Harp (gif)

Traditional Irish Music

in the San Francisco & Monterey Bay Areas

(Irish flag)


Recommended CDs:

Updated: December 10, 2009

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Irish traditional music currently has the largest and richest collection of music, musicians, and instruments. Irish records dominate Celtic sections in most record stores. Suprisingly, the commercial interest in this music is relatively recent, and the current revival only started in the mid-1960s, led by groups like Planxty, the Chieftains and singers such as Delores Keane and Christy Moore.

Today, the traditional music scene is large and continuing to grow. Groups such as the Chieftains and Altan record on major labels and play major festivals and concert halls around the world. Many Irish musicians with strong traditional backgrounds find great success crossing over into other markets, including Mary Black, Maura O'Connell, Sinead O'Connor. The Chieftains record albums with guest artists such as Mick Jagger, Sting, Van Morrison, etc. Following close behind these established groups are young bands and artists with exceptional skill and enthusiasm including groups Solas, Dervish, Déanta, and individual musicians such as Martin Hayes and Sharon Shannon. Travel to Ireland in the summer, and the pubs and music classes are filled with musicians from all over Europe, America and Australia there to learn from the older musicians who are generously eager to pass on the tradition. It is a great time to be listening to Irish music.

There is a richness of musical instruments in Irish music compared to Scottish or Cape Breton music. Historically, most Irish music was played on the Irish harp, an instrument not frequently seen nowadays. However, the Chieftains have increased the popularity of the harp and it is a featured instrument in the excellent new group, The Bumblebees. Today, the lead instrument is usually a fiddle.

Irish music generally is played by relatively large groups (in contrast to duets or trios found in Cape Breton music). These groups will almost always include a guitar, and increasingly commonly a bazouki or two, a button accordion, a flute, and a bodhran (a goatskin round drum). Occasionally banjos, mandolins, and even harps can be found. The percussionist may put down the bodhran and pick up "bones" or spoons.

For many contemporary Irish musicians, the archtypal traditional instrument is the uillean pipes. "Uillean" means "elbow" in Gaelic, and these bagpipes are powered by a small bellows under the right elbow. They have a much softer and mellower sound than the more familiar Highland pipes associated with Scottish music. In the hands of masters such as Paddy Keenan, Liam O'Flynn, or Willie Clancy, this uniquely Irish instrument makes glorious music. These pipes can be played either with other instruments or solo. Highland pipes can also be found in Ireland, even marching pipe bands these are usually found in the north of Ireland. Because they are so difficult to play, the uillean pipes are relatively rare in Irish bands, although they too are enjoying a revival.

A word about singing. Until recently most Irish singing was done a capella. This style of singing is still relatively common, for example, on Arcady's album Many Happy Returns, the terrific singer Niamh Parsons does most of the songs solo. Increasingly, singers are singing with music, but this is a recent development.

The major record labels producing Irish music include Green Linnet, Gael-Linn, Ossian, and Celtic Note. For those with strong interests in traditional Irish music, I recommend Irish Musicmagazine. This is published monthly in Ireland, but one can subscribe in the States. For more info. e-mail them at slaffey@iol.ie or check out their new WWW site.

Finally, my greatest pleasure in this music comes from the ensemble playing of either established bands or impromptu sessions in pubs. Irish musicians play great together, and the energy and joy that come out of these sessions is magical. Listen to Altan, Solas, or Dervish and get carried to music heaven.

Local Irish Musicians & Groups:

