Tag Archives: Irish music

Artist Profiles: Sephira

Sephira

Sephira is comprised of two classically trained Irish musicians who have forged their own musical niche combining classical music and Irish traditional music: Joyce O’Leary (vocals/violin) and Ruth O’Leary.

Their unique sound can be compared to the emotional swells of a movie – sensational, dramatic, and filled with the full sweep of human passions.

Their debut album Believe was released in 2006 to critical acclaim.

Discography

Believe (Cicero Records, 2006)
Sephira (Cicero Records, 2008)
Starlight (Cicero Records, 2011)
Eternity (Cicero Records, 2013)

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Artist Profiles: Kevin Crawford

Kevin Crawford

Kevin Crawford is one of the exceptional flute players in Irish traditional music. Born in Birmingham, England and now living in his parent’s native County Clare, Kevin is known as the virtuosic flutist and frontman for the dynamic young Irish band Lunasa. His exhilarating playing was also key to the classic instrumental group Moving Cloud.

Following his acclaimed solo debut ‘D’Flute Album, Kevin wanted to make an album featuring fiddle-and-flute duets with some of his heroes, eight of Ireland’s legendary fiddlers. 7/7 Good Company features the cream of traditional fiddling: Tommy Peoples, Martin Hayes, Frankie Gavin, Tony Linnane, Conor Tully, James Cullinan, Manus McGuire of Moving Cloud and Scan Smyth of Lunasa.

I wanted to reintroduce myself to the musicians I played with when I first came over to Clare and to the tunes we used to play,” said Crawford. “When I’m away on the tour bus or the plane, these are the musicians I miss the most, wishing I was back in Clare playing tunes.”

Backed by guitarist Arty McGlynn, bodhran player Jim Higgins, and Moving Cloud keyboardist Carl Hession, Crawford showcases the vitality and virtuosity of these fiddlers. He strips back the layers of today’s musical technology to reach a core sound, the “pure drop” of fiddle and flute embraced in the unalloyed joy of playing.

Discography:

The Maid of Eirin, with Grianán (1993)
Raise The Rafters (1995)
‘D’ Flute Album (Green Linnet, 1995)
Moving Cloud, with Moving Cloud (1995)
Foxglove, with Moving Cloud (1998)
In Good Company (Green Linnet, 2001)
A Breath of Fresh Air (Green Linnet, 2007)
On Common Ground, with Cillian Vallely (2009)
Carrying the Tune (2012)
The Drunken Gaugers (2017)

with Lúnasa

* Lúnasa (1998)
* Otherworld (Green Linnet Records 1200, 1999)
* The Merry Sisters of Fate (Green Linnet 1213, 2001)
* Redwood (Green Linnet, 2003)
* The Kinnitty Sessions (Compass Records, 2004)
* (Compass Records, 2006)
* Lá Nua (2010)
* Lúnasa With The RTÉ Concert Orchestra (Lunasa Records, 2013)
* Cas (Lunasa Records, 2018)

with The Drunken Gaugers

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Artist Profiles: Anúna

Anúna

Twelve centuries of Ireland’s vocal tradition are explored by the chorale ensemble, Anúna. Best-known for their performance in Riverdance, the group combines songs in Middle English, Scots Gaelic, Irish, Breton, Medieval Irish, Latin, and Greek in their examination of ancient and contemporary Irish music.

Anúna was founded by Dublin born composer Michael McGlynn in 1987. Their name is derived from the ancient Irish name `An Uaithne’ (collectively describing the three ancient types of Celtic music, Suantraí or lullaby, Geantraí or happy song, and Goltraí or lament).

Anúna explore the unique, beautiful and sometimes forgotten music and texts from ancient Ireland through Michael?s original works and his powerful arrangements of medieval and traditional music. Anúna is directed by Michael and his twin brother John McGlynn.

Anúna have performed all over the world, including the World Sacred Music Festival in Morocco, opening the prestigious Glasgow Celtic Connections Festival in 2000 and in 2004 they traveled with President Mary McAleese on her state visits to Argentina and Chile.

