(Ireland) This is a band I've come around to liking a great deal. Whomping good sound, with unearthly and wonderful vocals by Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, who also leads the fierce fiddling. Their Donegal sound is something different.
ARCONA REEL BAND
(American) Based in Pennsylvania, this rowdy group has more fun than a lot of bands I've seen! They play anything Celtic, mushed together helter-skelter -- and it sounds great! (Watch out for the bogeying bass!) Most often seen playing at folk/heritage festivals and Renaissance Faires.
THE BOTHY BAND
(Ireland) Trad band from the seventies. Sharp and bouncy, with generous measures of harpsichord thrown in. They play the tunes straight but good.
THE BOYS OF THE LOUGH
(Ireland) A less smooth and cultured sound than, say, Dervish, but strong musicians, all of them. They're a lot of fun, and they sound a little more like what a session would be. I like 'em because they do a lot of Shetland tunes: they lay claim to the great Shetland fiddler Aly Bain. They've been around for over 25 years and have more albums out than I can count (I keep discovering more), and they're all good.
(Scotland) Capercaillie is one of the bands that has followed the unfortunate modern trend of playing Celtic with a generous twist of rock. Their very early albums are good (Crosswinds, for example), but moving into the 90s, their sound changes to one I certainly am not fond of (To the Moon, for example).
CHERISH THE LADIES
(Ireland) An all-female group based in the US, they have over-turned a male-dominated field (for all you feminists out there; I'm not too particular about their origins as long as they make great music). Tight group sound, with a nice mixture of traditional tunes and contemporary arrangements and new songs, such as the gorgeous song "Broken Wings" on the New Day Dawning album. They've had greats like Eileen Ivers (fiddle), Cathie Ryan (vocals), and Joanie Madden (tinwhistle) as bandmembers.
(Ireland) Young and energetic, with sweet female vocalist and just great instrumental power all around. My favorite album is At the End of the Day. Here's a good article.
FULL MOON ENSEMBLE
(American) This band from Alabama has a great American sound that combines all sorts of Irish and Scottish tunes. Guitarist Scooter Muse has a knack at setting Burns to tunes, and their champion fiddler Daniel Carwile is a treat to listen to!
(Ireland) You want energy and bounce? You got it! Fun, funky tunes, with a bit of African rhythm. Their self-titled first album doesn't have a slow or minor track on it. Okay, so maybe they lack depth, but they are really strong on their traditional tracks.
(Ireland) Crazy group! Founded by Kevin Burke, this group flies away with all kinds of music. They don't stay strictly traditional, but they're still fun. Their latest album, Hoof and Mouth, is decidedly less traditional than their first and self-titled first album. If Kevin Burke isn't enough to make you run out and get these albums, try this: Mark Graham on harmonica. Yum.
(Ireland) All four founding members of this group -- Kevin Burke on fiddle, Jackie Daly on button accordian, Arty McGlynn on guitar, and Andy Irvine on bouzouki -- are living legends in traditional Irish music. Awesome talents, all of them. They play good driving melodies.
(Ireland) American swing Irish with a vengeance! They are so much fun, though. The trad tunes are there, for sure, but they like to play with them in interesting ways. First track on the album Live It Up: The Trucks of Bohermore.
(Scotland) Great name, great musicians. Husky-voiced, burry Andy Stewart is their lead vocalist, and fiddler Johnny Cunningham can really rip the rosin on the reels! I think their sound is smoother and less abrasive than the Tannahill Weavers can be.
(Ireland) Young and energetic, with a powerful session sound. Karan Casey sings with a haunting lilt, fiddler Winifred Horan plays with a deep, strong tone, and their banjo player is madly, crazily good. The band keeps pace and drive and tension, whether it's a bunch or reels or a lament. "Solas is the rarest of all Irish bands -- able to play traditional music with the best of them and also perform original music with exceptional style and imagination. Solas has to be ranked among the most exciting Irish bands." -- Earle Hitchner, IRISH ECHO
THE TANNAHILL WEAVERS
(Scotland) Probably the most popular of Scottish folk bands. Powerful sound with some knock-you-out-of-your-seat Highland piping. Lots of Bobby (Robert) Burns and Robert Tannahill songs. They also do a wonderful rendition of "Wild Mountain Thyme." ("If Scottish folk music has an anthem, this is it." -- liner notes) (By the way, sometimes the liner notes are worth it just for their humor value!)
(Scotland) How can you not love a band with that name? Tight, traditional, more towards an almost chamber music sound, but can still make you tap your toes. Lovely, lovely clarsach (harp) playing. A Wanton Fling is by far their best album. Their newest release, Timber Timbre (1999) is along much the same vein, and includes a surprising rendition of a couple of ancient Chinese tunes.
(The Shetland Isles) High-energy, powerful sound, very dancable, yet with a smooth, pulsing quality. Also composes lovely waltzes and does justice to the waltzes of Pat Shaw (another native of Shetland, although most known for English Country Dance). One of my favorite fiddlers.
(Ireland) One of Ireland's best fiddlers. From Co. Sligo, he playing is lively, strong, typically Sligo-slidey, and heavily traditional (unless it's with Open House). He has formed a key part of many Irish groups, such as Patrick Street and Open House. And what a great personality!
(Scotland) Often seen paired with Kevin Burke and Christian LeMaitre as part of Celtic Fiddle Festival, but he stands perfectly well on his own. Fierce and viciously fast. Founding member of the great Scottish band Silly Wizard (you just have to have an album by them just for their name! :-)
(Scotland) Whee! Incredible and quirky. Lots of fun in concert. Although firmly rooted in traditional Scottish music, he tends to hang with the New Age types. His solo album Dawn Dance, comprised of tunes of his own composition, is funky and upbeat.
(Ireland) Hailing from Co. Clare, he has a sweet, slow, smooth sound that makes you want to relax. But he can also play like nobody's busuness!
(Ireland) She plays kickin' backup with a number of bands, mainly Solas. I haven't found a solo album by her, but she makes just about any band worthwhile.
(Ireland) American born of Irish parents, she does amazing things with Irish tunes. Was an original member of the great women's Irish band Cherish the Ladies. She is indeed amazing, but tends to get carried away. (cf. her stint with Riverdance) Her latest album, Crossing the Bridge, is positively a tragedy. Yes, she getes tremendously creative with traditional tunes -- but here she takes things a step too far. (Hip-hop Irish?? I don't think so.) You want her at her funky best, try her second album, Wild Blue.
(Cape Breton) Big name, big style, big sound! Everything she plays, even the waltzes, has typical and wonderful Cape Breton punch, pulse, and beat. Her first album, Fit as a Fiddle, is more traditional, while No Boundaries gets a little wild and heavy on the synth.
(Scotland) Sweet, sweet, sweet. Has a deep, rich tone that I love. You can tell she's having fun with the fast tunes, and rolls out the laments like you wouldn't believe. Her best album by far is Soft May Morn.
(American) He's the one who wrote the now-immensely popular Scottish lament "Ashokan Farewell" (which is, in his own words, "a Scottish lament written by a Jewish guy from the Bronx." Ah, America!) Beautiful and soulful tone, with yet more fabulous waltzes (see his album The Lover's Waltz.)