(Jodys Seven) Jody's Heaven - Garden of Butterflies (Aniar Records 1998) The San-Francisco trio of Dale Russ (fiddle), Junji Shirota (guitar, banjo & bouzouki) and Jack Gilder (concertina, flute, whistle & bodhrán) have come up with a real winner here. Dirty Linen's review said: "Together, they play blazing reels, relaxed jigs, sprightly hornpipes, and moving airs in spare but thoughtful arrangements that have the airy, light feeling you might expect from a disc with this title. They also put in some set dances, marches, and an infectious set of polkas to add spice....Almost all the tunes are traditional, and the band members have clearly done their homework; this...is a well-crafted album of new arrangements for thoroughly researched music learned from the best players, books and pubs in Irish music. The result is a thoroughly satisfying disc I'm sure I'll return to again and again." Could not have said it better myself. Fair play to you lads. (Highly recommended)
(Culann's Hounds) Culann's Hounds are a traditional Irish band featuring Conall O'Raghallaigh on uillean pipes, Michael Kelleher on guitar, Kevin McDonough on flute and whistle, Frank Jordan on bodhran and vocals and Steve Gardner on fiddle. The Hounds focus their energy on innovative, powerful arrangements of the best tunes around. Songs are rendered in the style of the Clancey Brothers. Their first, self titled album is available at their shows and from their website. Their live shows are exciting and very entertaining.
(TRACIN album cover) Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin with Patrick Ourceau-- TRACIN - Traditional Music from the West of Ireland S.F's own concertina master and musical historian Gearóid and New York fiddler Patrick have created a brilliant album. From the first listen, this music "fits" like your absolutely favorite piece of clothing. The music is very intimate, consisting mainly of concertina, fiddle, and some fine piano playing by guests such as Felix Dolan and Barbara Macdonald Magone. The playing by all concerned is exquisite and wonderfully sensitive to local styles. The aim is to take the listener to a kitchen in east Co. Clare or Co. Galway. Put the CD on, make a pot of tea, close your eyes, and its easy to imagine being there. Superb liner notes too. (Very, very highly recommended)
(Minding Mice at Crossroads)

The Gasmen -- This wonderful group entertained the Bay Area as Órla and the Gasmen until 2002 when Órla and Richard Morrison moved back to Ireland.  The remaining members will reform a new group soon. The group's CD - Minding Mice at Crossroads (1998, Gas Men MUSIC) is highly recommended. The group consists Vinnie Cronin on flute and whistles, Cormac Gannon on bodhrán, Vincie Keehan on mandolin,  guitar, Jimmy O'Meara on octave mandolin, Colm O'Riain on fiddle, and Kenny Somerville on banjo. Accordian player Barry O' Connell joined the band in 2001. After playing with numerous bands in the San Francisco Bay Area , John Caulfield, fiddler, mandolin player and singer, found his home with The Gas Men in 2002..

(Dana Lyn & Junji Shirota) Dana Lyn & Junji Shirota- Dana Lyn & Junji Shirota (1999, Dana Lyn) Two S.F. locals produce a remarkably fine album. Dana may be best known as the fiddler for Orla and the Gasmen. Junji is the ubiquitous guitar player for Jodys Heaven, Cronan and Typsy House. However, of their many appearances, it may be on this CD that they both shine the best. This is a straightforward collection of Irish tunes played without gimmicks, but lovingly and with wonderful skill. The playing of Dana and Junji complement each other like they've been playing together for years. Available at Green Apple Books in S.F. and Down Home Records in El Cerrito. (Highly recommended)
  Crónán - is a traditional Irish group consisting of Jack Gilder on concertina & flute, Chris Knepper on fiddle, Junji Shirota on guitar, and vocalist Rebecca Marculescu. Contacts: e-mail Jack Gilder at jgilder@jps.net, phone: (415) 931-9192.

Tipsy House. Tipsy House is probably the longest running traditional Irish music group in San Francisco started in 1989 by Jack Gilder and Lief Sorbye (now of Tempest/Caliban). Tipsy House" has been recognized by folks in the San Francisco Bay Area as a band of excellent local musicians who are devoted to playing Irish traditional music. There's no fusion or cross over involved in what they do, but rather a total fixation and obsession for traditional Irish music. What that means is; rather than jazzing it up or fusing it with pop or any other sort of music, they simply love the music for what it is. Tipsy House has performed in concert halls, as well as pubs and cafes all around the greater Bay Area. They've been featured at some of the largest and most well known Irish music festivalsin the area, as well as opening for some of the hottest international touring bands today. Also, Tipsy House has built a reputation as an excellent dance band providing the music for Céilí and Irish set dancing. There have been numerous members of the group over the years with the current lineup consisting of Jack Gilder on concertina & flute, Kevin Bernhagen on fiddle, and Richard Mandel on guitar. Contacts: e-mail Jack Gilder at jgilder@jps.net, phone: (415) 931-9192,..

