Today, the Celtic music world includes Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany (France), Asturias and Galicia (Spain), and parts of Atlantic Canada and the United States (a result of large waves of Scottish, Irish and French immigration to the Americas). In recent decades, Celtic women have been leading a revival in folk music. Artists like Sharon Shannon, Karen Matheson (of Capercaillie), Cara Dillon and others have achieved what was only a generation ago almost unthinkable, reaching mainstream audiences with Celtic folk music. This Rough Guide presents a selection of the best female artists on the scene.

The album opens with the spirited song, ‘In Shame Love, In Shame’ by Pauline Scanlon. Her music is immersed in the Irish tradition, with a dose of contemporary edginess from alternative music. Other highlights include a track by a four piece ensemble lead by the great Julie Fowlis. ‘Da Bhafaigheann Mo Rogha De Thriur Acu’ is a strident, dance-like tune that is sure to start toes tapping. Karan Casey’s contribution is her version of ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’, one of the most famous anti-war songs ever written. The emotional lyrics describe a poor, blind and crippled soldier returning from war. An ethereal harp-led number is contributed by Cécile Corbel. Cécile was born in Brittany and learned to play the harp as a teenager, on this track she sings in the traditional Breton language (Breizh). T With The Maggies is a close harmony vocal group composed of four native Gaelic speakers from County Donegal, Ireland. The women’s seemingly effortless ability to sing in tight, sweet, as demonstrated on ‘Cuach Mo Lundobh Bui’, harmony is simply breathtaking.

This Rough Guide also comes with a full-length bonus album from one of the leading voices in Celtic Canadian music, Teresa Doyle. Orrachan is a collection of ancient Irish Gaelic songs. Teresa sings them with her trademark ethereal voice and effortlessly transports us to the beating heart of the Celtic world.