In 2005 the group toured Germany, the USA, the UK [20 dates], Portugal and in December they traveled to Japan to coincide with the Japanese release of their album Winter Songs.

Performance highlights have included the Meltdown Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall London with Elvis Costello and being the first Irish group to be invited to give the first ever Irish Prom at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 2004 they embarked on a major new recording deal with the US Record Company Koch Records, beginning with the release of the album Christmas Songs, and in 2005 they released Essential Anúna to coincide with their tour their. This album was re-titled for its Irish release to The Best of Anúna. In the UK this album, released on Universal Records went top 20 in the UK Classical Charts and top 5 in the Irish Charts. The album Deep Dead Blue was nominated for a Classical Brit Award in 2000.

In addition to performing and recording on their own, the group has worked with Sinead O’Connor, The Chieftains, Sting, Maire Brennan, and Elvis Costello.

Some of the ensemble’s earlier recordings were re-recorded, including 1994’s Invocation, re-recorded in 2002; 1993’s Anúna, re-recorded in 2005.

In 2017, Anúna released of three limited edition CDs: “A Christmas Selection” and “Anúna Selected 1987-2017″ Volumes I and II.” These compilations contain over 60 remastered tracks and several new pieces, including the epic “Look Away…”, a 14-minute composition that includes improvisation.

Discography

An Uaithne (1991)
Anúna (Celtic Heartbeat, 1993)
Invocation (Celtic Heartbeat, 1994)
Omnis (Celtic Heartbeat, 1995)
Deep Dead Blue (1996)
Behind the Closed Eye (1997)
Cynara (2000)
Winter Songs (2000)
Essential Anúna (2003)
The Best of Anúna (2005)
Essential Anúna (2005)
Sensation (Danú, 2006)
Celtic Dreams: Méav Ní Mhaolchatha with Anúna (Valley Entertainment, 2006)
Celtic Origins (2007)
Christmas Memories (2008)
Sanctus (Danú, 2009)
The Best of Anúna (2010)
Christmas with Anúna (Danú, 2010)
Illumination (Danú, 2012)
Illuminations (2014)
Revelation (2015)
A Christmas Selection (2017)
Selected 1987-2017 (2017)
Selected II 1987-2017 (2017)

DVDs

Invocations of Ireland (Danu, 2009)

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Artist Profiles: Liam O’Flynn

Liam O’Flynn

Master uilleann piper Liam O’Flyn, also known as Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born  September 15, 1945 in Kill, County Kildare, Ireland.  to musical parents.

Liam O’Flynn was born into what he described as “a very definite thing.” His father was a schoolmaster and fiddle player and his  mother, who played and taught piano, came from a family of famous musicians from Clare.

After a time on the tin whistle and a short period ‘scraping’ at a small violin, Liam finally got started on the uilleann pipes. He had an obvious gift for this most  complicated instrument, and was encouraged by all around him, notably by the Kildare piper Tom Armstrong. At the age of eleven, he received master-classes with Leo Rowsome.

In his teens, Liam and his pipes began to attend music sessions in the Kildare village of Prosperous. There, for the first time, he met many of the people with whom he would later make his name and tour the concert-halls of the world. These were musicians like Christy Moore, Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine with whom, in the early seventies, Liam formed the legendary folk band Planxty. One of Ireland’s most important and influential groups, Planxty brought a style, innovation and ‘cool’ to Irish music which was to lead directly to the many Irish musical success stories during the decades that followed.

Behind the innovation and experimentation, Liam O’Flynn always managed to remain true to the great piping tradition. He took his instrument into previously unexplored territory – be it as a member of Planxty, as a soloist with an orchestra or working with artists as diverse as John Cage, The Everly Brothers, Van Morrison and Kate Bush.

Liam O’Flynn was one of Ireland’s greatest musicians . He died March 14, 2018.

