The Top 5 Irish Folk Music Bands

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover the top 5 Irish folk music bands, as voted by readers of Irish music magazine. From traditional balladeers to contemporary bands, these are the groups keeping the spirit of Irish music alive.

The Dubliners

The Dubliners are a folk music band from Dublin, Ireland. The band was founded in 1962 and has been hugely successful, releasing over 30 albums. They are widely considered to be one of the best Irish folk music bands of all time.

Band history

The Dubliners are an Irish folk band founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1962. The band started off as a four-piece but has had numerous lineup changes over the years. The current members are John Sheahan, Barney McKenna, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn, and Sean Cannon.

The Dubliners rose to prominence in the 1960s with their energetic live performances and recordings of traditional Irish songs such as “The Wild Rover” and “Whiskey in the Jar”. In the 1970s they reached a wider audience with appearances on BBC’s Top of the Pops and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

During their 50+ year career, The Dubliners have released over 30 albums and toured extensively throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. They were inducted into the Irish Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Band members

The Dubliners are an Irish folk band formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1962. The band currently consists of Luke Kelly (vocals, banjo), Barney McKenna (vocals, tenor banjo, melodeon), John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle), Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar) and Garry O’Briain (guitar). They have achieved international fame with their unique blend of folk music and ballads, and have been a hugely influential force in the Irish music scene.

The original line-up of the band was:
-Luke Kelly (vocals, banjo)
-Barney McKenna (vocals, tenor banjo)
-John Sheahan (fiddle)
-Ciaran Bourke ( vocals, guitar)
-Ronnie Drew (guitar, vocals).

Musical style

The Dubliners’ musical style has been variously described as “rock along folk”, “rebel music”, “Irishfolk”, and as part of the Ronnie Drew Ballad Tradition. Their music is firmly rooted in traditional Irish folk music, but they have also assimilated influences from Continental Europe, Britain, and the United States.

The Dubliners’ early repertoire consisted mainly of traditional Irish folk songs and ballads. Their first album included only two original songs, one of which was co-written by Drew. In later years, they included more original material in their albums, but their live sets continued to be dominated by traditional material.

One of the group’s most distinctive features was Drew’s deep and gravelly voice, which was often compared to that of a growling bear. He was also notable for his onstage banter with the audience, which often resulted in good-natured (and occasionally drunken) sing-alongs.

The Pogues

There are a lot of great Irish folk music bands out there, but the Pogues are definitely one of the best. With their unique blend of traditional Irish folk music and punk rock, they have created a sound that is truly their own. They are also one of the most successful Irish folk music bands, with numerous hits such as “Fairytale of New York” and “The Irish Rover.” If you’re a fan of Irish folk music, then you definitely need to check out the Pogues.

Band history

The Pogues are an Irish-British Celtic punk band formed in London in 1982, as a direct result of the UK punk rock and late 1970s/early 1980s punk movement. The band reached international prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s due largely to their live performances. The Pogues are known for their rapid-fire, high-energy stage act which often included traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle and the accordion, for which they have been credited with breathing new life into and promoting interest in Irish traditional music.

The Pogues became one of the most successful bands of the British independent music scene of the 1980s, due largely to their single “Fairytale of New York”, which became a Christmas standard after its release in 1987. Their penchant for covering other artists’ material and their unconventional use of traditional Irish instruments gave them a distinctive sound that earned them critical acclaim and a loyal following, particularly in Ireland, where they are still regarded as icons.

The Pogues’ original line-up consisted of Shane MacGowan (vocals), Spider Stacy (tin whistle), Kirsty MacColl (vocals), Jem Finer (banjo), Andrew Ranken (drums), James Fearnley (accordion) and Philip Chevron (guitar). The band’s first album, Red Roses for Me, was released on Stiff Records in October 1984. The album reached number eight on the UK Indie Chart; it was later voted by NME magazine as one of “The Greatest Indie Albums Ever”.

Ranken left the band shortly after its release; he was replaced by Terry Woods, who had previously played with The Woods Band and The Damned. Chevron also left shortly afterwards,”

Band members

The Pogues are an Irish folk music band formed in London in 1982, as a collaboration between two established folk bands, the London-based MacGowan and the Dublin-based Lynskey. The band’s membership has fluctuated greatly over the years, with MacGowan the only constant member. The Pogues have achieved considerable popularity and critical acclaim both in Ireland and internationally.

