Tag Archives: Celtic music

Artist Profiles: Heidi Talbot

Heidi Talbot

Heidi Talbot (lead vocals & bodhran) was born and raised in Kill, County Kildare, Ireland. Her mother Rosaleen is a singer, pianist and the music director of the local church where Heidi sang as a young girl. Heidi learned to play the guitar at age 12, and soon found herself singing and playing at local sessions.

At sixteen, she enrolled at Dublin’s celebrated Bel Canto singing school, studying for the next year and a half under its founder and director Frank Merriman – ‘the best teacher in the universe,’ according to Sinead O’Connor, another former student.

She later performed throughout Counties Kildare and Dublin, Ireland, and was invited to move to the United States by the popular Cara Band of New York. She spent two years honing her voice and style amidst the city’s vibrant musical melting-pot. She went on to record a highly acclaimed solo album, self-titled Heidi Talbot.

In 2002 Talbot was invited to join Cherish the Ladies and in between the band’s hectic touring schedule she continued to develop her solo work, releasing Distant Future in 2004 on the Nashville-based roots label Compass Records. Produced by John Doyle, the record featured such distinguished guests as multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, concertinist John Williams and fiddler Rayna Gellert. Three years later, the recording of In Love & Light coincided with her decision to leave Cherish at the end of 2007.

Drawing on the full, diverse spectrum of influences that inform her singing, Talbot released In Love & Light in February 2008. The CD includes guest contributions from Eddi Reader, ex-Solas guitarist John Doyle, fiddler John McCusker and flute/whistle ace Michael McGoldrick.


Heidi Talbot (2002)
Distant Future (2004)
In Love and Light (2008)
The Last Star (2010)
My Sister the Moon EP (2012)
Angels Without Wings (2013)
Here We Go 1, 2, 3 (Navigator Records, 2016)

with Cherish the Ladies:

On Christmas Night (2004)
Woman of the House (2005)


Artist Profiles: Kila


The Dublin-based jam band septet Kíla exploded onto the Irish music scene. The band has captivated audiences with transcendent performances fusing Celtic and world idioms. Their CD Tóg é Go Bog é (“Take it Easy”) went gold in Ireland with a top 20 pop single.

From the beginning, Kíla’s focus has been on original music, and their repertoire consists entirely of their own material. All seven band members are talented multi-instrumentalists and composers who have worked with such cutting-edge artists as Dead Can Dance and Hector Zazou. In addition, they have written extensively for film and television soundtracks. The tunes are built around traditional signatures, but wind their way down unexpected roads. Their Irish pop hit “Ón Taobh Tuathail Amach” (pronounced “on tave tulla mahk”) is an infectious Afro-reggae-Celtic chant heavy with percussion and horns.

Kíla began as a family affair about 10 years ago with the three brothers Ó Snodaigh (“o-snod-ah”), who were encouraged to form a traditional band in school. Rónán (vocals/bodhran), Colm (flute) and Rossa (bouzouki) Ó Snodaigh have been writing tunes, songs and poems in both English and Irish Gaelic from the time they were children. The band soon included Eoin Dillon on pipes and fiddler Dee Armstrong, who brought along the band’s other brother team, Lance (guitar) and Brian (bass) Hogan.

The band began to build a fan base in Ireland as an underground cult favorite. Their electrifying performances led by charismatic front man Rónán Ó Snodaigh began drawing hundreds of dancing fans. The Irish press soon took notice. Kíla’s first self-produced CD, Mind The Gap, came out in 1995 to rave reviews, The Irish Times hailing it as “a subversive musical intelligence at work.”

Major Celtic festivals in Europe began calling, and the band began making select appearances overseas. The band has performed at such major international venues as WOMAD festivals in Australia, New Zealand and Spain, the London Fleadh, WOMEX, the Vancouver and Winnipeg Folk Festivals, San Francisco Celtic Festival and SXSW.