Discography:

Planxty (Polydor, 1973)
The Well Below the Valley, with Planxty (Polydor, 1973)
Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, with Planxty (Polydor, 1974)
The Planxty Collection (Polydor, 1974)
After The Break, with Planxty (Tara, 1979)
The Woman I Loved So Well, with Planxty (Tara, 1980)
Words and Music, with Planxty (WEA, 1983)
Liam O’Flynn (Tara Records, 1988)
The Fine Art of Piping (Tara Records, 1991)
Out to an Other Side (Tara Records, 1993)
The Given Note (Tara Records, 1995)
The Piper’s Call (Tara Records, 1999)

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The Gloaming to Release Live Album

To celebrate their upcoming sold-out residency at Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Irish music superband The Gloaming plans to release Live at the NCH, a live album recorded at the venue that has become their home from home. The album will be available on March 2, 2018 on CD, LP and digital formats.

To put Live at the NCH together Thomas Bartlett, the band’s producer and pianist Thomas Bartlett, reviewed two years of performances and chose six tracks: ‘The Booley House’, ‘Cucanandy’, ‘The Sailor’s Bonnet’, ‘The Pilgrim’s Song’, ‘The Rolling Wave’ and ‘Fáinleog’.

These performances are extended and wander in unexpected new directions, incorporating new tunes and rearranging old ones. The Gloaming is Iarla Ó Lionáird (vocals), Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (hardanger d’amore), Dennis Cahill (guitar), Martin Hayes (fiddle) and Thomas Bartlett (piano).

Preorder Live at the NCH in the rest of the world

Preorder Live at the NCH in Europe

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Artist Profiles: Tommy Martin

Tommy Martin

Tommy Martin was born in Dublin, Ireland and currently lives in the United States. He took his first uilleann pipes lesson from Dublin piper Mick O’Brien, a cousin, in 1984 at the age of 12. By 1988 with the great help of Mick’s tuition and guidance he won first place at the Annual Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in the 15-18 age group uilleann pipes competition and again in 1991 in the senior competition.

From his late teens Tommy has been very much involved in encouraging traditional Irish music especially uilleann pipes by teaching younger musicians around Ireland at Tionol and Scoil Eigse.
His professional career started in 1996 when he took a job organizing and playing at Irish music nights in Irish pubs in Hong Kong. This led to more work in Asian cities such as Kuala Lumpur Jakarta Singapore and Tokyo over the following years.

A highlight for Tommy was playing support to Shooglenifty at the Hong Kong Folk Festival in 1996.

Back in Europe Tommy’s talent and experience took him to perform in almost every mainland country. Performances have varied from solo uilleann pipes performances to playing with 5 piece folk bands and have been as diverse as being an uilleann pipes tutor in New Zealand to performing with “Riverdance” in New York to performing with the Chicago Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra.

Tommy is also an experienced uilleann pipes teacher. He has tutored students all over Ireland England New Zealand and now the US. Tommy was teacher of the advanced uilleann pipes class in Na Piobairi Uilleann Dublin up until he moved to St Louis, Missouri in 2003. His first solo CD Uilleann Piper was released in 2000 and Tommy can be also heard on 12 other albums as a guest musician.

Tommy’s second album, Shady Woods came out in December 2005. That month he also toured as a guest with traditional band Teada as they celebrated their Irish Christmas in America tour. Other guests were Grainne Hambly on harp and singer Cathie Ryan.

Tommy now lives in St. Louis, where he now teaches fiddle flute and uilleann pipes. He also makes tin whistles and uilleann pipes.

Discography:

Uilleann Piper (2000)

Shady Woods (2005)

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Screaming Orphans in the Taproon

Screaming Orphans – Taproom

Screaming Orphans – Taproom (The Screaming Orphans, 2017)

Screaming Orphans is a talented all-sister quartet from Donegal, Ireland that plays a mix of traditional Celtic music, rock and pop. On Taproom, the Diver sisters deliver recreations of traditional songs as well as original material.

The band’s sound is characterized by instrumental virtuosity and strong harmony vocals, combining acoustic Irish folk-leaning songs and tunes with rock and pop hooks as well as some bluegrass influences.

The artists featured on Taproom include Angela Diver on bass, fiddle, vocals; Gráinne Diver on acoustic guitar, piano, vocals; Joan Diver on drums, bodhran, vocals; Marie Thérèse Diver on keyboards, accordion, vocals; Scooter Muse on banjo; Eric Rigler on uileann pipes and low whistle; Nick Watson percussion; and Trevor Tanner on acoustic and electric guitar.

