Ben Sands lives in Newry, County Down, close to the mountains and the sea and not far from the small farm where he and his six siblings grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.
He’s a songwriter who sings about life and love and the ways of the world. Sands is also a multi-instrumentalist. He plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, whistles, keyboards, and fiddle.
Ben has been touring and recording with his sister Anne and brothers Tommy and Colum since the late 1960s. The Sands Family have recorded over twenty albums to date; made numerous television appearances; and performed extensively in Ireland, UK, Europe, Canada and USA.
The members of the Family still get together for special tours and festival appearances but are also, pursuing successful solo careers.
The Chieftains started in Dublin, Ireland, in November 1962, introducing the world to the timeless sounds of traditional Irish music. The original line-up consisted of band leader Paddy Moloney (uilleann pipes and tin whistles), Sean Potts (tin whistle), Martin Fay (fiddle), David Fallon (bodhran), Mick Tubridy (flute, concertina), and Sean O’Riada.
Although their early following was purely a folk audience, the range and variation of their music very quickly captured a much broader public, resulting in their present fame worldwide. “We didn’t go to college to learn this music,” said group founder, Paddy Moloney, about their music. “It was passed on to us through our families, from our fathers and our grandparents. I was fortunate to have this music be such an important part of my life. It was like learning a language. It came naturally to me.”
Kevin Conneff joined the band on vocals and bodhran in 1976. Bothy Band flute player Matt Molloy was added in 1979. In 1983, The Chieftains became the first group to ever perform on the Great Wall of China. In 1988, they joined forces with fellow countryman Van Morrison on Irish Heartbeat which began an historic series of collaborations including recordings with James Galway, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Tom Jones, Sinead O’Connor, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, Ry Cooder and many others. They also continued their acclaimed work in soundtracks, on such films as Treasure Island, Tristan And Isolde, The Grey Fox and Far and Away.
In 1992, The Chieftains recorded the double Grammy-winning Another Country, with performances by such country and bluegrass stars as Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins and Don Williams. They returned to Nashville in 2002 for Down The Old Plank Road, their 40th career album, featuring such special guests as Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Earl Scruggs, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride and others.
In 2003, the CD Further Down the Old Plank Road continued the groundbreaking collaboration between The Chieftains and some of country and bluegrass music’s most original and influential artists, celebrating the Irish roots of American country and folk idioms. Featured on the album are artists including Carlene Carter, Rosanne Cash, Allison Moorer, Nickel Creek, and Jerry Douglas. The album also contains some of the final performances from multi-instrumentalist Derek Bell, a long-standing Chieftains member who passed away in 2002. The band recorded in Nashville, incorporating country sounds with Irish.
The Chieftains earned a Grammy in 1998 for Best Traditional Folk Album for Long Journey Home. Their score for Stanley Kubrick’s 1995 movie Barry Lyndon won them the Oscar, while they received an Emmy for their music in the play Playboy of the Western World. Besides ‘live’ performances and music, The Chieftains have also composed the scores for other Hollywood movies such as Rob Roy, Circle of Friends and Far and Away.
Live From Dublin: A Tribute to Derek Bell, was released early in 2005, and celebrates the life and legacy of the long-standing member who passed away suddenly in 2002. Recorded live at Ireland’s premiere performing venues, the Gaiety Theater and National Concert Hall, LIVE FROM DUBLIN includes a medley – “Derek’s Tune” – composed by Paddy Moloney as an appropriate goodbye to their friend. The landmark recording is also filled with other brand new selections that exemplify and enhance the group’s traditional sound, rounded off through the distinctive artistry of harpist Triona Marshall and Spanish pipe virtuoso Carlos Nuñez.
Throughout the years, the band has performed with countless established rock and jazz music stars including Sting, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, Natalie Merchant, Diana Krall, Art Garfunkel, Los Lobos, Loreena McKennitt and Tom Jones. They also recorded two albums with flutist James Galway.
