The Rough Guide To Irish Music

Traditional music and song still play a major role in Irish cultural life. It is at pub sessions and the many festivals, both major (the Willie Clancy Summer and the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann) and minor, where visitors to Ireland are most likely to encounter traditional musicians in full flow.

This compilation features musicians from Waterford to Donegal and Kerry to Belfast, taking in New York, too, on its journey. It features major figures from the Irish tradition and introduces some who may be less well-known. Though it is impossible to be comprehensive, it provides a tantalizing selection of the delights provided by one of the world’s most durable musical traditions.

The instruments employed by said musicians have changed little over the last hundred or so years – fiddle, flute, concertina, button accordion, banjo, tin whistle and uilleann pipes (Ireland’s own form of bagpipes), often backed by guitar, bouzouki and bodhrán (a goat-skin frame drum).

The Unwanted, a Sligo-based trio, kick start the album with a set of reels. Next Solas joined by the soloist Máiréad Phelan to perform an Irish twist on ‘A Sailor’s Life’ – a traditional English song. Waterford singer Karan Casey and Dublin singer-guitarist John Doyle  perform ‘Bay Of Biscay’ taken from the repertoire of late County Clare singer Nora Cleary. A real treat comes in the form of ‘The Heart Of The World’ by West Cork singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. Owing to his work with the Afro Celt Sound System Iarla is probably Ireland’s most well-known singer in his native language and his style is rooted in the sean-nós (old-style) tradition. Other names to look out for bursting from this release include Sharon Shannon, Fidil, Brian Finnegan and T With The Maggies.