Buy Taproom

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Artist Profiles: John Williams

John Williams

John Williams was born in Chicago in 1967. He is a third generation concertina and button accordion player from both sides of the family. His father Brendan and his grandfather Johnny Williams were noted musicians in their native Doolin County Clare where concertina is most often the instrument of choice. There was no shortage of traditional music around the house as he was growing up. He began playing in sessions around Chicago encouraged by such musical residents as the late Johnny McGreevy flutists Seamus Cooley and Kevin Henry and uilleann piper Joe Shannon.

John developed a maturity in his playing rarely heard in one so young. The adjudicators sensed it in 1989 when they awarded him the Senior All-Ireland championship for concertina making him the first American ever to win that honor. His subsequent summers in Doolin served to widen his repertoire and associate him with some of Ireland?s most respected musicians.

As a founding member of the groundbreaking band Solas Williams received wider recognition playing to sold out audiences internationally and earning two NAIRD (later called AFIM) awards and Grammy nominations for the ensemble’s 1996 and 1997 releases Solas and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers.

The Irish national broadcasting network RTE has featured Williams as the subject of the radio program The Long Note the television series The Pure Drop and the Christmas special Geantrai.

His album Steam features Dean Magraw and Randal Bays former Solas bandmates Seamus Egan and John Doyle fiddler Liz Carroll as well as Chicago jazz greats Larry Gray on bass and Paul Wertico on percussion.

Outside traditional music John has collaborated on productions with Gregory Peck Doc Severinson Studs Terkel Mavis Staples jazz pianist Bob Sutter bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien director Sam Mendes the London Symphony Orchestra and the Irish Chamber Ensemble. Audiences nationwide recognize Williams from numerous appearances on Mountain Stage A Prairie Home Companion and The Grand Ol’ Opry as well as guest performances with The Chieftains Nickel Creek and Riverdance.

On film he appears as a bandleader music consultant and composer in Dreamworks’ classic Chicago thriller Road to Perdition. Centrally featured in the Academy Award-Nominated score by Thomas Newman Williams’ autumnal Perdition Piano Duet was released on the 22 Universal soundtrack album as performed in the film by stars Paul Newman and Tom Hanks.

In August 2003 Chicago Magazine selected Williams in their annual Best of Chicago issue as one of the city’s finest instrumentalists. He recorded a collaborative album Raven with composer and guitarist Dean Magra.

Discography:

John Williams (Green Linnet Records 1157 1994)

Whistle on the Wind, with Joanie Madden (Green Linnet 1994)

Solas with Solas (Shanachie 1996)

Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, with Solas (Shanachie 1997)

Steam (Green Linnet 2001)

Raven (Compass Records 2006)

website: www.johnwilliamsmusic.com

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Artist Profiles: Karan Casey

Karan Casey – Photo by Robert Hakalski

As a member of Solas for several years, Karan Casey has been critically acclaimed from Japan to the United States as one of Ireland’s greatest singers.

In 1993 Karan emigrated to New York City and began a jazz degree in Brooklyn’s Long Island University. Making the rounds of the sessions in New York she was asked to join Atlantic Bridge. Later she joined Seamus Egan, Winifred Horan, John Doyle and John Williams to form the group Solas.

The band recorded three albums in just four years, and won NAIRD (former independent record industry association) indie awards for each. They played with Bela Fleck, Iris De Ment, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, The Chieftains, Donal Lunny, Sharon Shannon and Paul Winter while touring extensively in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Karan Casey’s solo career has flourished since her separation from the band Solas. Casey’s voice is among the most beautiful in Irish folk music, and she is a wonderful interpreter of both contemporary and traditional material. Her use of grace notes and vibrato has become remarkably subtle.

Her album Chasing the Sun successfully combines traditional but sharp-tongued songs – such as the epic unaccompanied ballad “Jimmy Whelan” – with contemporary material that reflects Casey’s rising status as one of Ireland’s most politically-charged singers.

