music of Bridget Regan. The album Float consequently landed at #4 on its opening weekend [Billboard chart] and is recorded as the highest rank of the celtic music genre history.The album itself has been said to be the most important album of the year, possibly of the decade by the Alternative Press.

3 : The Chieftains

** Remains 3rd **

Called "The gods of Celtic Music"by Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, the Chieftains are by no means a rock group. They are strictly traditional celtic musicians, although they have teamed up with some of the most notorious bands and solo artists in history. This list includes Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Loreena McKennit, Sinead O'Connor, the Pogues, Great Big Sea, and Allison Kraus. They have had numerous members but for the most part are the original band. They have been performing since 1963, one year later than the Dubliners. Their outfit was the first to incorporate the Uilleann Pipes on a regular basis, and have influenced bands like Rathkeltair and the Oysterband in that regard. The Chieftains are world renowned and respected among virtually every genre of music for their versatility and musicianship. Paddy Maloney is widely accepted as the best traditional music arranger in the business.

2 : Great Big Sea

** Remains 2nd **

When I said Flogging Molly was the Pogues of America, GBS is the alternative for Canada. Although they got their start as a strictly acoustic outfit, they've sinced reincarnated a sound of pop-folk blended with the traditions of Newfoundland music (which sounds remarkably close to irish music). GBS is most known for its live shows, allowing audience participation on a consistently regular basis and also using their musicianship to its finest. Although Alan Doyle is considered the lead singer, Sean McCann sings an equal amount of songs in their lineup. Bob Hallet also sings a few numbers (usually ones he introduced or wrote himself), and the ex-member Darryl Power had also sung a few tunes here and there, most famously their rendition of "Excursion Around the Bay" off their debut record.

GBS has delivered three live albums, which is something most bands can't touch (2 of which had full DVD access to the entire concert).. They also have produced the completely traditional :"The Hard and the Easy" which was followed by the [nearly] entirely original "Fortune's Favour." Some other notable facts: the band has seen their albums go gold more often than not, and most of their albums have reached platinum status. They have been featured on Canadian television and on CMT in America for their single "When I Am King."

A little personal vanity: I learned the bodhran from watching Sean McCann play on their videos and at their shows.

1 : The Oysterband

** Remains 1st **

At one point they had been compared to the Pogues, but that was when they first started recording as the Oysterband in 1988 with "Wide Blue Yonder", and that endevour even proved to be more refined. Their lyrics are deeper than most folk musicians, which consequently are considerably deeper than pop musicians. They are known mostly for their 1995 smack-down of an album "Shouting End of Life" which features songs played live on most of their shows.

The band is from England and the political side of their music borders socialistic tendencies, but never flamboyantly blatant like that of their punk counterparts. They instead finesse the wordsto perfection and add a little irony to boot. It was said of their latest album to be the best one yet, liekning the band to fine wine in their aging process. It's no lie, thirty years later they are still as good, certainly even better, than they were in the late 70s (took them a while to get organised).

The Oysters have been covered by many bands, the most recognizable is Great Big Sea with their rendition of "When I'm Up" reaching the top 10 in Canada's pop music charts in 1996. I still however prefer the original song.

The Oysterband does some traditional material but mostly sticks to what they do best, and that is make great music. Their fans are virtually the biggest worldwide cult, and as their popularity increases so does their age, which has soemthing to say about the nature of their music.

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Comments 121 comments

Matt 8 years ago

Not sure I would call the Oysters an 'Irish' band given that they are from England but I get what you're after. Nonetheless glad to see someone else out there appreciates this wonderful band. Finally had the priviledge of seeing them in concert in Toronto in 2008. It will be a sad say when they decide to pack it in

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 8 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

You know, I thought about that after writing the title! It crossed my mind to change it, but it's a popular google search and so I enjoy keeping it this way, even if half these bands aren't even irish.

The Oysters won't be going out any time soon. After all, tey didn't write "The Shouting End of Life" for nothin'!

Cailin Gallagher profile image

Cailin Gallagher 8 years ago from New England

How about the Bothy Band? They started the revival of Irish Traditional Music in Ireland in the 70s. They deserve some kudos!

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 8 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

The Bothy Band came from the same era as the Dubliners, Chieftains, and Clancy Bros., but were considerably overshadowed by all of them. Dubliners are still "active", as are the Chieftains, and both have created renowned legacies worldwide. The Bothy Band I'm sure has it's place, but each of these bands above have tapped into different modes of the same genre and have found their own niche in that relm. :)

mm 8 years ago

how did u2 not make this list?