Original Band Members

Rónán Ó Snodaigh (vocals, bodhrán, guitar, percussion)

Colm Ó Snodaigh (flute, whistles, vocals, saxophone, percussion)

Rossa Ó Snodaigh (bouzouki, bodhrán, didgeridoo, mandolin, djembe)

Lance Hogan (guitars, hammer dulcimer, vocals, percussion)

Brian Hogan (bass, vocals, percussion, guitar)

Dee Armstrong (fiddle, viola, accordion, bodhrán, vocals)

Eoin Dillon (uilleann pipes, whistles, vocals, percussion)


Mind The Gap (Kíla Records, 1995)
Tóg É Go Bog É (Kíla Records, 1997)
Lemonade & Buns (Kíla Records, 2000)
Live At Vicar St. Dublin ‎(Kíla Records, 2000)
Monkey! The Soundtrack ‎(Kíla Records, 2001)
Handel’s Fantasy (Kíla Records, 2001)
Luna Park (Kíla Records, 2003)
Live In Dublin ‎(Kíla Records, 2004)
Kíla & Oki ‎(Kíla Records, 2006)
Gamblers’ Ballet (Kíla Records, 2007)
Once Upon A Time (Kíla Records, 2008)
The Secret Of Kells (Kíla Records, 2009)
Rogha – The Best Of Kíla (Kíla Records, 2009)
Soisín ‎(Kíla Records, 2010)
Song Of The Sea ‎(Mercury 2014)
Suas Sios (Kíla Records, 2015)
Alive (Kíla Records, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Moya Brennan

Moya Brennan

Máire Brennan, better known as Moya Brennan is best known as the lead singer of Clannad, a group largely made up of Brennan family members. Her haunting voice adds an ethereal quality to the unique sound that the band have developed over two decades, winning them many accolades and awards in the process.

Moya has been singing since she was a child in Donegal in northwest Ireland – an area renowned for its rich musical heritage. Her mother teaches music and her father, after years leading a show band, now performs nightly in the Brennan family pub.

Moya and two of her brothers, Pol and Ciaran played their first shows with uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan in the 1970s. All the band members spoke Gaelic as their first language, and their commercial chances seemed modest. However, they made a breakthrough record, Theme From Harry’s Game in 1982, which reached number five in the UK charts, and appeared on the ‘Patriot Games’ soundtrack ten years later.

In 1986, the Clannad release, In A Lifetime, found Moya sharing vocals with Bono from U2. A compilation, Pastpresent, reached number five in the UK albums chart in 1989. The band won a Grammy Award (for 1997’s Landmarks), and provided the theme music to Last Of The Mohicans and Robin Of Sherwood, while Moya also sang the theme to Circle Of Friends in 1995.

Moya has also collaborated with a host of well known musicians, including Paul Young, Bruce Hornsby, Joe Jackson, Robert Plant, Shane McGowan Paul Brady and Russell Watson. In 1999 she scored a worldwide hit with Chicane on ‘Saltwater’.

Her autobiography, The Other Side of the Rainbow (2000), was a powerful and honest account of music, fame, misfortune, love and spirituality.

The Two Horizons project, released in 2004, produced 80 minutes of music that Moya and producer Ross Cullum were happy with. In the final stages, Chris Hughes came in to oversee the final editing of the record, lending fresh ears and experience to shaping the finished product.

It was a monumental task bringing the album down to its final running time but we’ve encapsulated the essence of what we started with.’ Moya said.

The same degree of synergy carried Two Horizons through photo sessions and designers. Artwork and costumes echo the Two Horizons theme and soulfulness of the music. Everyone seemed to appreciate and understand the project’s broad picture, much to Moya’s satisfaction.

I think it’s the best thing I’ve done,’ she enthused. ‘I’m loving it. I’ve never heard my voice sound the way it does now. The production is fantastic and the harp sounds amazing, which is very much a part of what the record is about.’

Moya used her new record to celebrate the Irish harp in her own personal scheme. Coming from Donegal, in the North West of Ireland she had learned to play the harp as a schoolgirl and it was the start of an enduring love. However, she was often reluctant to highlight her playing in public. She felt that the harp was over-exposed ? a national emblem, often degraded by the advertising trade. Even with Clannad, a group that has drawn from the deep wells of Irish tradition, there has been a rather coy attitude to the harp. Not so this time.