(Celtic Sessions cover) William Coulter is a fine guitarist from the Santa Cruz area. Pictured is his new "solo" album Celtic Sessions (Gourd Music, 1998).

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Live Music and Sesssions

See the venues listed on the local resources page. For information about sessions, see the new sessions page.

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Highly Recommended Albums:



Altan. Save your time and buy all their albums now. Sooner or later, you will get them all. Before the band formed officially, Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy, both from Donegal, released two classic duet albums which remain among my all-time favorites: Ceol Aduaidh (1983) and an album simply called Altan (1987) (pictured). The expanded band "Altan" went on to record: Horse With a Heart (1988), The Red Crow (1990), Harvest Storm (1992), and Island Angel (1993). Three of these won INDIE awards as Celtic traditional album of the year. (These are all on the Green Linnet label.) The drive and passion of the reels, the passionate flute playing of Frankie Kennedy, and the haunting beauty of Máiread Ní Mhaonaigh's voice are stunning. Tragically, Frankie, one of the great musicians of the century, died of cancer in 1994. At his urging, the band has gone on.
   Altan is a totally class act. Great on their albums and awesome in performance, as they have been for more than a decade. Mairéad has become one very best fiddlers in Ireland, and a superb ambassador for the Donegal style of fiddling. More recent albums include: and have two new albums out-- Blackwater (1996) and Runaway Sunday (1997) (both on Virgin Records), and Another Sky (Narada, 2000). In building your Altan collection, I recommend starting with their earliest CDs with the remarkable Frankie Kennedy's flute playing, then slowly buy them all.

(Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers)

SOLAS-- This group achieved "supergroup" status with their first CD Solas (1996, Shanachie) that featured five incredibly strong individual musicians: John Williams (a fabulous concertina & accordion player), Winifred Horan (fiddle), John Doyle (a superb rhythm guitar player), Seamus Egan (on anything you blow through), and Karan Casey (a truly wonderful singer). They followed this up with two other superb CDs: Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers (1997, Shanachie #78010) (pictured at left), and The words that remain (1998 Shanachie#78023) which the readers of Irish Music Magazine voted the 1998 Album of the Year.

John Williams left after the first CD, John Doyle and Karan Casey left after the 3rd album. Their newest CD, The Hour Before Dawn (2000) is my least favorite. Get their first two albums first. You will not be disappointed.

At the End of the Day album cover)

Dervish-- At the End of the Day (Kells Music, 1996) This young group from Sligo is taking the traditional music scene by storm both in Ireland and the U.S. A great group of musicians, they are fronted by the superb young singer Cathy Jordan, and include Liam Kelly, a terrific flute player; Shane McAleer on fiddle; Shane Mitchell on button accordion; Michael Holmes on bozouki, and Brian McDonagh on mandola and guitar. Dervish plays together incredibly well. Other albums include: Harmony Hill, Playing with Fire, and a double CD set: Live in Palma (1997), and Midsummer's Night (1999, Whirling Discs), and a new "best of" album Decade. All of these are excellent, although the studio albums are more polished. Before Cathy Jordan joined the band, they released an all-instrumental album, The Boys of Sligo which is also very good. Don't miss a chance to see them live.

(No Matter How Wet...)

Craobh Rua-- No Matter How Cold & Wet You Are As Long As You're Warm and Dry (Lochshore Records) This relatively new group from northern Ireland is one of my favorites. It consists of Mark Donnelly on uillean pipes and whistles, Jim Byrne on guitar, mandola and vocals, Michael Cassidy on fiddles and viola, and Brian Connoly on banjo, mandonlin and Bodhran. Great singing in English and Irish and high energy instrumentals. Their other albums, The More that's Said the Less the Better (1992) and Soh it is (1997), and if ida been here, ida been there (KRL Lochshore, 2000) are excellent, although this one's my favorite.