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 8 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

U2 has no tinge of folk in its veins whatsoever. I'm not even sure they're rock.

Britneys Fan Club profile image

Britneys Fan Club 7 years ago

Hi there Yeah music makes my world go round its what i need every day to lift up my mood and soul :))

played the guitar many years

like your hub its very informativ

pls come by visit my music hub as well

greetz c ya soon ;)

erin 7 years ago

u should check out the dady brothers. they're from rochester ny.

mike connolly 7 years ago

And what about the lads from Tuam, the Saw Doctors!?

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 7 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Never heard of them, to be honest. I'm familiar with their single "I useta love her" and have heard variations on the tune by bands covering the song, but I am not really familiar with much else from them. Saw their page, seem to be good but not quite on par with the list here. Runrig is another who barely missed the mark too.

Arabic music 7 years ago

I love Great Big Sea

eaasi3574 7 years ago

Thanks for this. It's really helpful!

nathanengland50 7 years ago

nice list i was just wondering if you know any more lesser known irish bands

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 7 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

There are countless "lesser known" celtic musicians. I am one of them, actually. The reason they're not on this list is because they've not reached a wide audience as these bands above have. That and a LOT of those bands are super cliché. AKA, I can listen to one and hear the same stuff three bands later.

David Kennedy 7 years ago

Hey Guys,

You can't be Irish. The Pogues are far and away Head & Shoulders above the slick computer music of the Oysters, did I spell that right . Who cares I will never listen to them again unless they start to get some real soul of their own.

David Kennedy

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 7 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Again this is an opinion hub. And opinions are like ass holes, everyone's got one and it stinks.

sjkirkwood 7 years ago

Runrig are Scottish mate - you've now annoyed my Scottish wife :)

a.reed 7 years ago

yeah sorry to rain on the u2 love, but they are definitely neither Pogue Mahones nor the Dubliners. Even though he may be Irish, his music has no sound of it at all.

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 7 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Sorry, no idea where Runrig is mentioned. Sorry it annoyed your wife, but I would never call them anything but scottish. If she's upset they're not on this list, I really ought to dump Seven Nations and instill the much better scottish band in their place. I really think I'll be doing that very, very soon.

U2 sucks, IMHO. They're radio pop by irish musicians. Even the Corrs are more Irish sounding than they are, and equally mainstream.

elisabethkcmo profile image

elisabethkcmo 7 years ago from Just East of Oz

I really enjoyed this hub!

You may want to check out The Elders, a Kansas City based band. They are popular all over the US, and tour Europe also.

thanks for a great hub!

NewCelticFan 7 years ago

Agree with the previous post that The Elders deserve a mention. Also nice to see the vastly underappreciated Oysters getting some love. I'm glad the list isn't restricted to bands composed only of Celtic musicians, since there is some great Celtic Rock out there being made by American-based groups.

I'll give my own shout-out to The Levellers?

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 7 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I know of the Elders, but I don't feel they've really done a whole lot to distance themselves from the Pogues (IMHO). Runrig will soon replace 7 Nations on this hub, but I think that the Elders are in that runner up category.

I do feel the Oysters are unappreciated. They have written many very top-notch compositions and continue to be covered abroad by many other bands. The Pogues, sadly enough, weren't at all original, just merely took the dubliners a step further into the modern sound we have today. In that sense I'll be switching them around as well as my research has further enlightened me in this genre.

Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Hey TKeeley -- Haven't see you on HP in months! Good to see you and when I saw the title of this hub I just had to come see. You've opened my eyes to some new talent to check out.

And thanks so much for NOT including Enya:-)! MM

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 7 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

She's not really folky now is she? :P

Good to see you too. I'm slowing getting back on here...

Irishladspartanburgsc 7 years ago

I was glad 2 c the page as i 2 hate u2 the dubliners are really well known back n ireland bvt i have 2 say the pouges r me fav i first heard em when i was livn n pimlico lower dublin at a very pissed off time n me life lol i have also heard jim morrison was irish tho his music was not irish ah well time fer guiness support the i r a sialante

Jack from Holland 7 years ago

Hi, anyone can make up a list of "best of...bands". Nothing wrong with that; it's just a personal opinion.

I personally could't think of such a list without including Fairport Convention. They more or less invented the genre folk-rock (album Liege & Lief 1969.) Without them, some of the bands on your list probaly wouldn't exist!