The 2006 version of the Chieftains included Paddy Moloney on the Uilleann pipes and tin whistles; Kevin Conneff on bodhrán and vocals; Seán Keane on the fiddle; and Matt Molloy on the flute.
The Chieftains 1 (Claddagh Records CC 02, 1963)
The Chieftains 2 (Claddagh Records CC 07, 1969)
The Chieftains 3 (Claddagh Records CC 10, 1971)
The Chieftains 4 (Claddagh Records CC 14, 1973)
The Chieftains 5 (Claddagh Records CC 16, 1975)
The Chieftains 6: Bonaparte’s Retreat (Claddagh Records, 1976) The Chieftains 7 (Claddagh Records CC 24, 1977)
The Chieftains Live! (Claddagh Records CC 21, 1977)
The Chieftains 8 (CBS 35726, 1978) The Chieftains 9: Boil the Breakfast Early (Claddagh Records CC 30, 1979)
The Chieftains 10: Cotton-Eyed Joe (Claddagh Records CC 33, 1981)
The Year of the French (Claddagh Records CC36, 1982)
The Grey Fox (1982) (soundtrack to The Grey Fox)
Concert Orchestra (1982)
The Chieftains in China (Claddagh Records CC 42, 1985)
Ballad of the Irish Horse (Claddagh Records CCF, 1986)
Celtic Wedding (RCA 6358, 1987) In Ireland, with James Galway (1987) Irish Heartbeat, with Van Morrison (Polydor 834496, 1988)
The Tailor Of Gloucester (WD-0710, 1988)
A Chieftains Celebration (RCA 7858, 1989)
Over the Sea To Skye: The Celtic Connection (1990) (with James Galway)
The Bells of Dublin (RCA 60824, 1991)
Another Country (RCA 60939, 1992) An Irish Evening (RCA 60916, 1992)
The Celtic Harp: A Tribute To Edward Bunting, with The Belfast Harp Orchestra (RCA 61490, 1993) The Long Black Veil (RCA Victor 09026-62702-2, 1995)
Film Cuts (RCA Victor 09026-68438-2, 1996)
Santiago (RCA Victor 09026-68602-2, 1996)
Long Journey Home (1998)
Fire in the Kitchen (1998)
Silent Night: A Christmas in Rome (1998) Tears of Stone (1999)
Water From the Well (2000)
The Wide World Over (2002)
Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions (2002)
Further Down the Old Plank Road (Arista/BMG, 2003)
Live From Dublin: A Tribute To Derek Bell (2005) The Essential Chieftains (2006) San Patricio, with Ry Cooder (2010) Voice of Ages (2012)
Down The Old Plank Road TV special, filmed at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.
Founded by Sligo fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, Téada was formed in 2001 to make an appearance on the innovative Irish television series ‘Flosc’. Téada (meaning ‘strings’ in the Irish language) emerged as one of the most exciting and traditional young Irish bands of recent years. Since 2001, Téada has evolved to frequent headline performances at major music festivals throughout the United States of America, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.
The original line-up included Oisin Mac Diarmada (fiddle), John Blake (guitar, flute, piano), Seán McElwain (guitar/bouzouki), Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán) . With engaging textural arrangements, Téada, meaning “strings” in the Irish language revels in the vibrant traditional music of Ireland. Deftly playing up its structural intricacies while preserving the contagious energy inherent in the repertoire, the group strives to capture a sense of the rawness and individuality of the solo artist, within a modern group context.
The band released its debut album in Dublin and it reached the No. 1 position at Celtic Note, Dublin’s largest Irish Music store. A notable highlight was a headlining appearance to a 30,000-audience in Brittany during 2006, a year which also saw the band launch a hugely successful CD/DVD Inné Amárach, released by released by Gael Linn and Compass Records.
Téada won Irish Music Magazines Best New Traditional Irish Band of the Year Award for 2003.