(Irish Heartbeat album cover)

(Claddagh years)

The Chieftains and Van Morrison -- Irish Heartbeat -- The Chieftains have been playing excellent traditional Irish music for more than 30 years and have lots of albums. Many of these are collaboration with pop or rock stars. This is my favorite Chieftians album. If you like Van Morrison, this album is classic. (Even if you don't like Van the Man, it's still classic.)

The Chieftains' Collection -the very best of the claddagh years (1999 Claddagh/Atlantic). Before The Chieftains were a world music phenomenon playing with the likes of Mick Jagger and Bonnie Raitt, they were a very, very good traditional Irish group. This album captures this period superbly. It consists of 12 instrumental tracks recorded betwen 1964 and 1975. The only complaint I have is about the extremely brief liner "notes". (Very highly recommended)

Another terrific CD with an entirely traditional flavor is the Chieftain's new one, Water from the Well, reviewed on my new CDs page.

(Whisper of a Secret)

Déanta-- Whisper of a Secret (1997, Green Linnet). This, the third album from this group, shows them emerging from the realm of precocious young musicians into one of Ireland's best young traditional groups. The highlight of the album is Mary Dillon's gorgeous singing.

(Beginish album)

Beginish -- Beginish (Inis Records, Ireland 1998) It's a gem. Brendan Begley is an Irish accordionist whose recent album, We Won't Go Home Til Morning, was widely viewed as one of the best traditional albums of the year. Also in this group is Paul O'Shaughnessy, a superb fiddler, and flute player Paul McGrattan. There is very fine traditional playing on this album. Beginish were great at the Sebastopol Celtic Festival in September 98. Available from Maureen Brennan if you can't find it elsewhere. E-mail: MBAgency@ix.netcom.com.

(Lunasa album)

Lúnasa -- Lúnasa (1998 Grapevine Records) This is a very, very nice instrumental album. The group is Sean Smyth on fiddle and Swayne whistle, John McSherry on uillean pipes and low whistle, Mike McGoldrick on flute and low whistle, Donogh Hennessey on guitar, and Trevor Hutchinson (of the Sharon Shannon band) on double bass. This tends to give the group a more woodwind/pipes sound than the typical guitar/fiddle dominated Irish group. And a very nice sound it is. The arrangements are intelligent and really show the instruments off against each other well. The playing is terrific

The tunes on the album are mainly Irish, but there is a klezmer tune, a (French) Breton air and one set of Cape Breton tunes. There is a wonderful pipe solo of "Colonel Frazer". Several tracks were recorded live at Matt Malloy's pub in Westport, Ireland. A review in Irish Music magazine compared the band favorably to the legendary Bothy Band. I wouldn't go that far, but this is an excellent album that warrants a lot of repeat listening.



The Bumblebees-- Bumblebees (1997, Hummingbird HBCD0012) and Buzzin' (1999, Beehave Records/Gael Linn - BHCD001) The Bumblebees are Laoise Kelly (harp/fiddle), Mary Shannon (banjo/mandolin/mandola/fiddle), Colette O’Leary (piano accordion), and Liz Doherty (fiddle) . Liz did a solo gig in Berkeley last fall, and Mary played with sister Sharon at the Sebastopol Festival. I've seen the Bumblebees at Celtic Colours twice (lucky me). The group has a unique, very pretty, sparkling sound. Buzzin' is an eclectic mix of traditional Irish Scottish, Cape Breton Island, French-Canadian, and Danish tunes, and some original compositions. The talent in this lineup is phenomenal, and together they sound great. The prominence of plucked instruments and the joyous freshness of their playing distinguishes the Bumblebees from other Irish groups. The playing of Laoise on harp and Mary on mandolin and banjo is particularly striking, though the brilliant Professor Liz and Colette do more than just hold up their end! No wonder there is such a buzz about this group in Ireland. (Highly recommended)

(Skara Brae album cover)