As for trad irish music what about Lunasa & Altan???????

Petey 7 years ago

Dropkick Murphys? Seriously? They're a good band but they're not even in the same league as the Pogues and the Dubliners.

Dangdut TV 7 years ago

I like this article

steve 7 years ago

Haven"t really listened to much celtic music but from what I have heard I really enjoy. If you get a chance to listen to a band called the Town Pants I"m sure you will enjoy. they are out of Vancouver British Columbia.

iantoPF profile image

iantoPF 6 years ago from Sunny California

Hope you don't mind me griping but the one thing that bugs me about america is that Celtic = irish. I'm pure celt as far back as i know and as far back as I'm aware there isn't any irish in my heritage.

In American stores I even see celtic music and bagpipe music separated. what the hell is bagpipe music if not Celtic.

There are a number of very influential and popular Welsh bands out there. It just bugs me.

Good Hub though if only you had called it the best Irish bands I'd be even more happy with it.

johnny 6 years ago

thanks for this list.

mike c. 6 years ago

what about black47? they are a great irish rock band

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 6 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

@iantoPF : these are not all irish bands. ETH, GBS, the Oysters, 7 nations, Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly all hale from either Canada or America. This is a [rather] contemporary list, though honourable mentions could be Dougie MacLean (Scotland), or the Oysters frontman Jon Jones (hales from Wales, BTW) as he's embarked on a side-solo gig.

Sean McCann of GBS (Newfoundland) has also recently released a solo album. Be sure to check that out.

7 Nations has been replaced by a few others I've come to feel are more important, like the Saw Doctors or Mahones.

No need to gripe as I am more than aware of celtic music being diverse and far reaching. Even has roots in middle eastern music, like the bouzouki.

DJ Paulie 6 years ago

Come celebrate St Paddy's Day on

Lots of fun indeed.

Daniel 6 years ago

What about Wolfstone? They are amazing. A great celtic rock band.

Al Camus 6 years ago

Thoughts on Loreena McKennitt and The Rankin Family from Canada?

Al Camus 6 years ago

Do you know if the Oysterband has ever played in the US?

Gavin Healy 6 years ago

The Healys are an Irish band living now in Australia.

Please check us out & let us know what you think?

Gavin Healys 6 years ago

Oops! forgot link =)

Joe 6 years ago

Just wonder'n; if anyone can help me find a song I've been look'n for? I don't know exactly what the title was...something like "Smok'n Bowl" or something like that. I know it was an Irish/Scottish rock band that sang it, b/c it had bag pipes in the background music. Heard the song a couple of years ago, and it still echos in mind. Thought it could've been Drop Kick...or even Flogging Molly, but I guess not. Anyway, if anyone can help I would greatly appreciate it. (

Bulldawg 6 years ago

Shilelagh Law from New York wipes the floor with half these bands. See them live. you won't be disappointed.

Whiskytangofoxtrot 6 years ago

Iona anyone??

OliverOddbal 6 years ago

Thanks this was incredibly useful!!!!

carrJL 6 years ago

Another vote here for Kirwan's Black 47. Every recording has political fire and a history lesson. I'd also like to throw the Waterboys into the mix.

madmartigan 6 years ago

it should go flogging molly 1st, then pogues, then dubliners, then murphys, then the rest with respect

Carl 6 years ago

Check out Needfire from Dallas Tx. They play at The Ohio Scottish Games in Wellington , Oh. They Rock

Jenn R 6 years ago

Where are the tossers on this list?

Rick Kostanski 6 years ago

Any continent...The Dropkick Murphy's encompass the Irish's persecution since they arrived in America...they were hard workers, who couldn't find work...and all of the oppression built up over the centuries has finally culminated in The DropKick Murphy's...they are the opitomy of the "pissed off Irish"....and the Pride of the area they settled...South Boston, the tune where they are Nationally recognized as musicians...but our Beloved Bostin Red Sox have adopted them as their"band" of the ages...playing their tunes at every game! They rock...and should be a lot higher than # 5.

GDude 6 years ago

I can't believe someone would mention U2 belonging on this list! They are SO not Celtic Folk/Rock! I haven't heard of a couple of these groups but ETH and Gaelic Storm ROCK! I am actually a "Storm Chaser" and will drive 4-6hrs to see them!

Great Article!

