Celtic music - the good stuff?
October 14, 2004 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for non-lame Celtic music. I like the instrumental, complex stuff. I hate the cheesy "world beat" or simplistic poppy crap.
posted by signal to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite Celtic rockers: Seven Nations. They got their start at a little Irish hole in the wall called the Harp And Thistle, in St Pete Beach, out grew it, spent a year in a big bus sponsored by some liquor company, and are still just playing. They're great guys, really. Good music, too.
posted by baylink at 11:23 AM on October 14, 2004

Planxty's quite good.

And if I can piggyback: I'd like to know about recordings of such as the Child ballads, by people who would tear Loreena McKennit and her ilk a third cornhole if they met her. Like Faun Fables or The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree doing The Housecarpenter, or Richard Thompson doing traditional British folk songs, but not new-agey or otherwise idiotic.
posted by kenko at 11:33 AM on October 14, 2004

The Bothy Band kicked serious 'traditional' butt, back when.
posted by carter at 11:40 AM on October 14, 2004

The Bothy Band is my current favorite Celtic band. They were short lived but all of their albums are brilliant.

Silly Wizard is folksier with really good accordian and fiddle playing by the Cunninghams.

Natalie McMaster is pretty poppy but she's also a mean fiddle player in the Cape Breton style. I really dig about half of her stuff and could leave the rest behind. Her Album "My Roots are Showing" has some more traditional stuff on it.

The Irish traditional mailing list IRTRAD-L also did a member survey for people to vote for their favorite albums, the results are here.
posted by jessamyn at 11:44 AM on October 14, 2004

Thanks for your replies so far. One thing, I don't mean only Irish Celtic stuff. I've heard some very good northern Spanish Celtic music, for instance, and would love to learn about other manifestations of the culture.
posted by signal at 11:55 AM on October 14, 2004

If you have not already come across them, the Green Linnet label is worth a look.
posted by carter at 12:01 PM on October 14, 2004

There's so much good stuff that I can't even attempt to be comprehensive, so:

-"Recent" faves: Shooglenifty (progressive with other ethnic influences but mostly traditional); Alyth McCormack (haunting voice, much of her vocals in Scots Gaelic); Kila (all vocals Irish Gaelic).
-Timeless: Altan.
-Need desperately as my cassette has worn out: The Dubliners and the Pogues covering the Stones' Honky Tonk Women. Classic.

Wow, though. There's just too much. Sample some MP3s, check out the Green Linnet catalogue, and maybe peruse Dirty Linen...
posted by Shane at 12:12 PM on October 14, 2004

Dervish and Lunasa are probably both worth a listen. I think they both lean towards cheesy sometimes, but they also do a lot of very straightforward traditional stuff too.

And, if you like The Pogues, then you should probably check out Flogging Molly as well.
posted by soplerfo at 1:27 PM on October 14, 2004

Whatever you do, stay away from Alan Stivell on the cheezefest, except for this one.
posted by oflinkey at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2004

The Real McKenzies
posted by oh posey at 2:39 PM on October 14, 2004

If you like soundtracks or classical-style music the Danna brothers compose big, lush pieces that tell a story. I love A Celtic Tale: The Legend of Deirdre which uses vocals, piano, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, trumpet, Uillean pipes, Highland pipes, Celtic harp, flute, tin whistle, concertina, accordian, fiddle, cello, upright bass, bassoon, and recorder.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:53 PM on October 14, 2004

I can't believe no one has mentioned The Chieftains.

Teada are also quite good.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:54 PM on October 14, 2004

I got this email from a non-account-havin' AskMe reader:

I thought that signal might also like to know about a radio program
called The Thistle & Shamrock, a weekly NPR show dedicated to Celtic
music. I've heard many of the artists mentioned in the thread on this
show, so it probably wouldn't fall into the "lame" category. Even
if signal doesn't live in the U.S., he/she should be able to catch a
stream from one of the stations it's played on.

More info here:

posted by soplerfo at 5:42 PM on October 14, 2004

> Even if signal doesn't live in the U.S., he/she should be able to catch a
> stream from one of the stations it's played on.

It makes it as far as Athens, GA. If the station ever drops it I'll go into withdrawal.
posted by jfuller at 4:31 AM on October 15, 2004

Thistle & Shamrock is great. I have Fiona Ritchie to thank for introducing me to the music of Dougie MacLean. His work and just about anything on Dunkeld Records is a good bet.

Others you might like:
the Chieftains
De Dannan
Silly Wizard
Natalie MacMaster (I prefer her traditional stuff as well.) Solas
Moving Hearts

Also, MeFite Chuck Taggart hosts a roots-music radio show -- I've found some roots & Celtic agems from going through his playlists and "best of" pages. (Like Kila.)
posted by Vidiot at 10:22 AM on October 15, 2004

Having grown up in Cape Breton, I have love/hate relationship with all things Celtic. I actually love some of the more "raw" or unpolished music but hate the marketing/misrepresentation of the culture that is perpetuated by the music industry, the government and the tourism industry. That being said, here are a few worth checking out:

* Ashley MacIsaac (LP: Fine Thank You Very Much)
* The Barra MacNeils (LP: The Traditional Album)
* Buddy MacMaster
* Howie MacDonald
* Natalie MacMaster
* Slainte Mhath

On the international front, I like:

* The Bothy Band (LP: The Best Of or Live in Concert)
* Danu
* Planxty (LP: self-titled/"The Black Album")
* Sharon Shannon
* Shooglenifty

Also worth checking out some of Donal Lunny's production...and more on the folk end of things, but Fairport Convention and Kate Rusby are pretty amazing.
posted by boost ventilator at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2004

Check out The Nettles for some fantastic playing. (Linked page includes sample mp3).
posted by tdismukes at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2004

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