Top 20 Celtic Bands of 2015

Last week, I released the Celtic Top 20 featuring the best Celtic Music Bands of 2015 as voted by fans of the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast. I want to share with you more about those bands. You can listen to the full Celtic music show here.

You can also check out the episode where I talk about my pick of the most-played Celtic bands of 2015 in the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast:


Emerald Rose

Brian Sullivan, Arthur Hinds, Larry Morris and Clyde Gilbert formed Emerald Rose in late 1996. The band performed their first live professional gig on St. Patrick's Day, 1997. Inspired by the energy the four created together on stage and in the studio, Emerald Rose released their first self-titled CD in 1998. Since then, Emerald Rose have released seven more independently produced CDs: “Bending Tradition” (2000), “Fire in the Head” (2002), “Celtic Crescent” (2003), “Songs for the Night Sky” (2004), “Archives of Ages to Come” (2005), “Con Suite” (2007), and “That Night In The Garden” (2009).

The Flying Toads

The Toads are a multi-instrumental band playing inventive arrangements of Irish music. They originally met through playing in some excellent irish sessions in the UK and Ireland and share a deep respect for Irish music. The name “The Flying Toads” came about as a spoonerism of the Irish hornpipe “The Flowing Tide.” Being a four-piece band and playing several instruments, the Toads focus on arrangements that explore the best blending of sounds and dynamics, as well as choosing tunes and songs that are exciting to listen to.

Appalachian Celtic Consort

We are the Appalachian Celtic Consort.  We hope you enjoy listening to our music as much as we enjoy playing it! We play traditional Irish and Scottish music mostly, but also a little old-time and some original compositions. If you are a die-hard traditionalist you might notice that our music has a little different sound than some Celtic groups — hence the word Appalachian in our name. Our hills and mountains were settled by Scotch-Irish immigrants, and the music they brought with them has picked up a bit of local flavor.


Clandestine is hard-driving, toe-tapping Texas Celtic sound. Formed in 1991, the band is known for their brand of blasting tune sets and fresh songs. Piper EJ Jones and fiddler Gregory McQueen lead the tunes with the full force of their individual musical energies. Al Cofrin brings cittern and occasionally another set of bagpipes to the mix. Percussionist and singer Emily Dugas captivates with her original song collaborations with Al, as well as her singular interpretations of songs in the Celtic genre. EJ and Al also join Emily on vocals, with many songs now set in three-part harmony.

The Gothard Sisters

Beginning their career by playing for tips at the local farmer’s market, now the sisters regularly perform more than 120 shows a year nationally and internationally.  Their special brand of Celtic-inspired original music pays respect to the older traditions of folk and classical music, while reintroducing them to a modern audience through beautiful new arrangements.  Although much of the sisters’ inspiration comes with a distinct Celtic flair, hints of their western American heritage can be heard in what Irish Central calls “an earthiness that gives the songs a lively, approachable, down-home sound.” In addition to their musical endeavors, each of the sisters are highly trained in competitive Irish dance, bringing the exciting rhythms of Ireland to their live shows through dance, music, song, and storytelling.

Count 4dB

His Roots in the San Francisco Bay Area and Humboldt County provided inspiration from artists such as Richie Rich, RBL, Brotha Lynch, Heiro, Potluck, Sub Sab, and Andre Nickatina. He has played with characters from gypsy kids who can't speak English, to battle rappers who sort of speak English, to oldschool musicians who have lived many years under the code of Funk. Count 4dB's latest of 4 releases ‘Rylander: There Can Be Only One' was written and recorded in Scotland featuring local acts and musicians. Creating it had aided 4dB in his ongoing journey of becoming a warlock and jedi of hip hop.


Full Gael

A self-produced band playing traditional Irish music out of Connecticut, this three-piece band is made up of Gary Palmer (guitar, vocals), Will O'Hare (flute, whistles, vocals), and Ben Gagliardi (concertina, vocals).

Heather Alexander

A changling from the Land of Fae, Heather brings stories and songs from a world where magic never dies and anything can happen if you only believe.


Voted ‘Best Live Act 2013’ & ’Best Folk Band 2012‘ at the Scots Trad Music Awards and twice nominated ‘Best Band’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; Scottish five-piece Breabach deliver a thrilling and unique brand of contemporary folk music that has earned them international recognition on the world and roots music scene as one of the UK’s most dynamic and exciting bands.


Kailyarders love to play, sing, tell stories and entertain. Varied musical backgrounds come together to play high-powered and thought provoking original songs as well as fun cover songs. Come on and get yer Celt on! Kailyarders is a musical project for like-minded musicians and songwriters to showcase their songs and talents within a supportive band. People will come and go and the line-up will be ever changing but you will always be entertained by fresh and innovative music and lyrics.

Jesse Ferguson

Jesse Ferguson was born in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, and grew up in a musical family. He showed an early interest in music, even singing in his grade-school choir. Every member of his family has played an instrument at some point, but the biggest influence on Jesse’s musical development was his father, who taught Jesse the basics on guitar. Through playing music with his father and the rest of the family, Jesse learned that music can be a vital part of everyday life—not something reserved for special occasions or for highly trained elites. Music brings family and friends together for good times and provides a bond between the generations.