2008 proved to be an extremely eventful year for the group, with a performance at Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada and a headlining appearance at the Penang World Music Festival in Malaysia. The group also received an invitation from the Irish Embassy in Rome to perform at a commemorative event marking the 400th anniversary of the landmark event in Irish history known as “The Flight of the Earls”.
Band Members in 2010: Oisin Mac Diarmada (fiddle), Paul Finn (button accordion), Damien Stenson (flute), Seán McElwain (guitar/bouzouki), Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán)
The String Sisters is a collaboration of the Celtic and Nordic music world’s top female fiddlers: Annbjørg Lien from Norway; Catriona Macdonald from Shetland; Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles from the United States of America; Mairead ni Mhaonaigh (Altan) from Ireland; and Emma Härdelin from Sweden.
The String Sisters began at Celtic Connections in January of 2001, when Catriona Macdonald saw one of her dreams become a reality by assembling some of the world’s top leading female fiddlers. Colin Hynd at Celtic Connections grabbed the chance to premiere the event at his festival, and the experience was nothing short of earth shattering for all who participated. The Glasgow concert was a great success and the project was rebooked for the following year. However, despite the repeated success, the Sisters were not since been able to reunite prior to undertaking a grand tour of Norway in 2005.
During the winter of 2005, the sisters went on tour in Norway, in cooperation with the Norwegian National Concerts, and Grappa Music Group. The tour was Annbjørg Lien’s initiative.
A live album and DVD recorded in Norway, titled Live, was released in 2007. The String Sisters were joined by David Milligan on piano, Conrad Ivitsky on double bass, Tore Bruvoll on guitar, and James Mackintosh on drums and percussion.
Seán Óg Graham is from Portglenone, Co. Antrim, Ireland. He’s one of Ireland’s best button accordion players. Seán Óg Graham has achieved numerous All-Ireland titles and is also a gifted, self-taught guitarist.
Seán Óg Graham has several television appearances to his credit, and has appeared as guest soloist with the Irish Harp Orchestra, the Canadian Youth Orchestra and Alan Kelly’s ‘Celtic Legends’ show. He has recorded with various Irish musicians and recently he has been accompanying Solas members Winifred Horan and Mick McAuley at their ‘Serenade’ concerts in Ireland and Europe.
Seán Óg is also a talented composer. He’s a graduate of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at Limerick University, where he has been guided by oustanding musicians.
Oisín Mac Diarmada was born in 1978 in County Clare, Ireland. He learned how to play the fiddle at a young age. Oisín later moved to Co. Sligo where he developed a deep interest in the playing style of the North Connacht region. He won various competitions for young musicians.
His first solo album, “Ar an bhFidil” (Green Linnet) was released in 2003. Oisín is one of the founders of acclaimed contemporary Irish folk music group Téada. Oisín is also a regular solo performer and appears as guest soloist with various other acts.
Oisín was awarded a Research Studentship by Dundalk Institute of Technology, pursuing postgraduate studies under the direction of Dr. Fintan Vallely in the area of “Political Identity & Movement to Music”.
Mick Moloney, a native of County Limerick (Ireland) has been living in the United States since 1973. He holds a PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania and currently teaches at New York University in the Irish Studies Program at Glucksman Ireland House.
Moloney has recorded and produced over fifty albums of traditional music and acted as advisor for scores of festivals and concerts all over the United States. Additionally, Moloney has hosted three nationally syndicated series on folk music for American Public Television; acted as a consultant and performer on the Irish Television special Bringing It All Back Home and was a participant, consultant and music arranger of the PBS documentary film, Out of Ireland.
In 1999 he was awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2002 authored Far From the Shamrock Shore: The Story of Irish American History Through Song.
His Compass Records release highlighting the songs of old New York, McNally’s Row of Flats, won the best traditional music album of the year award from The Irish Echo in 2006 and in 2007 was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air.