Skara Brae -- Skara Brae (Gael-Linn 1998). It is not often that a debut (and only) album made in a single afternoon in a studio is re-released 28 years later as a major event by a prestigous label. Micheál Ó Dhomhnaill, his two sisters Tríona and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, and Dáithí Sproule made a splash when they released this album, indicating their later musical contributions. Micheál and Tríona went on to play wih the Bothy Band; Dáithí still plays with Altan, and Maighread's album Gan Dhá Phingin Spré (Gael Linn 1990) is described immodestly by the label as "the high point of recorded Irish music in the 1990s"! This is largely a collection of Gaelic songs from Donegal, with a few instrumentals. A distinguishing feature of the group is the lovely harmony singing of all four members on interesting arrangements of voices, two guitars and an electric clavinet. This is a lovely, gentle album with good liner notes. Recommended, and not just for those interested in the beginning of traditional musical revival.

Órla and the Gasmen -- Minding Mice at Crossroads (1998, Gas Men MUSIC). San Francisco's own wonderful singer Orla Morrison and her trusty, and very hot band (Vinnie on flute and whistles, Cormac on bodhran, Vincie on mandolin, Dana on fiddle, Richard on guitar, Jimmy on octave mandolin, Colin on fiddle, and Kenny on banjo. 8 songs from the irrepressible and wonderful Orla, and 10 hot tunes from the lads and Dana. Check out their WWW site for sound samples and details about how to order your own copy. (Highly recommended)


  • Blasta! - The Irish Traditional Music Special (Gael-Linn 1997). (described above)
  • Green Linnet's 20th Anniversary 2 CD set (for the price of one) that has a great variety of excellent music.Green Linnet has come out with a series of collections in their Celtophile collection (Celtic women, bagpipes, etc.). These are excellent.
  • Trad at Heart -- This collection is excellent containing two songs by Altan, and others by Arcady, Begley & Cooney, and Mairtin O'Conner.


Wow, where do you begin? There are many, many wonderful Irish singers and singers of Irish songs. You will not go wrong with any of the following:

  • Women: Mary Black, Karan Casey (formerly of Solas), Mary Dillon (formerly of Déanta) Máighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Connie Dover, Máiread Ní Mhaonaigh (of Altan), Niamh Parsons (of Arcady and Loose Connections)....
  • Men: I'm less fond of Irish men singers, but there are some excellent ones, including: Christy Moore (the grand old man of Irish folk singing), Sean Keane, and Tommy Flemming (of DeDannan).

Albums with Great Singing:

  • Women of the World - Celtic (1995, Putamayo PUTU120-2). This bargain includes Máire Brennan (of Clannad), Máighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Mary Black, Connie Dover, Maura O'Connell, and Máiread Ní Mhaonaigh (of Altan). What more could you want?
  • The Voice of Celtic Women (Green Linnet 1997) 13 songs by the best of Irish & Scottish singers.

A Woman's Heart 2 album

A Woman's Heart 2 This is a sequel to AWH 1. Both are very nice collections of songs by contemporary women singers and a non-singer (Sharon Shannon). I happen to like the sequel a little better, but both albums have lots of fans. On the album are many of Ireland's best women singers: Mary Black (3 tunes), Frances Black, Sinead O'Connor, Maura O'Connell, Sinead Lohan and Delores Keane.

Songlines album

Solas former lead singer Karan Casey has a solo album, Songlines (1997, Shanachie). Casey is my favorite Irish woman singer today, and I am not alone. Accompanied on this, her debut solo album by many of her friends from Solas, this is a superb album. Her 2d solo CD, The Winds Begin to Sing (Shanachie 2001) is also excellent, a very thoughtful, fascinating, poetic and highly effective exploration of human dramas of the heart and war through song both old and new.

