The six best Celtic bands to get you through Saint Patrick’s Day

Sharon and Andrea Corr of The Corrs

Sharon and Andrea Corr of The Corrs

Mentari Sandiastri, Staff reporters

Saint Patrick’s Day is in town and Irish communities in many parts of the world are getting ready to turn their cities green with festivities and celebrations of the Celtic culture.

In Perth, the hearts of St Patrick’s Day celebrations lie inside the city’s various Irish pubs, with parties held all day involving live music and, of course, flows of Irish beer.

Eager to get in the mood for the day? We’ve compiled a list of six of the best Celtic bands to get you through the day with performances of traditional Irish music so delightful you won’t resist the urge to dance to the beat!

1. The Dubliners

With a career that spanned half a century, The Dubliners were Ireland’s longest surviving musical group. The band’s best known lineup consisted of Ronnie Drew (lead vocals, guitar), Luke Kelly (lead vocals, banjo), Barney McKenna (banjo, mandolin), Ciarán Bourke (tin whistle, vocals), and John Sheahan (violin, tin whistle, mandolin), which enjoyed success in late 1960s and early 1970s with their renditions of Irish folk songs and street ballads, most notably hit singles “Seven Drunken Nights” and “Whiskey In the Jar”.

Their renditions of traditional songs are so popular they are often regarded as the “definitive” versions, serving as bases for other musicians performing the same songs to follow. The Dubliners announced their retirement from music in 2012 after their 50th anniversary tour and the death of last surviving founding member McKenna, but a number of surviving members of the band continue performing under the name The Dublin Legends, and their music continue to inspire generations of Celtic musicians.


2. The Chieftains
WGBH Music

The Chieftains’s impact to the popularity of Irish folk music is so huge that they have been awarded with the honorary title of Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors by the Irish government. The band consists of Paddy Moloney (uileann pipes, tin whistle, accordion, bodhrán), Seán Keane (violin, tin whistle), Kevin Conneff (bodhrán, vocals), and Matt Molloy (flute, tin whistle) and they have enjoyed continuous success since the 1970s with their renditions of traditional Irish songs and occasional experimenting with other genres like country and Latin music.

Although their sound is heavily built on traditional instruments, The Chieftains are known for their collaborations with artists of various genres – ranging from Luciano Pavarotti and Elvis Costello to the Rolling Stones and Madonna, which put Irish folk music in the sphere of popular entertainment. Thanks to them, traditional Irish tunes and songs like “The Women of Ireland” and “The Foggy Dew” have become popular favourites in many parts of the world.


3. Clannad

Arguably Ireland’s most successful family band, Clannad consists of the Brennan siblings Moya (lead vocals, harp), Ciarán (bass, guitar, keyboards, mandolin, vocals), and Pól (flute, guitar, percussion, whistles, vocals) with their twin uncles Noel (guitar, vocals) and Pádraig Duggan (guitar, mandolin, vocals). The band first reached international success in 1982 with their hit single “Theme From Harry’s Game”, followed by many other popular and critically acclaimed hits such as “I Will Find You” (from the movie The Last of the Mohicans) and “Closer To Your Heart”.

Clannad are regarded for inspiring contemporary Irish artists to incorporate Celtic elements in their sounds, with their breakthrough blend of Celtic, contemporary pop music, and other genres like jazz and new-age. With an array of awards including a Grammy, a BAFTA, and a Billboard Music Award, Clannad continue to enjoy significant success as one of Ireland’s prized musical treasures with lead singer Moya Brennan often considered as the “First Lady of Celtic Music”.


4. The Corrs
Praveen Charles

Ireland’s another hugely acclaimed family band – made up of the Corr sisters Andrea (lead vocals, tin whistle), Caroline (drums, bodhrán, percussion, piano, vocals), and Sharon (violin, vocals) and brother Jim (guitar, keyboards, piano, vocals) – The Corrs took the world by storm in late 1990s and early 2000s with popular hits such as “Runaway” and “Breathless”. The band’s success and popularity are attributed to their signature sound that incorporates Celtic music and modern pop rock rhythm with usage of traditional instruments.

The Corrs are known for performing rock renditions of Irish folk tunes in their live concerts, popularising these tunes worldwide and prompting fans from many countries to learn to play traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle and the bodhrán. Although the band is currently on hiatus with violinist Sharon pursuing a solo career and the other members raising families, they still enjoy significant followings and are highly regarded for further bringing Celtic music to worldwide fame.


5. Dropkick Murphys

Despite being the only non-Irish band in this list, American Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys are one of the leading Celtic fusion performers from the newer generation, combining punk rock sounds inspired by the likes of The Ramones and Sex Pistols with Irish folk elements inspired mainly by The Dubliners. The Boston-bred band consists of Ken Casey (lead vocals, bass), Al Barr (lead vocals), James Lynch (guitar, vocals), Tim Brennan (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Jeff DaRosa (mandolin), Matt Kelly (drums, bodhrán, vocals), and Scruffy Wallace (bagpipes).

Dropkick Murphys have become a household name among the Irish community in the US, regularly headlining St Patrick’s Day celebrations around Boston. Their best known single, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”, gained wide popularity after being featured in Oscar-winning movie The Departed and US TV series Rizzoli & Isles. As well as original songs, the band also regularly perform their renditions of Irish folk songs, ensuring their popularity among today’s audiences.


6. The Healys
the healy healy

Last but not least is an act in close proximity that you can see every weekend; The Healys are an Irish band of brothers – Nigel (lead vocals, guitar), Allan (accordion, banjo, guitar, drums, vocals), and Gavin Healy (bass, vocals) – who now live in Perth and perform at various Irish-themed venues around the city. In 2010 they released their debut album, The Healys Live, comprising of live tracks from their shows throughout the years with lead single “P Stands For Paddy” and renditions of well-known Irish folk songs such as “The Irish Rovers” and “Spancil Hill”.

The Healys will be the highlight of various St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Perth’s best pubs and bars, performing at Carnegie’s Bar & Restaurant on Murray Street, J.B. O’Reilly’s Irish pub in Leederville, and The Shed and The Cure Tavern in Northbridge. For more of their music, make sure to check out their weekly performances at J.B. O’Reilly’s every Thursday and at Carnegie’s every Sunday.