Moya started this project in the summer of 2001. From an early stage, she’d been convinced that this record should have some kind of a narrative. To this extent, she was encouraged by her new record company and particularly by Max Hole, a key figure at Universal International. Moya started working on storyboards, aiming to thread a series of songs around a defined theme.

She was thinking about Ireland’s past, and her reading included the blind harpist, Turlough O’ Carolan. She was also fascinated by the global use of harp music in many of the world’s traditional cultures and possible Irish connections, for instance, the kora harp in West Africa. Meanwhile a close friend was researching the ancient site of Tara, where, according to legend, the High Kings of Ireland met in pursuit of reconciliation and sublime art.

The title Two Horizons was partly inspired by a visit to the site of Tara. She’d arrived just before dawn, and when she ascended the hill, the moon was on one horizon, and directly opposite, the sun was on the rise. Here it was, a perfect metaphor for the past and the future, a place where music, memories and myth could all take shape.

Moya split her recording sessions between her home studio near Dublin and that of her producer, Ross Cullum, in London. Ross had previously worked on records by Tori Amos, Tears For Fears, and even Moya’s sister, Enya. They began writing together, and on the track ‘Bright Star’, Moya was so inspired that she produced the words and vocal lines in two hours. Also, Ross was finding new ways to frame Moya’s voice. ‘He was careful not to take my music out of its context,’ she notes. ‘But he also gave a modern, rhythmical aspect to it.’

The energy of the project kept bringing her back to the harp and so the instrument appeared on a series of tracks. It also became an important motif in the theme ? a quest through time and landscape to find the legendary harp that played at Tara. At a certain stage in recording the album Moya felt that the storyline had become too specific. She then decided to make things more open to interpretation. ‘When people talk to me about what Clannad’s music has done to them,’ she explains, ‘they say that they put the record on and they form their own pictures and feelings and emotions. So I wanted to leave a certain amount to the imagination.’

Guest musicians on the album included folk giant Martin Carthy, Robbie McIntosh (sometime Paul McCartney guitarist) and old friend Anto Drennan, now working with The Corrs. Moya’s band also played live on some key sessions, while a wealth of traditional players included Maire Breatnach, Nigel Eaton and Troy Doneckley.

Moya has made great strides in her own career – in solo recordings, collaborations with other artists and as a producer. Her albums, Maire, Whisper to the Wild Water, Perfect Time, and Misty Eyed Adventures have been a major songwriting departure for Moya and have drawn on musical influences from around the world.


Máire (RCA, 1992)
Misty Eyed Adventures (RCA, 1994)
Perfect Time (Universal, 1998)
Whisper To The Wild Water (Word Entertainment, 1999)
New Irish Hymns (Kingsway Music 2001)
Two Horizons (Universal, 2003)
An Irish Christmas (BEO Records, 2005)
Signature (BEO Records, 2006)
Heart Strings (BEO Records, 2008)
My Match Is A Makin’, with Cormac de Barra (2010)
T with the Maggies Compass Records, 2010)
Voices & Harps, with Cormac de Barra (2011)
Affinity, with Cormac de Barra (2013)
Canvas ‎(BEO Records, 2017)

Live albums

2005 – Óró – A Live Session
2007 – Signature Special Tour Edition
2008 – Heart Strings


Artist Profiles: Donal Clancy

Donal Clancy

Donal Clancy was born in Canada in 1975 and later moved to Ireland. He has been involved with the best bands in Irish music, starting out in Clancy, O’Connell, and Clancy with his father Liam and his cousin Robbie O’Connell, helping to found the band Danú and them moving on to become part of Eileen Ivers Band before taking a pivotal spot playing guitar with one of the hottest Irish and Irish American bands around, Solas. When it was time to make a change, he found his old band Danú in need of a guitar player again, and that’s still one of his main gigs.


Close to Home (Compass, 2006)
Songs of a Roving Blade (2014)
On the Lonesome Plain (2018)


Artist Profiles: Davy Spillane

Davy Spillane

Davy Spillane, of County Clare, Ireland, plays the uilleann pipes, an unusual Celtic bagpipe whose bellows are held under the arms and inflated by wing-like motion. He was the featured instrumentalist in the original production, album and video of Riverdance. Spillane was a founding member of Moving Hearts, and has recorded with Van Morrison, Steve Winwood and Elvis Costello, among others.