Her own compositions reveal increasing confidence and incisive social awareness, not least “When Will We All Be Free”, which attacked Ireland’s policies on immigration.

Karan Casey won awards for ‘Best Folk Album’ and ‘Best Folk Female’ from Irish Music magazine and was nominated for the BBC Folk Awards and the Danish music awards. She has performed on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion on public radio in the United States, and appeared at many prestigious venues and festivals.

Discography

Solas (Shanachie, 1996)

Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, with Solas (Shanachie, 1997)

Songlines (Shanachie, 1997)

The Words That Remain, with Solas (Shanachie, 1998)

Seal Maiden (Music Little People, 2000)

The Winds Begin to Sing (Shanachie, 2001)

Distant Shore (Shanachie, 2003)

Chasing the Sun (Shanachie, 2005)

Reunion: A Decade of Solas, CD & DVD, with Solas (2006)

Ships in the Forest (Compass Records, 2008)

Two More Hours (2014)

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Artist Profiles: Altan

Altan in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

Irish traditional band Altan has had a tremendous effect on audiences and music lovers throughout the world. With their beautifully crafted award-winning recordings, ranging dynamically from the most tender old Irish songs all the way to vibrant reels and jigs, Altan have taken Irish music to some of the best concert halls and festivals throughout the world.

During all this time, there has been the resolute commitment of the band to delivering the beauty of traditional music, particularly that of the Donegal fiddlers and singers, to a wide-range of audiences.

Altan have always believed that Irish traditional music is modern-day music. “Ireland isn’t known for its opera or classical music. What we are known for is our traditional music, our language, our culture. That’s what we can give the world,” says acclaimed fiddler and lead vocalist Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh.

 

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The History

The roots of the band begin with the music and fun of gatherings and sessions in kitchens and pubs in Donegal where masterful music was heard in an environment of appreciation and intimacy; this is the foundation of the band.

The real essence of the band was the music and personality of band founders, Belfast flute-player, Frankie Kennedy, and Gweedore singer and fiddler, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh.

As soon as anyone met them and heard their unique music in the early 1980s, whether in a large noisy festival session, or in the small traditional clubs of Dublin and Belfast, it was immediately clear there was synergy at work.

Mairead and Frankie played a mix of old Donegal fiddle music and rare Northern flute tunes. Steadily, the duo grew organically into a band in the mid-1980s. They chose the name Altan, which is a deep and mysterious lake behind Errigal Mountain in Donegal.

Altan was committed to musical excellence and good-natured fun. The band members were some of the best players in the contemporary folk music scene. Altan has always been a band featuring virtuoso musicians. One of the first was bouzouki-player, Ciaran Curran from Co. Fermanagh, a well-respected session and festival musician, nephew of fiddler, Ned Curran. Like all accompanists of the time, Ciaran had created his own style on the bouzouki, and his playing is an essential part of the Altan sound.

 

Ciaran Curran – Photo by Angel Romero

 

With the inclusion of guitarist Mark Kelly in the mid-1980s Altan truly became a band. Mark had played other musical styles, and from the very beginning he showed a talent for stylishly incorporating fresh rhythms and chordings to the band’s arrangements. Mark and Ciaran appeared on the 1987 album “Altan”, which, even though not officially a band album, unveiled the Altan’s studio sound.

 

Mark Kelly – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The increasing amount of live performances in 1984 and 1985 led Frankie and Mairead to quit their teaching jobs and go professional. Especially influential were short trips to the United States in those years when Altan played concerts in New York, Minnesota, Madison, Portland and Seattle with Derry guitarist, Daithi Sproule, a Minnesota resident, and like Ciaran and Mark, an old friend.

Daithi was one of the first musicians to adapt the guitar to old Gaelic songs (many of which he learned in the Gaeltacht of Rannafast, just a few miles from Mairead’s home in Gweedore). These US concerts, played in clubs and sometimes in noisy Irish pubs, where people were expecting a very different sort of music, convinced Frankie and Mairead that no-compromise traditional music played with passion and vitality could win over any audience anywhere.