Marty Mc 6 years ago

This seems crazy to me. What kind of measures did you use for your index?

njns 6 years ago

Horslips. Not so much Celtic-rock as Celtic-prog, but they led the way in the 70s for many of these excellent bands

Don 6 years ago

The Town Pants. High Energy Celtic Rock. Give a listen to The Weight of Words and their version of Seven Drunken Nights

Brooke M 6 years ago

have you ever heard of Rising Gael? I thought they wouldve mos def made your list.

GreetingsFromIndia 6 years ago

I am more of a metal man but I have been inclined to folk metal for sometime now. Then I heard a French group called Stille Volk. It was quite a sweet change to my taste buds. And finally I was startled with what Irish Folk had to offer. Among the 10 mentioned bands, I loved almost all of them and especially a song called "Never Mind The Strangers" by The Saw Doctors.

macnimation 6 years ago

Cant believe that Stockton's Wing are not here!

GaelBrian 6 years ago

Oysterband!? They're bloody english... Someone needs to sort this list out.

Pogue Mahone 6 years ago

Mate, in a list of the GREATEST CELTIC FOLK BANDS, how can the Dubliners be below the Oysterband?

Rob Smyth 6 years ago

Absolutely ridiculous list. Beyond question the Chieftains, Planxty and the Bothy Band are the three greatest Irish bands of all time, by your criteria or any other.

shobhit 6 years ago

hey how about the corrs

Sean 6 years ago

If you want a shot of Irish with an American chaser, you really ought to check out Whiskey Limerick. We're an Irish band based out of Pittsburgh.

IRA 6 years ago


IRA 6 years ago


IRA 6 years ago

ERIN GOBRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

power 6 years ago

Nice List. If ya get a chance check out Kilmaine Saints.

IRA 6 years ago


Jb 6 years ago

how is Celtic Thunder not on here?! my personal fave :D

njns 5 years ago

Even after 30 years, it's hard to leave Horslips off a list like this.

Andy 5 years ago

Nice list, I also like "the men they couldn't hang"," Weddings parties anything", Spirit of the west" and "Giorgio Bordello"

billups.13 profile image

billups.13 5 years ago

Check out this band from Columbus, Ohio. They are pretty awesome.

Joe 5 years ago

I wrote a similar piece last year for Examiner. I limited my list to popular Irish bands in pop and rock music.

sonny 5 years ago

Hello! Don't forget "The Tossers"

ashleymacisaac 5 years ago

whatever- i put them all to shame

Doire60 profile image

Doire60 5 years ago from Cleator Moor

Have you heard of Horslips, they were formed in 1970 Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them and they produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. They provided a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. Have a listen their version of King of the Fairies, a traditional set dance, Horslips version is awesome. I've posted a link to their St Patricks day concert on my blog.

Jeremiah 5 years ago

I am getting into Irish folk pretty hard core now I am wondering if anyone has a list of bands that I can check out? Traditional folk simple banjo, kick drum, acoustic style bands you might find at the pub.

michy lee 5 years ago

Where is the Cranberries??? They are amazing singers yet you dodin't even hint about them...

KarenLouiseM 5 years ago

Interesting list - love most of 'em (esp GBS) - looking forward to listening to a few I don't know. A new fave at our place is Dust Rhino - check 'em out!

KarenLouiseM 5 years ago

Interesting list - love most of 'em (esp GBS) - looking forward to listening to a few I don't know. A new fave at our place is Dust Rhino - check 'em out!

Ali 5 years ago

how the hell did U2 not end up on here? U2's considered one of the best bands in the WORLD, so obviously it should be on the top ten irish bands.

cindy 5 years ago

I'm from England (living in Scotland) and it's fab to see the Oysters get a mention. I think you should just change the title to 'Best Folk/rock bands' and leave it at that, to stop the arguments! Celtic to me is Scottish, Irish and Welsh only, but can cover anyone who has that sound/heritage (ie Canada USA etc). I take the list as 'folk/rock'. In the Uk there is a difference between general and celtic, but so many crossovers (and band members who are celtic in English bands) I think it's a tricky one. Maybe you should do separate lists for Irish then celtic then general!! oh I give up!

I would like to see a ' best live folk/rock/punk/fusion' list. Just for fun, my list for recentish gigs goes like this:

1. Oysterband

2. Bellowhead

3. Peatbog Faeries

4. Levellers

5. Show of Hands

6. Demon Barbers

7. Warblefly

8. 3 Daft Monkeys

9. The Men They Could't Hang

10. Capercaillie

Cindy 5 years ago

ps. Oysterband would probably say they are 'British' and for the fussy, they have a Welsh lead singer and a Scottish fiddle player. So I think that counts, plus they have played many Celtic festivals.