Atlantic Bridge (Tara Music, 1987)
Out of the Air (Tara Music, 1988)
Shadow Hunter (Tara Music,1990)
Pipedreams (Tara Music, 1991)
EastWind, with Andy Irvine (Tara Music,1992)
A Place Among The Stones (1994)
Calman The Dove, with Savourna Stevenson (1998)
The Sea of Dreams (Covert Records, 1998)
Forgotten Days, with Kevin Glackin (2001)
Deep Blue Sea (2004)
Between Longing & Belonging (2016)

With Moving Hearts

Moving Hearts (1981)
Dark End of the Street (1982)
The Storm (1985)
Live Hearts (1986)
Live in Dublin (2008)


Artist Profiles: Aoife Clancy

Aoife Clancy

Aoife Clancy had little idea of the extent other father and uncles’ international stardom as The Clancy Brothers while she was growing up in the small Irish town of Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary. Sure, she was taught to play banjo and guitar by her father Bobby by the time she was ten and started singing in pubs with him by age 12. “He was and still is a great inspiration and always encouraged me to continue singing…I owe him a lot,” she says. And, yes, after a year of studying drama in Dublin at the Gaiety School of Acting, she was invited to tour Australia, singing at festivals and concerts that featured some of Ireland’s greatest musicians, including Christy Moore and The Furey Brothers.

And then there was the Caribbean cruise performing with The Clancy Brothers, Aoife’s first appearance at the Milwaukee Irish Festival (the world’s largest gathering for Celtic music) and a seven-week tour of the United States with the renowned Paddy Noonan Show. But it wasn’t until Aoife moved to the United States in 1992 that she understood the full measure of her family’s widespread popularity. “In Ireland, they were well known but didn’t tour there much,” she says. “But after coming to the States, I realized just how famous they actually are.”

Even if The Clancy Brothers’ renown came as a surprise, Aoife’s career choice was environmentally, and perhaps genetically, predetermined. “There was always plenty of music around when I was growing up,” she told the Boston Globe. “I suppose I have it in me; I can’t help it.” Other family members felt the musical pull as well.

Her brother Finbarr toured with The Clancy Brothers, her cousin Donal Clancy played with Solas, cousin Robbie O’Connell has his own solo career as well as playing with Clancy O’Connell Clancy and many other groups, and cousin Colm Power is also a professional musician and songwriter. After Aoife’s relocation to the United States of America, she recorded her first solo album, It’s About Time, for Rego Records in 1994, and embarked on a promising solo career.

She was soon invited to fill the lead vocalist’s role in the unique, all-female Irish-American sextet Cherish the Ladies, with whom she toured and recorded between August 1995 and April 2000. Aside from singing on five Cherish the Ladies albums released by RCA, Green Linnet, and their own Bigmama Records, Aoife and the group also contributed to the Boston Pops Orchestra’s 1998 Grammy-nominated The Celtic Album.

Early in her stay with Cherish, Aoife found the time to record a second solo record. Soldiers and Dreams. When Aoife left Cherish the Ladies to renew her solo career, she retained that guiding musical vision, amply displayed on her Silvery Moon CD. Whether the songs she sings originate in the United Kingdom, Australia or Appalachia, Aoife’s seemingly effortless blend of warm, natural vocals, genre-defying instrumentation, and repertoire of classic and modem material deserves to make this Clancy Daughter a worthy inheritor of an iconic family name and an even broader following. Ireland Europe


It’s About Time (Rego Records, 1994)
Soldiers and Dreams (Rego Records, 2002)
Silvery Moon (Appleseed Recordings, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Eamonn Coyne

Éamonn Coyne

Éamonn Coyne, who now lives in Edinburgh is originally from Dublin (Ireland). He learned his playing from a variety of sources and is a member of the younger generation of Irish musicians.