In subsequent years, Altan recorded albums for American independent record label Green Linnet, all of which won praises and awards and appeared in the Billboard charts. Alytan’s collaborators on these albums were first-rate: Donal Lunny, Brian Masterson and Steve Cooney in particular made oustanding contributions over the years.

Another friend played with Altan for several years, fiddle maestro Paul O’Shaughnessey, a stunning player with a deep knowledge of Donegal music. The two-fiddle sound became popular, so as Altan toured more and more widely, Paul had to leave due to pressure of work. His place was taken by another great young Donegal fiddler, Ciaran Tourish, a musician with a special love for the weaving of spontaneous harmony and counterpoint around the melodies of the other lead players.

 

Ciaran Tourish – Photo by Angel Romero

 

A final element was added to Altan’s sound in the early 1990s. It was another old friend, accordion-player Dermot Byrne, another Donegal musician, who grew up listening to an older generation of Donegal fiddlers, the Doherty’s, the Byrne’s and the Cassidy’s.

 

Dermot Byrne – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Sadly, in the early 1990s Altan suffered a devastating blow, when band leader and manager, Frankie Kennedy, at the height of his career as a brilliant and innovative flute-player and just when his and Mairead’s musical dreams were being realized, was diagnosed with cancer.

Through a long illness, Altan, at Frankie’s insistence, continued to tour and perform with Frankie’s participation whenever possible. Frankie died on September 19, 1994. He continues to be a presence and inspiration in Altan’s life and music.

In 1996 Altan was signed to Virgin Records, the first Irish band of their kind to be signed by a major label. Altan achieved gold and platinum albums in Ireland and toured larger venues, throughout the globe, with tours in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe as well as regular successful U.S. tours.

In recent years Altan has experimented with traditional music, using orchestral arrangements of its most popular pieces. The arrangements have been scored by the highly respected arranger Fiachra Trench and performed with the Ulster Orchestra, The RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and the Royal Scottish Opera Orchestra.

In March of 2010 Altan released Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration album with the RTE Concert Orchestra, and embarked on an international tour.

In 2012, Altan released Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen inspired by a region around Dún Lúiche, in County Donegal, made of deep glens and lakes. The album featured Martin Tourish who would later replace Dermot Byrne.

The Widening Gyre, released in 2015, was recorded in Nashville and explored the influence of Appalachian music on Irish music.

 

The Band in 2013-2016

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh – lead vocals, fiddle
Ciaran Tourish – fiddle, tin whistle, backing vocals
Mark Kelly – guitars, bouzouki, backing vocals
Ciaran Curran – bouzouki, mandolin
Dáithí Sproule – guitar, vocals
Martin Tourish – accordion

In 2018, Altan released The Gap of Dreams. The album was recorded at Attica Studios in the townland of Termon in northern County Donegal, produced by Michael Kenney and Tommy McLaughlin. The album title, The Gap of Dreams, is borrowed from a poem by Francis Carlin, “The Ballad of Douglas Bridge,” in which he writes: “The Gap of Dreams is never shut,” referring to the gap between this world and the Otherworld. The Otherworld has always wielded a large influence on the fiddling tradition of County Donegal and has served as inspiration for song, music, and folklore.

 

Discography

* Altan (Green Linnet, 1987)
* Horse with a Heart (Green Linnet 1095, 1992)
* The Red Crow (Green Linnet 1109, 1992)
* Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117, 1992)
* Island Angel (Green Linnet 1137, 1993)
* The First Ten Years, 1986-1895 (Green Linnet 1153, 1995)
* Blackwater (Virgin 41381, 1996)
* The Best of Altan (Green Linnet 1177, 1997)
* Another Sky (Narada 48838, 2000)
* The Blue Idol (Narada 11955, 2002)
* The Best of Altan – The Songs (Virgin, 2003)
* Local Ground (Narada, 2005)
* Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Compass Records, 2010)
* Gleann Nimhe – The Poison Glen (Compass Records, 2012)
* The Widening Gyre (Compass Records, 2015)
* The Gap of Dreams (Compass Records, 2018)

Website www.altan.ie

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