Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Irish Folk Music: The Resurgence

Saint Sister: Shape of Silence review – Atmosfolk to see you ...

Folk music. Now a lot of people I’ve told about my fascination with folk music have immediately switched off and I do kind of get it, say the word ‘folk’ and it does have kind of an old-world feel to it, but it’s not all fiddles and peasant blouses and getting stoned in fields (although why anyone would have a problem with this is beyond me anyway, besides that last one is pretty universal to music anyway). But I think folk music is special.

What’s interesting to me about music is that there are about a million intersection points. Between, rock, grime, hip-hop, synth-pop, folk… the list goes on, there are a million different ways to combine and intersect them. Now forgive me if I’m wrong and I may be biased because I love it, but I think folk music and folk influence is having a bit of a resurgence right now. And a lot of this resurgence comes from, what I think is the heart of folk music:


When I think Ireland I think music, poetry, and culture. That is after all the epicentre of what Ireland is. The Irish have a unique cultural ability to channel pain into something artistic. I remember remarking on the fact that there must be something in the water in Ireland that makes musicians so good. So as a result I’ve decided I would share some of my favorite Irish musicians with you, so that you too can gape in awe at these wordsmiths...


My friend introduced me to this group. Lankum is a contemporary Irish folk group from Dublin, members including Ian Lynch, Daragh Lynch, Cormac MacDiarmada, and Radie Peat. If you’re after a true folk feel, these guys have got you covered. Folk music is known for its repetitive style, as it was after all in its origins meant to be sung by groups of people in taverns. Lankum plays into this style but isn’t boring by any means. Their instrumentation is great (all of them have mastery of about five different instruments) not to mention the unflinching vocals. They’re just good, go listen to them.

Song suggestions: The Wild Rover, What Will We Do When We Have No Money, The Old Man from Over the Sea


Another favorite of mine, Lemoncello is a project started by the Irish singer-songwriter Laura Quirke and the cellist Claire Kinsella. It’s no wonder really, considering they bonded over their love of ‘close vocal harmonies, humour and vulnerability in lyric writing’. I feel like this is the kind of music you listen to when you’re looking for some healing. I really can’t fault them, the lyrics, the music, the emotion behind it.

Song suggestions: Morning, Mantelpiece, Libra

David Keenan

I’ve told this man to his face that I love his music so I sure as hell will recommend him to you guys. David Keenan is a Dundalk raised singer-songwriter who has kind of been taking the Irish music scene by storm, especially since the release of his debut album ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Bravery’ this year. For anyone that went to watch Hozier in his most recent tour you may recognize this man’s voice, he was the opening act. I’ve seen him live a couple of times now and I could only recommend, he’s a stellar performer but until that’s possible again, go listen to his excellent lyricism and the raw emotion in his voice.

Song suggestions: Keep the Peace Prepare for War, Origin of the World, Full Stop

Ye Vagabonds

Again, another recommendation from my friend with excellent music taste (shout-out to you Luca, he’s also a musician by the way, Luca FD on Spotify). This is a duo consisting of two Carlow raised brothers, Brian and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn. Carrying influences from European music, traditional Irish folk music and the music of the 60s folk revival, the brothers weave harmonies together effortlessly and accompany it with melodic guitar that almost lends itself to being a third harmony.

Song suggestions: The Foggy Dew, Lowlands of Holland, Wake Up


This duo is more indie-blues in its execution but at its roots is folk. I said earlier that Irish musicians have a unique ability to turn pain into artistic expression, this duo is no exception. No matter the tone of the song, the message they are trying to purvey, the emotion comes through; from the more gothic sounds of ‘Unreturned’ to the nostalgic tones of ‘Diving Hour’ these guys will have you feeling things.

Song suggestions: Post-Youth, Unreturned, Diving Hour

Lisa Hannigan

I love Lisa Hannigan, she’s the kind of artist I get mildly mad at because she’s so intensely good at what she does (*jealous artist Chloe disappears from chat*). But in between fits of jealousy, I listen to her music because it’s so beautiful and so enticing. Starting as a member of Damien Rice’s band, she started a solo career six years later and has since brought out three albums. Her slightly raspy but ethereal voice fits perfectly in pretty much every musical direction she goes. Go, listen to her, run don’t walk.

Song suggestions: Fall, Paper House, Courting Blues

Saint Sister

Saint Sister are what I think of when I think folk reimagined. With a combination of beautiful harmonies, a synthesizer and an electric harp, Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty make a great duo. They met at Trinity College in 2014 and have since been voted the ‘Best Irish Act’ by The Irish Times and were nominated for a Choice Music Prize. If I still don’t have you convinced, go watch their performance they did for Other Voices Live, you’re welcome.

Song suggestions: Half Awake, Tir Eile, Dynamite

So there you go all, I hope I’ve helped at least one person find some new music, I hope I’ve convinced at least one person that folk music is cool, and I hope to see at least one person listening to an unknown duo in a pub in Dublin somewhere. Raise a Guinness, sláinte.

- Chloe Boehm



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