Top 5 Celtic Rock Bands of 2014

Celtic Rock has a long history since it first started moving people's feet and heads when the Folk Revival met rise of Rock in the 60s. There's a lot of incredible bands who've risen to the top. Everyone has their opinion as to which are the best, as you'll see if you do a search for the Best Celtic Music on Google. Some like Irish Punk, others prefer Celtic Folk Rock, some just love the fusion of styles.

To pick the Best Celtic Rock bands of 2014, I want to start by defining what makes “Celtic Rock”. My definition is rather sweeping, covering Celtic Punk, Celtic Reggae, Celtic Country, and even some Folk Rock. The fusions are numerous. However, the easiest way to understand what I consider “Celtic Rock” is if the music includes a full drum set, then more than likely it belongs in the Celtic Rock category. Yes, I realize that's not the best definition, but it mostly works.

I get a LOT of Celtic Rock submissions each year. In fact, I'd say I get almost as much Celtic Rock as every other style of Celtic music. However, I prefer more traditional music and acoustic music as you'll see in my pick of the Best Celtic Folk Music of 2014. But I do love Celtic Rock too.

Every time, I start searching for music for the Contemporary Celtic section of the show, these five bands make me smile. They also blew it out of the water with their 2014 releases. Let's get started.

Black 47 Promo Photo

At the top of this list is a band that announced 2014 was their final year of touring…

Black 47

Hometown: New York City, NY

Black 47 espouses an unblinkingly political and thoroughly Irish form of rock ‘n' roll, with songs covering topics from the Northern Ireland conflict to civil rights and urban unrest in contemporary New York. Black 47 earned their chops playing the pub scene in Manhattan and self-producing their first indie record, Black 47, before converting The Cars' Ric Ocasek to the cause and gaining mainstream attention with their second album.


Hometown: Dublin, Ireland

The music Sliotar plays is hard to put in a box. It is definitely Irish, it is definitely Celtic, but it comes with a big twist. The bands music has no boundaries or limitations. Every individual brings their influences in to the mix and as a unit they create something new, that can only be called modern celtic folk. Ray MacCormac is a master whistle player with a very unique style, and also very experienced Uillean piper. After 17 years, 5 albums and over 2000 concerts, Sliotar is an institution.

Jamie Smith's Mabon

Hometown: South Wales

Jamie Smith’s MABON are among the UK’s foremost and finest exponents of original, InterCeltic music. Vocals, accordion, fiddle, bouzouki, bass and drums are subtly exploited by five dynamic, accomplished musicians, working traditional forms and styles a new in songs and melodies by composer Jamie Smith. The energetic sound of jigs and reels; or a graceful mazurka, an ecstatic muinera; a haunting Welsh-language love-song or a driving, sing-along, fantasy epic – all are given the same refreshing, creative treatment as the band dances skilfully along the borders between Celtic heritage and contemporary sound.

The Buachaills

Hometown: Cork Ireland

Since forming in January 2012 ,The Buachaills have gone from being an informal session group to playing in Croke Park for the All Ireland football final. They are now one of the most sought after Trad and Folk bands in Ireland and have played many noted venues such as Thomond Park and Fraher Field in Waterford. The band comprises of Eoin Murphy on Vocals, Guitar and Mandolin, Aaron Dolan on Uilleann Pipes, Whistles and Vocals , James Fleming on Bass, Guitar and Vocals and Chris Carey on Drums and Vocals.

And finally, a perennial favorite of mine…

The Elders

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Description: Since forming in 1998, The Elders have set the music scene on its ear, thanks to a skillful blend of American roots rock and Celtic folk; a cross-pollination of elements that is high-octane and progressive, yet rooted in tradition.

Employing a variety of instruments including guitars, drums, banjo, accordion, mandolin, piano, whistle & fiddle, these six gentlemen collectively create music that transcends the stereotypical notion of Celtic music. Powerful four part harmonies, blazing instrumentals and songwriting that is unaffected by fads, trends and the giant maw of mind-numbing commercialism. Their songs are mystical, comical, political and cultural, while covering a wide variety of topics such as poverty, civil war, family bonds, spirituality, love and friendship.

You may not agree with these selections. That’s okay. Cast your vote in the Poll for the Best of 2014.

Marc Gunn is a rhythm and folk autoharper inspired by Celtic culture, science fiction, fantasy, and cats. He is one of the top 5 Celtic musicians on the world’s largest indie music website, and an award-winning podcaster. Gunn hosts the award-winning Irish & Celtic Music Podcast. He is Chief Editor of the Celtic Music Magazine. Download free funny Celtic songs on his website.