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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.
FACTS TO KNOW BEFORE READING:
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" . 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.