There’s always a bit of a letdown when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around. Instead of celebrating a culture filled with the Celts’ vibrant art and mythology, grand writers and even grander musicians, I get goofy leprechaun graphics, cheap, green beer specials and dreadful Irish brogues hawking everything from Celtic-inspired party favors to get lucky sweepstakes.
The general theme, whether it is a car dealership sale or your local St. Patrick’s Day parade, seems to dictate everything be painted bright green, decorated with dippy looking leprechauns and the occasional fake pot of gold. Now, I’m okay with taking on faeries, because little people with wings flying around are just wrong. Get a fly swatter or a can of Raid because I’m pretty sure faeries are carriers or rabies or Lyme disease. Unfortunately, much of the music doesn’t get much better with cheap knockoffs of pub bands or the not quite Enya singers. The good news is that I can do a little something about music with a few suggestions for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Tara Music has re-released Fuaim by Clannad. Hailing from County Donegal in North West Ireland, this is the real deal in Celtic music. This reissue allows listeners to revisit Clannad’s early years and wallow in the goodness of “Na Buachailli Alainn,” “La Brea Fan Dtuath,” “Strayed Away” and “The Green Fields Of Gaothdobhair.”
Speaking of re-releases, Real World Records has pulled some goodies off the shelves for reissue like Peter Gabriel’s Big Blue Ball. Guess as the founder or Real World, Mr. Gabriel has got a fair amount of pull. While more of a world music fusion project than a strict Celtic recording, Big Blue Ball slips in some offerings like “Deep Forest,” “Rivers” and “Altus Silva” that are well worth snagging.
Pulling some other gems from the shelves Real World has reissued Anatomic, Seed, Volume 1: Sound System, Volume 2: Release, Volume 3: Further in Time, Capture 1995-2010 and Pod all from the Afro Celt Sound System catalog. Again, there’s a good deal of musical cross pollination with other genres, but don’t overlook tracks like “When I Still Needed You,” “Beautiful Rain,” “Mother,” “Drake,” “Seed,” “Nevermore,” “The Other Side,” “Colossus” and “Go on Through.” The Afro Celt Sound System sound remains timeless.
This Day Too: Music From Irish America by Terence, Michael and Jesse Winch has a friendly Irish bar feel. Out of the Washington, DC area, the Winch brothers get some help by way of fellow musicians and singers Patrick Armstrong, Tina Eck, Eileen Estes, Brian Gaffney, Conor Hearn, Seamus Kennedy, Nita Conley Korn, Zan McLeod, Brendan Mulvihill, Connor Murray, Dominick Murray and Madeline Waters. And just by the names, that’s a whole lot of Irish. This Day Too: Music from Irish America offers up tracks like “The Wonder Hornpipe/Austin Tierney’s/The Thunder Reel,” “Lally’s Alley/Cat’s Tail & Gravy,” “Earl’s Chair/The Green Groves of Erin/Sailor on the Rock” and “In Memory of Michael Coleman/Hughie’s Cap/Forget Me Not.”
Arc Music has put out Celtic Mystery with tracks by artists like Ron Korb, Altan, Noel McLoughlin and Golden Bough.
Real World Records has another reissue on tap this year with Martyn Bennett’s Grit. This was a stunning release and time hasn’t diminished it in any way. Fierce and explosive, Grit is razor-edged fusion that astonishes as much as it entertains. You should check out tracks like “Blackbird,” “Chanter,” “Why” and “Ale House.”
Looking for something on the sweetly folksy side, you might want to check out Midnite String Quartet’s Celtic Heartstrings out on the Roma Music Group label. There are some sweet string versions of “The Blood of Cu Chulainn,” “The Irish Rover” and “Carrickfergus.”