U2 may be Irish rock musicians, but I've never seen them play anything amounting to folk. A list of Irish music would undoubtably have them in, but not if folk is in the title.

And if you're interested here is a 'Celtic' music festival, in Scotland: so it's not just Ireland.


Astral Gardens 5 years ago

A sacrilege that Horslips are not here, even just on influence alone. One of the most important bands in the history of Irish music. U2 are not folk-rock, so calls for them to be here are a bit wide of the mark. The Waterboys would be another one that could be considered.

Paul 5 years ago

Dubliners belong at #1 as are the source of all the pogues, dropkicks, molly's etc. U2 prob don't belong on the list but in the early days they had an "Irish" hint mixed with American rock which made them fresh for the time. It's hard to recognise as "Irish" anymore though due to their popularity, influence, and mainstream appeal so yeah I'd say they don't belong here. Seriously though, Dubliners belong at 1, pogues at 2, then murphies, molly's etc, all in terms of popularity and influence, not to mention longevity and album sales!!

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 5 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I have been MIA for far too long I see. Here's why the aforementioned bands suggested are not on this list:

1. Not original enough - this being said, bands like the Dubliners and the Pogues are lower because the former did not write much (if any) original music. They popularised an old form, which is influential, but not nearly enough to consider them at #1. The latter (Pogues) were also unoriginal musically save for the instrumental selection and the choice of singer (MacGowan). While HIGHLY influential in the CELTIC scene (this is NOT an irish list, I've said it a billion times in nearly 3 years this hub has been running, people continue to fail to understand celtic far supersedes even the 7 celtic nations these days), the Pogues themselves largely pulled from (you guessed it) pre composed material. Admirable, influential, even skilled, but not enough to top MY list (this is an opinion poll, and I am not God).

2. MUST be folk oriented. This genre can span thru other names as well: bluegrass (americana/american folk/new celtic are also subgenre titles often used in this general style), coastal/island folk (newfoundland, labrador, ireland even), english folk (often dubbed british but we're in the 21st century people, stop breathing in 1967, ok?), and so on. The style of folk does NOT depict a particular sound, more importantly however the additional words CELTIC and ROCK depict the nature of the sound. The Dubliners in their day were the modern "rock" formation of what had been known til then as a largely pub based irish music sound. The Pogues built on that, and so on and so forth, pertaining STRICTLY to the IRISH form of celtic music. This fails however to broaden the scope to scotland, wales, atlantic canada, eastern USA, england, galicia, and to a certain extent even iceland and parts of the netherlands/norway.

3. I realize there are a freakin' billion bands out there. Don't get offended because yours did not make my personal list, ok? Horslips, great mention. 7 Nations had been on this list but then after much consideration I realized that was a band that perhaps wasn't remotely strong enough a choice to even list other than sheer personal preference at that time.

Other honourable mentions I've listed in comments in the past years. Saw Doctors (another personal favorite that isn't quite folk enough to make it here) is another example.

In response to the props to the Oysters, thank you forr the support and I continue to follow what I feel to be the finest point of modern composers that mingle the TRUE emphasis of folk music (political, religious, and social issues of the writer(s)' timeline). I feel that some of these bands are lower because they have not contributed such work, and that's fine, it wasn't their calling. I want to see NEW music every single year and hope that it continues in similar fashion, riding down the years in a stormy fury that allows future generations to feel the struggles we lived through, and to me that makes a freaking AWESOME band.

The Oysters by any standard are amongst the best folk writers in the last century in the english language. Musically speaking they are theory driven, lyrically they are just plain intellectual. Great Big Sea dumbs down such tendencies and perhaps drags a sort of lost folk mantra to the mix, the immigrants of a place that otherwise is just a rock in the sea, and they've both written and uncovered many a folk gem that otherwise might never have been heard by many, many people across the globe. The Pogues just rocked up the Dubliners' set list over the years, and while a great band, nothing to gloat about outside their searing phenomenal performances. The Dropkick Murphys are pretty much to the Pogues as the Pogues were to the Dubliners. Flogging Molly, however, adds more of the american/celtic flavor and also pens a significant amount of original material, and the older they get, the more aware they really become of their impact on the modern man across the globe. I feel their latest album (while musically hardly a deviation from anything else they've ever done) is perhaps the most in your face criticism of a vast multitude of political and social sins of virtually any mainstream folk/rock act in America, and that's significant when you're up against some other tough competition in this field these days.