(Blackbirds and thrushes)

Niamh Parsons - Blackbirds & Thrushes (Green Linnet, 1999). For those waiting for an entirely traditional album from this very fine Irish singer, your day has come. Niamh is a superb practitioner of traditional sean nos singing, as you may have noticed from her singing with Arcady and her two previous albums. Here, it is more of the pure drop, most of the 12 songs (10 in English, 2 in Gaelic) done a capella or with a minimun amount of very tasteful accompaniment that never overshadows the singing. Higlights are Niamh's glorious version of "The Water is Wide" with terrific piano accompaniment by Seamus Brett--it give me goosebumps--and the Gaelic song "Fear a Bhata". Extensive liner notes with full lyrics. (Highly recommended)

(Time for Touching Home)

The Black Family - Time for Touching Home - (1989 Dara Records). I was slow to stumble onto this album. Francis, Shay, Michael, Martin and Mary are some of the finest solo singers in Ireland. But it is their harmonies that make this album so special. My favorite on this is a terrific a capella version of "Peat Bog Soldiers".

Turn A Phrase album cover

Seane Keane, Turn a Phrase (1997, Kells Music). Many consider Keane to be the finest male singer of folk songs in Ireland today. I am not quite so fond of him, but this album has two songs that are killer: "Tunnel Tigers" by Ewan McColl about Irish construction workers who emigrate to London to build the subway and the impacts of that emigration back in Ireland, and "Green Among the Gold" by Rosalind and Steve Barnes which is about Irish emigrants in their new land of Australia. Keane's choice of other songs is a bit too much like American country music for my tastes.


(Martin Hayes album)


(Live in Seattle)

Martin Hayes. His first two albums -Martin Hayes and Under the Moon, (Green Linnet) are superb. These purely instrumental albums are deceptively simple and differ substantially from his more crowd-pleasing live performances.
His most recent CD (with Dennis Cahill) -Live in Seattle (Green Linnet #1195) is the recording that captures the magic of this duo in a live concert, . This is the 2d half of a concert in Seattle, just Martin and Dennis, and the boys were in their own rare form that night.
Hayes, a fiddler originally from Co. Clare, who grew up surrounded by great fiddlers, is a genius whose soulfulness and technical wizardry are applied to give vibrant life to any tune he touches. It is as if the muse were borrowing his body and fiddle to show us what these tunes are all about. One feature of the playing on this album is the driving effect of the rythms created by Cahill, and how Hayes uses that and builds on it. To me, this is the sound of a fiddler who played for dancers for years (as he did with ceilidh bands). The highlight is a 27 minute set of tunes ranging from Blasket Island airs to familiar reels to an Irish interpretation of Pachabel's Canon in D. It is a set they play a lot at concerts, and it is mesmerizing. This is traditional music with vision and breathtaking passion. The liner notes contain interesting comments by Hayes about his approach to playing at concerts, but little information about the tunes themselves. (Very highly recommended)

(Hibernian Rhapsody album cover)

Frankie Gavin, perhaps best known as the fiddler of DeDanaan, has been making great music on fiddle and flute for several decade. None of DeDanaan's previous albums prepared me for how great Hibernian Rhapsody (1996, Shanachie) is. The singing Tommy Flemming is phenomenal and fiddler Frankie Gavin is at his best.

- fierce traditional (Frankie Gavin/Tara Music Co 2001). Gavin, always a spectacular fiddler, does a version of the Foxhunter's Reel that is a stunning display of virtuosity. A champion flute player, Gavin includes several tunes here, including a lovely version of Sliabh na mBanh. Tastefully backed up by Alec Finn on bouzouki, Brian McGrath, and Sean Gavin on button accordion, Gavin's talents take front stage on this all-instrumental CD. It is a fine addition to my collection of Gavin CDs and a lovely introduction to his superb playing. (Highly recommended)


Gerry O'Connor - A founding member of "Skylark", a great traditional band, Gerry has blessed the San Francisco area numerous times in recent years. He has recorded four albums with this highly regarded group on the Claddagh Records label. In February 1996 he released his third album "Brighid's Kiss" ( Lughnasa Music) with his own very distinctive band "Lá Lugh". (voted Album of the Year by readers of the Irish Music Magazine). Gerry breathes new life and intensity into many long forgotten tunes from his home area in the North East of Ireland.

