Artist Profiles: The Chieftains

The Chieftains


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.”


The Chieftains


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.


The Chieftains


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.

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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