In the music scene he has performed and recorded with a vast array of people including Siobhan and Tommy Peoples, The Wrigley Sisters (cds ‘Hunterland’ and ‘Mither o’ the Sea’), Eileen Ivers (Ex Riverdance), Sharon Shannon, Jonny Hardie (Old Blind Dogs) and Gavin Marwick (cd Blue Lamp), Russell’s House (cd ‘Russell’s House‘), and most recently Scottish international band Salsa Celtica (‘El Agua De La Vida‘ & ‘El Camino‘).

Along with traditional Irish music, Éamonn has a keen interest in other types of music including American country, old-time music, and jazz. His connection with the internationally renowned jazz/bluegrass 5-string banjo astronaut, and recent Grammy winner Alison Brown and her fabulous Quartet has embodied some of these interests.

Éamonn has played and toured with the Alison Brown Quartet (ABQ) over the last number of years at events including Celtic Connections 2001-2006, Shetland Folk Festival 2001 & 2005 a July 2001 tour of Ireland and an August 2001 tour in the USA. He also joined ABQ for Cambridge Folk Festival 2002 and Celtic Colours 2002, which Éamonn was returning to after playing at the first one in 1997.

His connection to country music was highlighted almost a decade ago when he met for the first time and recorded with notable bluegrass musicians, Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas. Also associated with that project, a Nashville special for TV, were renowned Irish musicians, Davy Spillane, Seán Keane (The Chieftains), and Philip Donnelly (Ex John Prine band & Nancy Griffith’s Blue Moon Orchestra).

Éamonn has toured extensively with solo projects and with different bands in places such as Russia, Estonia, United States of America, Cape Breton (Canada) and throughout Europe. As well as performing and touring regularly with Salsa Celtica, he has in the past toured with Russell’s House, Darth?n, and Stockton’s Wing.

Éamonn’s first solo CD, Through the Round Window, on Compass Records, was released in the US on 13th August 2005. It is a work of banjo music and more featuring Éamonn on tenor banjo, mandolin, tenor guitar, 6-string guitar and tenor national steel guitar. Accompanying him on the CD are a host of luminaries of the Irish music scene and beyond including: Alison Brown, 5-string banjo; Dermot Byrne and Ciarán Curran of Altan; Kevin Doherty of Four Men and a Dog; Michael McGoldrick of Capercaillie; Tom Morrow of Dervish; and Ethna Coyne (nano) his grandmother.

Other guests on through the round window are: Kendrick Freeman, from California on snare; Jimmy Higgins of Galway also on snare drum; Russell Hunter of Edinburgh on piano; Pat Marsh from Clare on bouzouki and guitar; Paul O’Driscoll of Clare on bass; and Sandy Wright from Edinburgh on guitars and dobro.

Éamonn has also recorded with Russell’s House, a band based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Their first cd Russell’s House, was released in 1999. The band are Simon Bradley on fiddle, Éamonn Coyne on banjo, Sandy Wright on guitar & vocals and Russell Hunter on piano & fiddle. More info from www.russellshouse.co.uk.

Most recently Éamonn has been touring and recording with Salsa Celtica and their 4th album, El Camino.

Éamonn & Kris Drever (guitars, vocals, mandolin) have just finished a new CD ‘Honk Toot Suite’ which is due for release in Summer 2006.


Through the Round Window (Compass, 2002)
Honk Toot Suite (Compass, 2007)
Storymap (Reveal Records, 2013)


Artist Profiles: Celtic Fiddle Festival

an early lineup of Celtic Fiddle Festival

Celtic Fiddle Festival was initially Kevin Burke, Johnny Cunningham, Christian LeMaître, and Soig Siberil, representing Ireland, Scotland and Brittany. Burke, Cunningham and LeMaître were three of the finest fiddlers in the Celtic world, together with Brittany’s hottest guitarist, Soïg Sibéril, as accompanist .

In 1996 a completely new group was formed under the name Celtic Fiddle Festival II. The new group was formed by Martin Hayes (Ireland), Natalie MacMaster (Cape Breton, Canada) and Brian McNeill (Scotland), with guitarists Dennis Cahill and Tony McManus.