(The Godfather)

Brian Rooney-- The Godfather (Racket Records, 1999). Geez, where has Rooney been hiding out? London, UK, that's where. From north Leitrim, Rooney has been living in London for decades, and apparently making magnificent music there in relative obscurity. It was only when some friends took advantage of Rooney's week long vacation in Ireland that they gathered the likes of Frankie Gavin on flute, Alec Finn on bouzouki, Brian McGrath on piano and John Carty on banjo and made this wonderful album. It is 13 sets of traditional tunes, and some truly mighty fiddling. (Very highly recommended)

(In Full Spate album cover)

Paddy Glacknin-- Rabharta Ceoil/In Full Spate (Gael-Linn 1991) A truly fine fiddler from Donegal who has been an inspiration to many other Irish musicians. This is a superb album.

  • Tommy Peoples .........
  • John Doherty ......


(Na Keen Affair album cover)

Paddy Keenan -- Na Keen Affair (Hot Conya Records, 1997). The Irish uillean ("elbow") pipes have a much softer and pleasant sound than the Scottish highland pipes, and they have become a signature instrument of Irish traditional music. Very, very hard to play, the uillean pipes are not for dilettante musicians. Paddy Keenan, original member of the legendary Bothy Band, shows off this instrument at its best. This new album is spectacular, and includes a couple of beautiful airs on low whistles. Paddy combines nearly unbelievable virtuosity on the pipes with a rare musical gift, and the combination is as good as Irish music gets.

Paddy also recently re-released Paddy Keenan (HoT Conya Records 2000/Folklore Productions his 1975 album previously on Gaelinn. A must for fans of Paddy's uilleann piping captured at the time the Bothy Band was about to explode onto the scene.

(The Leitrim Thrush album cover)

Neil Mulligan-- The Leitrim Trush (Spring Records, N. Ireland, 1997). Voted "Best Traditional Album of 1997" by the readers of Irish Music magazine. Mulligan's playing is masterful, and quite different than Keenan's and has an intense, Gaelic flavor to it, much like the playing of his mentor Seamus Ennis. Mulligan's phrasing is heavily influenced by his interest in sean nós singing. For those not already addicted to uillean piping, be warned this album makes no concessions to commercial pop sensibilities. Excellent liner notes. For those not familiar with the exotic intonations and tunes of traditional uillean piping, this album may seem like a Guinness with a bit of peat added for texture!


Pipeline - Pipeline  (2003 The Celtic Connection)  This duo consists of Dermot Hyde on uillean pipes, small pipes, whistles, and lead vocals and Tom Hake on guitar, bazouki, harp, bass and backing vocals. This is an extraordinarly talented group with amazing diversity of skills on the various arrangements with exquisite arrangements of tunes and songs. Of all the great things on this CD (Hyde's whistle playing, Hake's harp, Hyde's singing), it is Dermot Hyde's brilliant uillean piping that should compel you to track this CD down and get it. I met them in Cape Breton at the Celtic Colours festival where they were the only group ever invited purely on the basis of this CD. As live performers, they were funny and great. (Very highly recommended)

(The Collection)

Finbar & Eddie Furey - The Collection (Castle Music Ltd, 2000). Finbar and Eddie Furey, together and as part of the larger family group known as The Fureys, were among Ireland's most famous and successful musicians. Finbar was an amazing and wonderful piper, and a haunting whistle player, and Eddie's somewhat wild singing and guitar playing fit this music grandly. This 2-CD set draws from the 1968 and 1969 LPs that Finbar and Eddie did together as well as Finbar's 1969 solo CD Traditional Irish Pipe Music (which has also been separately re-released in 1997 by Wooded Hill Recordings). (Very highly recommended)
  • Liam O'Flynn............
  • Willie Clancy...........
  • Seamus Ennis
  • Finbar Furey
  • Declan Masterson
  • Davy Spillane
  • Collections of Piping Music
    • (Green Linnet)
    • The Drones and the Chanters

Accordions & Concertinas

So many, so good, they get their own page.