Gaelic Storm is arguably my favorite party band. I've been to concerts and have danced with the rest. They might be of any band on the list the highest on my "I enjoyed this live" chart (excluding sadly a few that no longer perform or never in my area). They have made me feel better thru losing jobs, a divorce, deaths, and other losses. I can tip back alcohol on a binge and sweat it out to this band til the sun rises. End of story, enough said.

There's really nothing else to add here other than the Cranberries are classified pop. They aren't remotely folk and this is not an irish music hub. I may make a list of irish bands of all time, and that would pretty much exhaust ireland's list of popular acts in the last century (and not novelty acts like the Irish Rovers, which to me are funny but merely another carbon copy of the Dubliners/Clancy Brothers mentality, and at least the Dubliners had some real balls).

In the end, it's a personal hub. I'm sorry if your band failed to make it on here, I'm not writing a top 200 list of everyone's personal favorites. Take time sometime and make your own list, there's no harm no foul in doing such, and I promise to read it if you send me a link. I'll also graciously comment on it as well and post recommendations to others I know who would enjoy it.

All that being said, Slainte!


Moshe55 profile image

Moshe55 5 years ago from London

Interesting article. I am not familiar with all those mentioned. To me the best Irish bands are The Chieftans, The Dubliners & The pogues from the period when the King of bad teeth fronted them & wrote such great songs.

Someone mentioned U2. To me these guys represent all that is wrong in Irish music. I have written a short article of musings on whether you can have "Irish" & "Rock Band" in the same sentence. To me The Pogues were the greatest Irish Rock band, if they were a rock band at all

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 5 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Thanks for the reply Moshe. Again, though, this is not a blog about irish music. It's about the entire genre of celtic music and it's blend with rock (or modern tendencies, some with more of a typical rock sensation than others).

U2 should never be associated with the genre celtic, and vice versa. They are a respectable pop band on the other hand, from ireland.

Same problem if everyone called every american musician out there a country or bluegrass band. Not even remotely fair!

Jimmy 5 years ago

Young Dubliners put on a kickin' live show and write lots of great tunes - more alternative rock with a heavy Irish influence.

alberto 5 years ago

The Rumjacks, Dirty filthy mugs, bastards on parade. Lets not be so conservative and mainstream folks, we are talking about irish folk rock after all. though i love all these bands as much if not more being part of my culture we should widen the spectrum and really dig for the unfound music, i would also like to mention that none of you mugs mentioned the wolfetones.

perkele 5 years ago

FIRKIN! The best you've ever heard!

jack 5 years ago

Check out McCarthyizm. Opened for Great Big Sea in August in Buffalo, NY.

kiss my ass 5 years ago

bollocks, the pogues are only real band on this list

wfmccarthy 5 years ago

What happened to The Clancy Brothers?

BigDogM 5 years ago

I enjoyed your list and gained a wider range to explore.Being in Jacksonville, Fl, we kinda think of 7 nations as a local band...we have Spade McQuade, a founding member of Celtic Soul, as well. With all due respect to your literary license and the fact that it is an opinion, I'm still very fond of Black 47 if for no other reason, their use of uillean pipes and creative writing...personally, I'm a huge fan of the writings of Larry Kirwin and Dave King...not just lyrics but, personal emotion...but, thanks for opening my eyes to new sounds.

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 5 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

@kiss my ass -

Then you don't know much about them, since they owe their entire sound to the Dubliners. Funny how Pogues fans are the most closeminded I've met of any to-date. Clearly I like the band, they're on the list. But like I've said at least 20 times already: MY LIST, MY BANDS, don't like it, write your own. Or at least don't hide behind a lame anonymous call name. That's just chicken shit.


Still find it funny no matter how many times it's said, it's still not realized.

ROBERT TAYLOR 4 years ago

Numubu is the new free music site dedicated to the music industry please come and check it out, its free and here for you all to use

Scot Dail 4 years ago

Love some Waterboys...

Mikael 4 years ago

I want to thank you for bringing several bands to my attention. Before reading this list I thought the Pogues were the cream of Irish folk and even though I still think they are the best, I now love listening to Oysterband and Gaelic Storm too.

