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Top 10 List of Irish Bands, Soloists, and Other musicians

Updated on October 18, 2016

After much deliberation (and demand), here it is:

The long awaited irish-only list. I suppose it was inevitable, seeing as how another of my hubs has been ill-fated with that presupposition yet it is not, in fact, irish-only.

Therefore I have broken down under the pressure, and, based upon feedback from hundreds of people, this is the result. It's a down and dirty emerald isle smackdown that will determine the winner of the prize of being Erin's #1 Prima Donna.

The criteria:

1. MUST be irish in nationality as an artist or group
2. Popularity, skill, overall musical appeal, etc.

So it's a simple formula. Without further adieu, the top 10 countdown...

#12 and #11: Honourable Mentions

Because the list seemed to be endless, dwindling it down was as much a chore as researching a handful of bands I really knew very little about. Well Ireland it seems has a lot of musical output of late, one of the most recent groups to hit the scene from the emerald isle is The Corrs. A family band, basically, they have mostly been a pop oriented endeavor yet occasionally toss in the irish flare. There are a few instrumental recordings here and there and they (like many before them) also did a session with the Chieftans. The Corrs therefore plant themselves solidly outside the top 10 in the #12 spot.

The #11 spot was very tough but I decided that, in my opinion, Enya has no place in the top 10. Therefore I had to put her, by default, in the 11th spot. Now, I don't hate Enya, I just don't feel she's contributed enough variety beyond the new agey space acid stuff.

#10: The Cranberries

What's not to love here? I grew up much of my formative years in the 90s, therefore I find it fitting to kick this list right off with a kick-ass number.

They're hard rocking, like much of seattle's movement, but the unique flavor added by vocalist Dolores O'Riordan totally separates it from the over-voweled 90s singer trend. Their #1 hit, "Zombie", is obviously their most recognizable hit, yet "Linger" and "Dreams" could be right there with it.

Let's not waste any more time on talking, there's a pretty good music video to go with their hit right over here...

#9: Sinead O'Connor

Ok, ok, she's dissed the pope, toted the shaved head way before Britney ever conceived a coherent thought, and let's face it, she's kinda hot...

There does seem to be a lot of hate going around for Ireland's first real pop idol. She's got a tremendous singing ability and, yes, she's been a sit in with the Chieftans too. So even if you dislike her, I do believe she deserves a place in Ireland's Hall of Fame.

#8: Horslips

I caught hell for not having this band in my previous top 10 list, so I dare not remove them from this list. While I personally am not an enormous fan, they are important to the whole "celtic-fusion" and I have to admit, Dearg Doom is an awesome song.

Gotta give this band a two-thumbs up as far as influence is concerned. Whether you subscribe to their sound or their band itself, or just tip your hat to their predecessor prowess, enjoy a little Doom.

#7: The Clancy Brothers

One of the original irish folk bands that arose to prominence in the celtic music world in the 60s. They were best paired along with acts like the Bothy Band, Irish Rovers, and the Dubliners. Bob Dylan went on record about the style of performance that the Clancys portrayed on stage, stating it was pivotal in his formulative performing career.

They're most widely known, like their contemporaries, for recording songs that had been a staple of pubs for centuries. Here's a prime example to the right.

#6: The Saw Doctors

It's no secret that this band tops my personal playlists more often than not. If you want fun and rowdy rock, some good old fashioned sentimentality, and otherwise laugh out loud lyrical content, look no further. They are renowned across the world for being the irish Grateful Dead, their shows are certainly on par in that category.

They hail from Tuam, not necessarily the town people point to in regard to musical talent. In fact I'm not really sure Tuam has produced anything BUT the Docs, but that's a-ok with me!

#5: Planxty

Gracing the first of the top 5 positions, Planxty is arguably the most influential straight up irish folk core. Everything about traditional music is found in their repertoire, backed up by top notch musicianship and [again] very traditional singing style.

These guys are funny, bright, full of energy, and portray the history of their homeland better than none other. It's very hard to imagine Ireland and music with the word Planxty in both.

Here's a perfect traditional tune, again proving their right to 5th place.

#4: The Pogues

Dear god, where to start...well, first and foremost, they have become the flagbearers for irish punk. They spawned bands in america like the Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and other canadian acts like the Mahones or the Paperboys.

It's impossible to list anything considered Celtic-Rock without listing the Pogues atop the list of sonic influence. This band was known for many things, some of which being frontman McGowan's lack of teeth, very rowdy shows with lots of alcohol, and the list goes on and on.

Without further adieu...

#3: U2

It was inevitable, I suppose. They have after all sold so many albums, done so much philanthropy, and love or hate Bono, he's a businessman. The band's subsequent successes aside, they are innovators of the 90s sound, hardly anything during the seattle outpour could be written without a nod to The Joshua Tree.

The Edge is well known for his sound engineering skills, employing such tactics in an elaborate guitar rig that frankly looks like overkill, but he makes it work marvelously. In fact, most people wouldn't know where to start.

All that being said, the modern day world owes much to the contributions the band has given throughout poorer areas, the music industry owes a great deal to the band regardless of whether you like them or not, and their humble beginnings only seem to empower them.

#2: The Dubliners

I don't feel the need to put much explanation here, as the band really needs very little. Everything in irish music somehow has the Dubliners written on it, some way-shape-form. First and foremost was their counter image to the Clancy Brothers, who were typically clean cut. The Dubliners kept it real, down to earth, and accessible to the common man. They lacked the pomposity that the Clancys possessed, the far reaching appeal of the Chieftans, and the drunken swagger of the Pogues, and yet the band remains the foremost important Irish folk band in history.

A little example of their humble approach that garnered them the reputation they carry to this day:

#1: The Chieftans

I considered this a no brainer. They've been on stage with everyone, everywhere. Their musicianship is second to none, their stage presence is one of a kind. It's almost as if you're in the presence of royalty. If there is any strain of Irish royalty left, that is, it would be found on stage when the Chieftans perform. They command the aura of the room to do their bidding, and whether upbeat like the first video, or the absolutely fantastic rendition of Molly Ban with Allison Krauss (I do believe I'm in love with her voice), they are just quintessential to irish music through and through.


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