Flute players

  • Matt Malloy -- Shadows on Stone (1997, Virgin Records, Carol 1108-2) This is a superb display of extraordinary virtuosity of the flute player from the Chieftains.
  • Frankie Kennedy. The premature death of this superb flute player, and co-founder of the group Altan was a terrible blow to traditional music. His amazing, passionate, and compelling playing can be heard on all the early Altan albums on Green Linnet. To my mind, the greatest flute player I've heard. In his memory, there is now an annual school for traditional music in Donegal.
  • Liam Kelly of the group Dervish rarely talks during concerts. However, his superb flute and whistle playing is a key factor in Dervish's deserved success.
  • Kevin Crawford - of the group Lunasa, has a solo album out - In Good Company (Green Linnet, 2001) which ably shows his fine playing with an exceptional company of musical greats.

Live Albums at Pubs:

For a taste of traditional music played before live crowds at pubs, try:

  • Music at Matt Malloy's -- A wonderful collection of live music recorded at Matt Malloy's pub in Westport, Ireland.
  • The Lahawns Live at Winkles -- an excellent album from the Galway-based accordionist Andrew MacNamara and his group.

Web Resources:

  • Comhaltas Ceoltóirí ÉireannThis organization has long been devoted to " promoting the music, arts and culture of Ireland, at home and abroad ".
  • The Ceolas Irish Music Archive is the traditional Celtic music site on the Web. It is a gem with tons of information and links, as well as clips of music from various artists. You can even subscribe to a schedule of Irish music performances in your area delivered monthly free to your e-mail mailbox.
  • Irish Arts Foundation, San Francisco. This is the group that hosts several great musical festivals each year, as well as theatrical productions, talks, courses, etc.
  • Irish-American Social Club of Sacramento. This site lists events in the greater Sacramento area as far east as Reno, and promotes the learning of Gaelic.
  • The Donegal Fiddle Pages -- This is an excellent set of pages about the unique style of fiddling found in County Donegal. This isolated county in the northwest has produced an extraordinary set of fiddlers including Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan, Tommy Peoples, and Paddy Glacknin among others. This site also hosts pages from Cairdeas na bhFidléirí, a society of fiddlers supporting Donegal fiddling.
  • Irish Music For those with strong interests in traditional Irish music, I recommend this monthly magazine. This is published in Ireland, but one can subscribe in the States. It is starting to develop a related WWW site. For more info. check their WWW site or e-mail them at slaffey@iol.ie.
  • Irish Piping Groups & Pages
    • San Francisco Pipers Club - The Piper's Club is an organization that provides a learning environment for those interested in playing the Uillean Pipes. The club holds monthly meetings during which a lesson is taught. (The Seattle partner to the S.F. club isCumann na bPíobaírí/Irish Pipers' Club.)
      Over the Presidents' Day week-end every year the Pipers' Club has its annual "Tionól", a convention, of sorts. The location alternates from year to year between Seattle and San Francisco. In even years it takes place in Seattle, in odd years, San Francisco. The week-end consists of parties abundant with sessions, workshops for playing, tuning, and reed-making, concerts, recitals, and of course food and drink. Every year a guest piper such as Paddy Keenan, Jerry O'Sullivan and Mick O'Brien is invited, and usually spends time working with the club members to improve their playing. Contact: conall@sirenmedia.com
  • Uillean Pipes Obsession Page !


  • The Late Late Show Tribute to Sharon Shannon. This is available in music shops in Ireland (in U.S. TV format) and has a great array of Irish musicians from Mary Black to Adam Clayton and about 20 more in a fun celebration of the extraordinary Sharon.


  • Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, A Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music (1998, Irish-American Book Company) Available from Celtic Crossings, 1557 Sloat Boulevard, Box 179, San Francisco, CA 94132
  • P.J. Curtis, Notes from the Heart - a series of profiles of contemporary Irish traditional musicians. Featured on the cover is Co. Clare's ambassador to the world, Sharon Shannon.
  • Ciarán Carson's little, thin, volume Irish Traditional Music is one of the Appletree Guides found in nearly every tea shop in Ireland. Carson's 1996 book. Last Night's Fun - In and Out of Time with Irish Music (North Point Press) is a more roundabout, philosophical collection of observations on the playing of Irsh traditional music, the interaction between the musicians, the magic of the music when it is all going right.

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