The current lineup of the band includes:

-Shane MacGowan (vocals)
-Spider Stacy (tin whistle)
-Jude Kelly (guitar)
-Andrew Ranken (drums)
-Terry Woods (bouzouki, mandolin, accordion)
-Davy Ballingall (bass guitar)

Musical style

Musically, the Pogues have been described as a cross between The Clash and The Dubliners. Their full-on traditional attack includes elements of Irish folk music, punk rock, and Cockney music. Critics have sometimes accused them of trying to be too many things at once, but most agree that they are at their best when fusing traditional instrumentation with a punk/rock sensibility. They are known for aggressive, raucous live performances and have been credited with helping to revivify interest in Irish folk music.

The band’s first two albums, Red Roses for Me and Rum Sodomy & the Lash, were heavily influenced by traditional Irish music and were commercial and critical successes. After a brief foray into more pop-oriented territory with If I Should Fall from Grace with God, the band returned to its roots on Hell’s Ditch and stayed true to form on each subsequent release. In addition to its work in the studio, the band has toured relentlessly throughout its career (with a few periodic hiatuses), winning a devoted following among fans of Celtic music and punk rock alike.

The Chieftains

The Chieftains are a traditional Irish Folk band that was formed in Dublin in 1962. The band’s original line-up included Paddy Moloney, Sean Potts, Michael Tubridy, and David Fallon. The Chieftains have won six Grammy Awards and their music has been used in many films, including Titanic.

Band history

The Chieftains are a Grammy Award-winning Irish musical group founded in Dublin in 1963, by Paddy Moloney, Davy Spillane, Matt Molloy, Sean Keane and Michael Tubridy. The band rose to prominence playing Irish traditional music and achieved international success with their wide-ranging collaborations with popular musicians of many genres, including Country music, Galician traditional music, Cape Breton fiddle music and rock. They have won six Grammy Awards during their career.

The Chieftains have played a leading role in the renaissance of traditional Irish music. In Ireland they are regarded as musical ambassadors and recruited young players to perform with them on several occasions, thereby passing on their musical skills to the next generation. They toured extensively throughout Europe and North America over the next few decades and their popularity increased as they performed with artists such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and The Rolling Stones.

Band members

The Chieftains are a Grammy Award-winning Irish musical group founded in Ireland in 1963, by Paddy Moloney, Sean Keane and Michael Tubridy. The band’s line-up has undergone numerous changes over the years, with Moloney and Tubridy being the only remaining original members. The band has recorded 56 albums to date, and has played an influential role in bringing traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience.

The current members of The Chieftains are:

-Paddy Moloney (Uilleann pipes, tin whistle)
-Sean Keane (fiddle)
-Matt Molloy (flute)
-Kevin Conneff (bodhran)
-Michael Tubridy (concertina)

Musical style

While most bands that came out of the 1960s British folk revival assimilated electric instruments and rock and roll rhythms by the end of the decade, the Chieftains have remained one of the few traditional Irish groups to stay true to their acoustic roots. The band has recorded with some of the biggest names in rock, pop, and country, but their heart lies in the music of their homeland.

The Chieftains’ sound is defined by Paddy Moloney’s tin whistle and uilleann pipes, Matt Molloy’s flute playing, and Kevin Conneff’s bodhrán drumming. The band has always featured a rotating cast of musicians, giving them a chance to explore different sounds and styles over the years. In recent years, they have frequently collaborated with artists from other genres, including Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, Sting, and Sinéad O’Connor.

The Chieftains’ musical style is based on traditional Irish folk music, but they are not afraid to experiment with other genres. They have been influenced by American bluegrass and country music, as well as rock and roll. In recent years, they have even dabbled in hip hop and electronica. No matter what genre they are playing in, the Chieftains’ music is always soulful and steeped in Celtic tradition.


Planxty is one of the most popular Irish folk music bands out there. The band was founded in the 1970s and has been going strong ever since. They have released numerous albums and have toured all over the world. They are well known for their lively tunes and for their renditions of traditional Irish songs.

Band history

Planxty is an Irish folk music band founded in the early 1970s, consisting of Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Liam O’Flynn. The group is widely recognised as instrumental in the folk music revival in Ireland. They first achieved widespread popularity in the Celtic parts of Europe and quickly became one of the most successful folk bands of all time.