This year seems to be the year of the reissue and as luck would have it Robin Williamson’s Glint At The Kindling/Five Bardic Mysteries/Robin Williamson reissue is out this year. Tracks off the Glint at the Kindling featuring Mr. Williamson, as well as Sylvia Woods, Chris Caswell and Jerry McMillan or better known as the Merry Band and tracks from his 1985 spoken word release Five Bardic Mysteries sports such tracks as “The Road the Gypsies Go,” “The Woodcutter’s Song,” “Lough Foyle,” “The Dialogue of the Two Sages” and “Three Celtic Nature Poems.”
Golden Bough wraps up their sound in the goodness of Celtic harp, violin, accordion, mandolin, bouzouki, guitars, tin whistle and bodhran. Their offering Celtic Festival jaunty nod to St. Patrick’s Day.
If that’s not to your liking you could always check out Noel McLoughlin’s Song for Ireland is out on re-release.
As if The Dubliners needed any additional introduction, Arc Music has the goods on this Irish standard and has put out a special 2-CD set of The Dubliners with Luke Kelly. This compilation features such tracks as “Song for Ireland,” “The Sun is Burning,” “Free the People,” “Donegal Danny,” “Now I’m Easy,” “Whack Fol de Diddle” and “Irish Rover.”
Newfolk Records has put out Beoga’s Before We Change Our Mind and Tallymoore’s Drive for your listening pleasure. Either by single track or full recording, these two bands shouldn’t be overlooked.
Celtic music favorite Kila’s Kila Alive out and is a kick in the pants and will have dancing on the tabletops faster than the green beer special with offering like “Mutatu,” “Electric Landlady,” “Babymouse” and “Raise the Road.” If that weren’t incentive enough Alan Doherty is a guest on the recording.
Released in 2016 Deliverance by The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc is a stunning CD. Combining the fiddling traditions of Norway, Sweden and the Shetland Islands, Deliverance is simply spectacular with tracks like “Talons Trip to Thompson Island,” “Flinken” and “Da Scallowa Lasses/Lorna’s Reel” to snare your inner fiddler.
The clever Celtic band West of Mabou put out West of Mabou in December of 2016, but shouldn’t be overlooked. The group offer up jaunty numbers like “Rannie MacLellan,” “The Foxhunter,” “Slip Jigs” and a plummy “Temperance Reel/Devil’s Dream.”
For you hard rocking Celtic fans The Rumjacks’ latest release Sleepin’ Rough was release last year, but you might want to check your local music scene because the band is on tour in the US in March and April.
Finally, there is the double CD/DVD set Affinity by Atlas. Lovely and atmospheric, Affinity is a lushly masterful collection of music by guitarist Cillian Doheny and concertina player Cillian King with fellow musicians Maria Ryan, Lucia Mac Partlin, Sean Warren, Michael Shimmin and Nicky Scott.. Don’t miss this one.
Should you find yourself sitting in a bar somewhere wearing a cheesy shamrock hat, surrounded by paper leprechauns and drinking green beer while listening to a Celtic Goth band murder “Whiskey in the Jar,” just remember that the Celtic spirit takes many forms. And, if approached by faeries grab a shoe!
Ireland’s all-star quintet Lúnasa has become one of the most sought-after bands on the international Irish music scene. The band’s inventive arrangements and bass-driven grooves are steering Irish acoustic music into surprising new territory. Lúnasa made their worldwide Green Linnet debut in October 1999 with their release Otherworld.
From the start, Lúnasa met with instant acclaim. Their first, self-produced album became an immediate best seller in Ireland, topping Hot Press’ folk charts. International festivals across Europe, Japan and Australia included a main-stage performance in summer 1999 at London’s Guinness Fleadh. On their first American visit, word-of-mouth led to sold-out shows and rave reviews.
Named for an ancient Celtic harvest festival in honor of the Irish god Lugh, patron of the arts, Lúnasa is indeed a gathering of some of the top musical talents in Ireland. Its members have helped formed the backbone of some of the greatest Irish groups of the decade.
