Here in Central New York we have an amazing traditional Irish band called Craobh Dugan. If you live in the Utica area, or are passing through, try to stop in for a listen at one of the local pubs during a seisiún. You’ll wonder if you were just transported to Ireland. They are that authentic! Over the past year or so, I’ve been privileged to be able to play my bodhrán (an Irish drum) with them. One of the members of the band said of an Irish seisiún, “It’s a musical conversation.” And so it is. When I’m playing with the band, surrounded by the music, I feel the warmth of friendship without words.
So I decided to put together a playlist of Irish music similar to what you might hear at a seisiún. With the help of several of the band members, I tried to give you a good sampling from some of the best Irish musicians. Of course, it’s not meant to cover everything, but it’ll give anyone new to Irish music a good start.
Hopefully, this list will help you put together a playlist of your own for St. Patrick’s Day or any time of year when you feel like kicking up your heels to some lively Irish tunes. Well, most of them are tunes, but I did include a couple of songs at the end. Among Irish musicians, those two terms don’t mean the same thing. Tunes are instrumental, while songs are sung with lyrics.
Clicking on the tune names will take you to Amazon where you can hear a short sample. (Contains affiliate links)
- Sleeping Under the Tables/Musical Priest/Salamanca – Kennedy’s Kitchen: I heard this group at The Great American Irish Festival (GAIF) last summer and it was a real treat! If you live in upstate New York, save the last weekend in July for a visit to the GAIF. It’s a great place to discover new favorite Celtic artists.
- Turnpike – The Elders: These guys are always a ton of fun at a live performance, and this tune reminds me of one time in particular when my friend Kristen and I danced to it at the edge of the tent at the GAIF. She’s an award-winning Irish dancer and could keep up when the tune gets faster and faster. I was way out of breath before she was! But oh, it was fun.
- The Dingle Set – The Chieftains: I’ve never yet had the chance to hear them live, but someday….
- Brown-Eyed Bridget – Danú: Just recently this wonderful group performed in Herkimer. Very warm, humorous, humble and amazingly talented, they put on a terrific show.
- The Crooked Road to Dublin Set – Runa: I also discovered this band at the GAIF. They put a unique jazzy twist on Celtic music which I really like.
- Lots Of Drops Of Brandy – The Chieftains: I love the bodhrán in this tune, so I had to include it.
- D’ouest en Est – Le Vent du Nord: This is not Irish music, but you’ll hear a distinct similarity. Celtic music influenced many other cultural groups, including the French Canadians. Le Vent du Nord is a Quebecois band introduced to me by my fine fiddler friend, Anne-Mary. We saw them play last summer at The Nelson Odeon and really enjoyed their music. This one will make your toes tap.
- Mist in the Morning – FullSet: My friend Emilie and I saw this band perform at the Earlville Opera House last summer. Full of fun and great music, this band provided another really entertaining evening.
- The Kesh Jig/Give Us a Drink of Water/The Flower of the Flock/Famous Ballymote – The Bothy Band: I only know this band through recordings, but they’re a classic.
- Mrs. Crehan’/Gerry Commane’s/The Rainy Day – Mary Bergin: Listen to her if you want to hear the best in tin whistle playing.
- Kieran’s Polka / The Bike To Ballyhahill – Liz Carroll and John Doyle: I picked up a CD featuring the work of these two marvelous musicians at the GAIF a few years ago. Liz Carroll is among the finest of fiddlers.
- King Of The Fairies / The New Policeman / The Langstrom Pony – a lively set from Danú.
- Geese In The Bog/The Wandering Minstrel/The Pride Of Moyvane/The Low Road To Glin/The High Road to Glin – Eileen Ivers: I heard the fiery fiddle playing of Eileen Ivers at the GAIF last summer. This is a long set with plenty to dance to.
- Dúlamán Na Binne Buí/A Stór, A Stór, A Ghrá/The Blackhaired Lass – Mary Bergin: another fast-moving whistle set with a strong bodhrán beat.
- Red Is The Rose – The High Kings: Another favorite band often heard at the GAIF, here’s a song to slow down and rest with after all that dancing.
- Absolutely Irish – Mick Moloney and friends: This is not just one tune, but an album of music recorded live in New York City and shown on PBS. It’s a stellar collection of traditional Irish music and comes highly recommended by my Craobh Dugan friends Chris and Mike.
- Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile – The Dubliners: A.J., another member of Craobh Dugan (who recently returned from Galway), recommended this song to me. It has an interesting history, especially for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. So after you’ve danced to your new playlist and you’re ready to read up on Irish history whilst you sip your pint of Guinness, you can start here.