The Rogues

The Rogues began entertaining crowds in 1994 at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  Formed from members of Clandestine, founded by Lars Sloan, The Rogues performed high energy music not typically heard on bagpipes and released their first recording in 1994.  Being worried about the risk of selling a recording for the first time, the band figured if they could sell one tape during each show that season then they would break even.  Imagine their surprise when they sold over 140 on the first day.  This sparked a period of success for the band that continues today. There have been several membership line-ups within the band through the years with Randy Wothke being the thread that tied them all together.  Beginning in 1994, with EJ Jones, Tom Campbell, Paul Rendon and Randy, Jimmy Mitchell then joined in the place of EJ in 1995, and was replaced by Lars Sloan in 1996 when Jimmy dedicated his time to competition.  Bryan Blaylock also came on board in ’95 as the front man for the group.  Jimmy Mitchell returned in 1997 replacing Tom Campbell, and this line-up became the most well known of all the versions of The Rogues.  It was during this period that The Rogues achieved national and international fame and released some of their most well-known recordings, including Live in Canada, Eh?,  Off Kilter, The Rogues 5.0 and Made in Texas.  The band also sponsored several cruises and a trip to Scotland with fans.

The Blarney Rebel Band

The Blarney Rebel Band hails from the Celtic hotbed of Central New York.
From the instant they take the stage, the principal aim of The Blarney Rebel Band is to get the audience dancing, clapping and singing (and maybe raising the occasional pint!) With their rousing renditions of all types of traditional Irish music, from rollicking pub tunes, lively sea songs, moving ballads and stirring rebel songs to hand-clapping jigs and reels, they are sure to achieve that aim.  It's all on display by a group of talented musicians boasting virtuoso musicianship and perfectly blended harmonies, sure to please old and young alike.


Quickly gaining recognition as one of Irish music’s new “super-groups”, RUNA has been enchanting audiences by pushing the boundaries of Irish folk music, since their formation in 2008.  Interweaving the haunting melodies and exuberant tunes of Ireland and Scotland with the lush harmonies and intoxicating rhythms of bluegrass, flamenco, blues, jazz, they offer a thrilling and redefining take on traditional music.

Patsy O'Brien

Patsy O'Brien is an Irish songwriter. He has played with punk rock bands, country music bands, big band, swing and jazz ensembles and Irish folk music groups. He currently performs as a solo guitarist and singer. He performed as rhythm guitarist for the American fiddler Eileen Ivers on her European tours, and has supported Paddy Keenan, who also performed on a few tracks on O'Brien's last album.

Whiskey Sunday

In June of 2012, Patrick Rieger and Deidre Moore took an electric harp, a few ballads, and some Jameson, and Whiskey Sunday was born. The two met for the first time playing with LA's hardest working Irish band, Slugger O'Toole. Patrick and Deidre shared a love of both American and Irish fiddle music and consider the instrument a staple in the whiskey sound. In 2013 the band played 43 gigs in 20 venues all in the Los Angeles area, including every Irish pub in town. Saturday night shows were hosted by the Tam O'Shanter Inn on Los Feliz Blvd., the adopted home of Whiskey Sunday. Word spread throughout Southern California and in the summer of 2013 Deidre and Patrick were joined by Olivia Sandoval on upright bass, and JR Nutt on mandolin and banjo. All four share a passion for back porch, working class, American roots music as well as a dedicated reverence for the Old Country and the Irish music that put them on the map.

The Elders

The Elders were founded in 1998 by six individuals with a passion for music rooted in Americana and Celtic folk rock. From the beginning The Elders seemed to be channeling something ancient and enduring – something unaffected by fads, trends and the giant maw of mind-numbing commercialism. Their ability to bring together the art of story telling with elements both musically progressive and rooted in tradition, has won them a broad international fan base, as well as critical acclaim in numerous publications such as PASTE Magazine, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange, Music Row Magazine, Goldmine Magazine, TRAD Magazine (France), Chicago Sun-Times, Kansas City Star and many more.

Wild Colonial Bhoys

Not many bands can claim a twelve-year career, but Wild Colonial Bhoys are living proof that raw talent, dedication and honesty can still reap dividends in a cynical music business.  The lads who started as an Irish ballad-singing acoustic guitar duo have matured into a Celtic rock tour-de-force and now have over a decade, six albums and thousands of miles behind them. It all started in 2003—the band would go on to take over the Minneapolis/St. Paul Irish music scene, expand to national recognition and play to thousands and thousands of “fhans”.  After a few pints and a few jam sessions in the pubs belting out whiskey-soaked renditions of traditional Irish laments, WCB was formed. “At the time, we were really just looking for a way to incorporate more of an Irish flavor into our existing rock music”, says frontman Adam Coolong.  “We loved the tunes and the atmosphere and wanted to emphasize our cultural heritage but I never expected that we’d still be doing it after eleven years! It was one of those situations where things just clicked and we hit the ground running.”

Bourbon & Shamrocks

Bourbon & Shamrocks was formed under the idea that music should be played with as much excitement as possible, the musicians having as much fun as the audience. As the name implies, they play a mixture of Appalachian music and the Irish tunes that pre-dated and influenced it. When the Scotts/Irish immigrated into the Appalachian region they brought with them two things that would greatly influence American culture, moonshining and their musical tradition. The members of B&S, being themselves of mostly Scotts/Irish descendent, are trying to keep alive at least one of these great traditions. They will also throw in a pirate song or two because, ARR!

Carolina Ceili

Carolina Ceili is a 4-piece band  based out of  Asheville, NC. We play at festivals, pubs, weddings, parties, corporate events, schools, and more. Our lively blend of Irish jigs and reels, haunting Scottish ballads, upbeat pub standards, and originals are all performed on traditional instruments, with gorgeous 4-part harmony vocals.

To check out the complete list and podcast, please visit the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast page.

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