The original line-up of Kevin Burke, Johnny Cunningham, and Christian LeMaître came back in the year 2000. The onstage camaraderie of these three attracted and delighted leagues of new fans all over Europe and the USA, from Folk to Classical enthusiasts. Cunningham performed the most incredible feats of digital acrobatics on his fiddle whilst at the same time delighting audiences with his huge sense of fun. Burke’s dryer sense of humor was nevertheless relentless as he feeds the audience a feast of Irish delicacies with his fluid finger work, and Le Maître’s seductive Breton dance tunes, both rhythmic and beautiful were backed delightfully by Sibéril.

After the unexpected passing of founding member Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, in December 2003, fiddlers Kevin Burke (Ireland) and Christian Lemaitre (Brittany) along with guitarist Ged Foley were left with an unimaginable hole to fill in their hearts and in their lineup. The band made the difficult decision to play on, and invited the young French-Canadian fiddler Andre Brunet (of La Bottine Souriante) to join them. “The news of Johnny’s death was heartbreakingly sad and it did not seem possible that the Celtic Fiddle Festival could continue without him,” said founding member Kevin Burke. “Yet once the initial pain and sadness subsided a little, we started to think that Johnny would have been horrified at the idea of us calling it quits! After much soul searching we decided to ask Andre if he would like to join us on the upcoming tour.

On tour, Brunet’s lively Quebecois dance tunes and contagious enthusiasm lifted both tempos and spirits. At the end of a tour in March 2004, the group recorded three shows in Portland, Oregon. The result was a new CD, Play On (Green Linnet GLCD 1230), the fourth album by Celtic Fiddle Festival. It is dedicated to the memory of Johnny.

“Once the tour got under way,” Burke continues. “It became quickly evident that inviting Andre along was an inspired decision. There was great excitement in the music, we enjoyed each others playing immensely and it was evident from the audience response that they too felt they were witnessing something special.

Celtic Fiddle Festival in 2014


Celtic Fiddle Festival (Green Linnet, 1993)
Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore (Green Linnet, 1998)
Rendezvous (Green Linnet, 2001)
Play on (2005)
Équinoxe (2008)
Live in Brittany – 20th Anniversary Concert (2013)
Storm In A Teacup (Loftus Music, 2016)


Sharon Shannon’s Globetrotting Songs

Sharon Shannon – Sacred Earth (Celtic Collections, 2017)

Irish accordionist is a masterful musician who is comfortable playing traditional music as well as exploring the musics from various world traditions. On Sacred Earth, Sharon Shanon collaborates with guitarist Justin Adams and kora player Seckou Keita who introduce an African element, incorporating West African sounds and Saharan blues.

There is still plenty of lively and melancholic Celtic music from Ireland and other lands as well, such as the wonderful Frenchie’s Reel that comes from northeastern North America and features the 6 great Shetland fiddlers.

Sacred Earth also features unexpected songs like the nostalgic American country-inspired “He’ll Have to Go” featuring Finbar Furey; an annoying hip hop song; and a great blues track featuring bluesman Greg Guy (Buddy Guy’s son), Australian duo Hat Fitz and Cara and harmonica Majiec Zawarone.

Sacred Earth is a masterfully-crafted album where traditional virtuoso Irish accordion meets the sounds of the globe.

Buy Sacred Earth


Golden Harps of Galicia

Rodrigo Romaní Trío – Fios de ouro no ár (Altafonte, 2018)

Spanish musician Rodrigo Romaní is one of the leading harp players in Galicia. He’s one of the pioneers of contemporary Galician folk music, who co-founded the seminal band Milladoiro. On this occasion, he appears with a trio that includes fellow harp player Beatriz Martinez and Xulia Feixoo on percussion.

The album Fios de ouro no ár (Golden strings in the air) features original pieces and traditional songs as well. It’s a superb melodic album where folk harp meets classical music and contemporary acoustic music.

The exquisite chamber string quartet Cuarteto Novecento appears on two of the musical pieces.

Although the majority of the album is instrumental, two guest vocalists appear on two tracks: Inés Lorenzo and Guillerme Ignacio Costa.

Fios de ouro no ár is beautifully-constructed recording by one of leading composers in the Galician folk music scene.