The band’s history began when Christy Moore and Dónal Lunny met while working as musicians in Dublin. They decided to form a band together and recruited mandolin player Andy Irvine and uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. The four quickly developed a unique sound which drew on traditional Irish music, but with a modern twist.

The band released their first album, Planxty, in 1973 to critical acclaim. This was followed by a series of successful albums throughout the 1970s, including The Well Below the Valley (1973), After the Break (1974), Live in Dublin (1975) and Pride of Pan (1977). Planxty continued to tour and release new music until 1979, when they disbanded due to creative differences.

The four members went on to have successful solo careers, but periodically reunited for one-off gigs and tours. In 2007, they officially reformed and have released two new albums since then: Words & Music (2012) and Where are You Now? (2019).

Planxty are widely considered to be one of the most influential Irish folk bands of all time. They have been credited with popularising traditional Irish music around the world and inspiring a new generation of musicians.

Band members

Planxty is an Irish folk music band founded in the early 1970s, comprising four musicians who met while studying Celtic music at University College Dublin. The band’s membership consisted of Christy Moore (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, bodhrán), Dónal Lunny (bouzouki, guitar, harmonium, keyboards), Liam O’Flynn (uilleann pipes, tin whistle) and Andy Irvine (mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, harmonica, hurdy-gurdy).

The band is widely regarded as having helped ignite the Irish folk music revival. They pioneered a sound that fused traditional Irish music with contemporary folk and rock influences and their use of electric instruments was controversial at the time.

Musical style

Planxty’s music is primarily Irish traditional music with a strong focus on melody. Unlike many traditional music bands, they rarely use arranging techniques that would sacrifice the melody for the sake of a “fuller” sound. Peterson’s fast fingerwork on the bouzouki and Lunny’s development of unusual chords on the guitar were particularly influential in this regard. They often soared above the sound with intricate interplay between the various instruments.

The Bothy Band

The Bothy Band was an Irish traditional music band formed in 1976. The band’s name comes from the bothy, a type of rural dwelling found in parts of Ireland and Scotland. The band’s music is characterized by driving rhythms, virtuosic instrumental solos, and elaborate ensemble playing. They were one of the most influential traditional music bands of their time, and their music has been a major influence on subsequent generations of Irish musicians.

Band history

The Bothy Band was an Irish traditional music band formed in 1975. The original line-up consisted of Paddy Glackin (fiddle), Tommy Peoples (fiddle), Donal Lunny (bouzouki), Matt Molloy (flute), Michael O’Domhnaill (guitar), and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill (piano). The group is credited with helping to revive traditional Irish music and bringing it to a new audience.

The band’s first album, Old Hag You Have Killed Me, was released in 1976, followed by Afterhours in 1977. These two albums showcased the talents of the individual members and established the band as one of the leading forces in Irish traditional music. The band’s third album, Out of Time, was released in 1978 and featured guest appearances from Planxty members Liam O’Flynn and Andy Irvine.

The Bothy Band disbanded in 1979, but its members continued to be highly influential in the traditional music scene. Paddy Glackin went on to release several solo albums and tour with bands such as Riverdance and Solas; Tommy Peoples toured with Donovan; Matt Molloy has been a member of The Chieftains since 1979; and Michael O’Domhnaill was a founding member of Skara Brae. Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill’s sister Mairéad is also a well-known musician, touring with her husband Alec Finn as De Dannan.

Band members

The Bothy Band was an Irish traditional music band formed in 1975. The original band members were Dónal Lunny, Paddy Keenan, Kevin Burke, Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Matt Molloy.

The band’s first album was self-titled and was released in 1976. It is considered a classic of Irish traditional music and is still popular today. The album featured two tracks that would become staples of the band’s live performances: “The Foxhunt” and “The Teatotaler/The Rambling Pitchfork”.

The Bothy Band’s second album, Old Hag You Have Killed Me, was released in 1977. This album saw the band moving away from traditional Irish music and towards a more rock & roll sound. The title track is a cover of an old Irish folk song, while other tracks on the album include covers of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”.

The Bothy Band disbanded in 1979, but their legacy continues to this day. Their albums are still popular among fans of Irish music, and their influence can be seen in the work of many modern Irish musicians.

Musical style

The Bothy Band’s musical style was a highly original one, featuring lightning-fast reels and jigs played on fiddle, accordion, concertina, bouzouki, penny whistle and bodhran, with occasional slow airs. Their 1977 album Old Hag You Have Killed Me is often cited as one of the most influential Irish music albums ever recorded.

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