Thanks a lot. And if you have any more recommandations I'd love to hear them

arsefeckgirlsdrink! 4 years ago



Anon 4 years ago

Where are the Clancy Brothers?

JRPutt 4 years ago

Roger Drawdy and the Firestarters are incredible...One of the best live shows you will see. Roger hails from Ireland but now lives in the Cincinnati area. The bands tours the Midwest and plays large Celtic Festivals around the U.S.

LizM 4 years ago

We actually landed in the top 10 for ranking of 2010 albums. Check out the Kilmaine Saints and our release "The Good, the Plaid, and the Ugly"

AndR 4 years ago

What about the Wolftones? or the Young Wolftones?

Scot 4 years ago

Love the list and the sincere replies to those who dont get celtic is more vast then ireland.

jack 4 years ago

What About Barley Juice?

dean 4 years ago

how do you fancy The Real McKenzies? I cant get enough of those guys

Groumph 4 years ago

Do you know celkilt ?

It's a new (2011) celtic rock band.

you can find them here :

Ron 4 years ago

This list... is not modern celtic music...

The dubliners and the chieftans, although very good, are very traditional, straight players, not very contemporary. The rest of the bands you list are all celtic-rock bands of some sort, who think they become irish by adding a fiddle to a punk song, and in the case of Enter the Haggis, Gaelic Storm and the Oyster Band, those are just dollar-store adorable shamrock and pot-o'-gold irish bands, all nice and packaged up, ready to sell to the any 8th generation American who still think they're irish... not that I think im irish.

What about bands like Lau and Solas and Kila and Comas and Kan and Flook? These are all amazing contemporary celtic folk bands, all incredibly intuitive, creative and tight.

Graham 4 years ago

Wolfe Tones?? High Kings??

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 4 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Ron, I'm 100% certain the Oysters would be in staunch disagreement there. If you've heard anything of theirs since 1991, it's definitely not irish music (nor are any of the other "dollar store" choices you mentioned). The Oysterband is definitely british thru and thru, so this idea that they're irish eludes me. Celtic, yes, but celts weren't limited to the Emerald Isle, peeps. The exception here I'd mention would be Gaelic Storm, but hell, they continually beat the Beebs on iTunes, so go ahead and laugh at their novelty.


This is not an irish band article. Even says so in the title.

BigBaz 4 years ago

Modern Celtic bands?

Where are Altan and Capercaillie?

Oysters are OK but not very celtic, IMO.

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 4 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I will admit, Altan has been a favorite of mine (as far as having a chick singer and being mostly trad music) but I'm not sure I'd personally place them in my top 10. I think that the Oysters have slowly moved away from trad celtic music tones, but at the same time they've delved deeper lately into a wider variety of folk and roots music, as well as their superb Sophomore album with June Tabor "Ragged Kingdom"and their "Oxford Girl and Other Stories" acoustic album.

Eirechill 3 years ago

Hello, Maybe you might enjoy this...

Eirechill from Ireland

Ireland's premier Chill Music Station

macousticboy profile image

macousticboy 3 years ago

U2 is "not Irish,"" "not folk," "not celtic?"

Funny thing to say about a band that had the Uilleann Pipes on their 2nd album!

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 3 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

And AC-DC has Highlands in their music sometimes too. They're not listed here either, and for good reason.

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 3 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Relevant adjacent hub:

Most of the comments here should be directed to this article now. Anything that is considered applicable to this article will be approved, otherwise the cliché responses that have been plaguing this hub will simply be ignored.

Macwind 2 years ago

What about Celkilt ?

A festive celtic rock band

MacWind 2 years ago

What about Celkilt ?

A festive celtic rock band

Johnc33 2 years ago

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Johna725 2 years ago

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Sullivan 24 months ago

Tim, thank you for assembling this thought-provoking list. You connected me with some groups I had not heard B4. I also like Saltfishforty, Capercaillie, Kila, Peatbog Faeries, etc. Thank you again, S.

Sullivan 24 months ago

oh, yeah, I found it interesting the comments about Gaelic Storm! While I do like the humor, etc. in some of their songs (i.e., the Night I punched Russell Crowe). Most of their songs are written, in part, first, then the ask their latest young female fiddler "now make it sound Irish", S.

Sullivan 24 months ago

IMHO, and not to worry about the details, the Celtic "Empire" includes Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Manx, Spanish Galicia, as well as Scotland, Ireland and England.

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