Bassist Trevor Hutchinson was a key member of The Waterboys, and later he and guitarist Donogh Hennessy would form the dynamic rhythm section of The Sharon Shannon Band. Fiddler Seán Smyth is an All-Ireland champion who has played with Dónal Lunny’s Coolfin; and Kevin Crawford, considered to be among the finest flutists in Ireland, also plays with the acclaimed traditional group Moving Cloud.
Add to this Otherworld’s guest performers (and original Lúnasa members) uilleann piper John McSherry (Coolfin) and flutist Michael McGoldrick (Capercaillie), and touring member piper Cillian Vallely (of the same talented musical family as brother Niall Vallely of Nomos) and you have the makings of a powerful new band.
Like the younger generation of Nashville musicians such as Béla Fleck or Edgar Meyer, pushing the boundaries of bluegrass into jazz and beyond, Lúnasa arehave been redefining Irish music by going right to the heart of its rhythms. With its distinctive use of the upright acoustic bass — brought front and center by Hutchinson’s remarkable playing — teamed with Hennessey’s percussive guitar, the group seeks out the essential heartbeat of a tune.
“There are lots of great melodies in Irish music but often people don’t hear the rhythms underneath,” says founding member Seán Smyth. “We try to relate the swing or energy out of the music, using new rhythms, letting each instrument add its own unique layer. We’ll play the same tune over and over searching for the groove, exploring it. We let the music find its pulse.”
The result is a sound that, though distinctly Irish in flavor, touches on jazz and other improvisational music forms. Inspired by Ireland’s great 1970s group The Bothy Band, Lúnasa use melodic interweaving of wind and string instruments, pairing flutes, fiddle, whistle and pipes in often breathtaking arrangements.
“I had a vision of the type of music I wanted to create,” says Seán. “In my books, the most influential band was the Bothy Band, who were flute, pipes and fiddle based.”
Seeds for Lúnasa were planted when Seán hooked up with Trevor and Donogh for a short tour of Scandinavia in late1996. The trio clicked so well that back in Ireland, they brought in John McSherry and Michael McGoldrick to record some concerts. A tour of Australia in January 1997 brought Kevin on board, and the band began to take off.
“The response when we started playing at home was just great,” adds Seán. Within several months, they were filling venues with spellbound audiences in Ireland, and began to expand their tours to other parts of the world. After a particularly memorable concert at Matt Molloy’s, a renowned music pub in the West of Ireland, owned by the former-Bothy Band and Chieftains flutist. Molloy himself gave the new band his blessing, remarking “they remind me of a band I used to play with!”
At the end of 1997, the band released their first CD Lúnasa, a mix of concert and studio tracks gathered from their prolific year together. It was immediately hailed as one of the finest, freshest recordings of Irish music in years, called “moving, pulsating, and thrilling to the very marrow” by Folk Roots and “a true must-have disc” by the Irish Voice.
Otherworld, the exciting second album from Lúnasa, is a stunning cycle of instrumentals that captures all the performance intensity for which they’re widely acclaimed. The album impressively fulfills the promise of its title, taking listeners to a realm of Irish music full of imaginative leaps and blazing skill.
original members were Seán Smyth on fiddle and whistle; Kevin Crawford on flute, whistle, and bodhrán; Trevor Hutchinson on bass; Donogh Hennessy on guitar; and Cillian Vallely on uilleann pipes and low whistle. Guitarist Ed Boyd replaced Donogh Hennessy in 2012.
Keyboardist Liam Bradley from Tobermore, Co. Derry is known throughout the world for his music for Irish dancing. He has produced recordings and provided accompaniment for major Irish Dancing events, including the All Ireland, American and Australian National Championships and the World Championships.
His music has been used for many shows and performances, from the Royal Albert Hall, Áras an Uachtaráin and the White House, to a ‘Barney the Dinasaur’ DVD. He also arranged the music for the RTE television series “Rising Steps”